Choir Director of Distinction

Patterson choir director earns honor
By: Todd Martin
Patterson Middle School choir director Gerald Nicholas is a Texas Choral Directors Association Young Director of Distinction.
Some of the most important mentors in his professional life successfully deceived him into attending the virtual award ceremony, where he was completely surprised by the prestigious honor.
Back in July, some of Nicholas’ peers convinced him that the state choral educator association was unveiling a new award for a college-level director and that one of his former professors from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor was going to win it.
So, Nicholas dressed up and waited at his home for his turn to present the award winner during the virtual Texas Choral Directors Association convention.
As it turned out, the Patterson choir director’s name and photo popped up and it was Nicholas winning the middle school award of distinction for a director with seven or fewer years of experience.
Accolades for the Killeen ISD choir director described his ability to “meet students where they are” and to push them to perform at their best, often rising above personal circumstances.
Nicholas is a native of Killeen raised up in the school district’s choir program now shining brightly on a statewide stage.
A year ago, his boys’ varsity choir received the distinction of state honor choir and traveled to Austin in February to perform at the Texas Music Educators Association convention.
Their award-winning director grew up much like they did.
Nicholas attended four different KISD elementary schools. At Hay Branch Elementary School, he failed to make the school’s show choir, which he said was completely reasonable. “I didn’t sound good,” he said with a laugh.
As a fourth-grader at Brookhaven Elementary School, he did make the show choir and his talent grew.
“I always liked music,” Nicholas said. At Palo Alto Middle School in sixth grade, his choir teacher bumped him into the seventh- and eighth-grade choir.
The following year, Stephanie Allison became the Palo Alto director and Nicholas began learning a more complex music literacy.
Moving on to Shoemaker High School, the talented choir student performed with the varsity choir as a freshman and began to see real talent. “Those juniors and seniors were so good,” he said. “The top choirs at all the high schools were so good.”
In high school, Nicholas took to tutoring his peers. He practiced diligently after school and as a senior was first chair All-State Choir in 2009, the year he graduated from Shoemaker High School. Attending that state convention, he said, was life changing.
As a music student at UMHB, Nicholas student taught in Killeen alongside his mentors Amy Triggs and Deborah Barrick. Today, he likes the idea of sending his choir students from Patterson on to Ellison High School where Triggs and Barrick are directors.
“I’m still having fun,” the award-winning director said, “even though it is more work.”
Even with COVID-19 limiting participation for some, the choir director said he is seeing students excel.
“They have adjusted so well,” he said. “They really give me great effort.”
Beginning with the Zoom sessions in the spring and continuing into the first few weeks of school, Nicholas said he is witnessing a new kind of confidence.
When he asks for volunteers to sing by themselves, many are happy to do it. “I have a whole class of boys willing to sing by themselves. They are getting a lot of enjoyment out of it. Even the kids online are active.
“Even though we’re apart, the sense of community is stronger than ever,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing what they will sound like when we’re all together again.”