“A LIFE SPENT MAKING MUSIC”
Michael Ruel Nichols, 71, of Sylva, died Wednesday December 5, 2018. He was preceded in
death by his parents Ruel and Carmen Nichols, of Candler. He is survived by brother,
Jerry Nichols of Candler, and sister Judi King of Leicester.
Michael was a musician who was born in Asheville on October 17, 1947, reared
in Candler, and lived in Jackson County. He graduated from Enka High School in 1965,
from Western Carolina University in 1969, and received his M.M.E. from WCU in 1973.
He taught elementary music in the Jackson County Public Schools for 30 years, retiring
from Fairview Elementary in 1999. He was Jackson County’s “Teacher of the Year” in
He directed the music at Sylva First Baptist Church from 1968-1970, and at
Scotts Creek Baptist Church from 1974 until retiring in 2007. He was a deacon at
Scotts Creek, and was currently a member at Sylva First Baptist Church where he sang
in the choir and occasionally played piano.
He taught the elementary music methods class at WCU from 1992 until 2006,
and sang in the Western Carolina Community Chorus from its inception in 1972 until
(year), serving several of those years as assistant director. Michael also presented
sessions and workshops for American Orff-Schulwerk Association organizations around
the country as well as internationally, and taught recorder for summer Orff classes at
WCU, University of Memphis, Virginia’s James Madison University, and Winthrop
University in SC. His involvement with Orff-Schulwerk led to his presidency of Piedmont
N.C. Chapter of A.O.S.A. (1994-96), and he served as an elected Regional Rep on the
national board of A.O.S.A. from 1998-2001. He was an early music enthusiast, playing
recorders, tenor viol, and krummhorn, and played and sang with two performing
ensembles, The Cullowhee Consort (1981 to [year]) and The Carolina Consort. His
professional memberships included AOSA, MENC, ARS, NEA, and NCAE.
Michael was a publisher of several music books including Spirituals and
Folksongs (Susato Press), Seasons and Holidays, The Beatin’ Path Consort
Collection in two volumes, Children, Sing Praise!, Sing Out, Children!, and Sing
and Play a Dozen (Beatin’ Path Publications, Ltd.). He also contributed to MacMillan/
McGraw Hill’s MUSIC in 1994, and McGraw-Hill’s Share The Music 2000.
A shape note singer since childhood, he was coordinator of Sacred Harp and
Christian Harmony singings for WCU’s annual Mountain Heritage Day since 1992, and
was awarded the Eva Adcock Award in 2009 for his MHD contributions.
Michael’s passion was travel, and his picture albums from worldwide destinations
documented this well. He also enjoyed cooking and fine dining with friends and family.
These words were written by Howard Hanger:
"Sooner or later, of course, everything comes to an end. The symphony draws to a close, the
story wraps up, the lover leaves, the credits run, the curtain comes down, the flavor the gum
plays out, the last dance really is the last dance. All things have a finale. All things. With even
the intelligence of a kumquat, you know that. But the fact can still catch you off guard. And
when it ends - whatever it may be - the last thing you want to hear or say is, "Is that all there is?"
We want our lives - like our ice cream cartons - to be full. To be rich and abundant. We want
life - all of our lives - to be packed in, pressed down, bubbling up, spilling over. We want life to
its way through each day and squeeze out the last little drop of it before we drop off to sleep.
But sometimes, there's emptiness. Sometimes there's bareness and barrenness. Sometimes, the
movie doesn't make any sense and the diagnosis is not what we ever wanted to hear. Now and
again life doesn't measure up to our expectations and we find ourselves asking, "Is that all there
Enter faith. Enter trust. Enter an ever-so-subtle-reminder that emptiness is as much a part of the
story as fullness. Faith and trust don't paint a happy face on your soul. Faith and trust walk with
your soul through the muck and the merriment. Through desolate hallways and music-filled
Is that all there is? Sometimes, the only answer we can hear is, "Yes". But faith reminds us that
there are infinite worlds within and among us. Faith sits patiently with our hearts and brains and
somehow lets us know that there's more going on than we can possibly imagine. Faith tells again
the story that all there is, is never all there is."