William Charles Nicholls (December 30, 1891 – August 23, 1968) was a music teacher and the director of the Oakland Conservatory of Music and Drama.
Nicholls was born in Grass Valley, CA on December 30, 1891, to William S. Nicholls (1864 – 1934) and Elizabeth Jane Northey (Nicholls) (1870 – 1946). By 1915, William had moved to Oakland and was teaching music theory and harmony from 1255 - 1st. Avenue. 1
In 1919, he married Jeanne Anna Fennacy (Nicholls) (1897 – 1982). Their son Carl Ward Nicholls (1920 – 2016) was born in Oakland the following year. (NB: Carl Nicholls was also musically gifted, and was the uncle of Gene Anderson.) By 1930, William and Elizabeth had also adopted Wylie Hillis Nicholls (1924 – c.1966).
The family moved a lot:
|1915-1917||1255 - 1st Ave.||1915 ad, 1 WWI draft card|
|1920||125 E15th St.||1920 census|
|1923-1924||1249 - 1st Ave.||1923 directory|
|1925||422 Broadway||1925 directory|
|1928||120 Fairview, Piedmont||1928 directory|
|1930||480 Lake Park||1930 census|
|1935||1816 Lakeshore Ave.||1935 directory|
|1940||417 Burk St.||1940 directory|
|1940-1942||3351 Mountain Blvd.||1940 census, WWII draft card|
|1950-1965||Palo Alto, CA||1950, 1965 directory|
Both Carl and Wylie served in the U.S. Navy; Carl during WWII, and Wylie shortly after.
William C. is interred in Palo Alto, but his parents William S. and Elizabeth Nicholls are buried in Mountain View Cemetery.
Nicholls taught students in piano and vocal theory, some times from home, some times in a studio. In 1926, some of his piano students included Alda Nelson (Anderson) and her brother, Herman Nelson. A recital was held in Ebell Hall. 3
But in September 1929, Nicholls organized the Oakland Conservatory of Music. 2 (NB: this was the second organization of this name.) Among the teachers was violinist Orley See, who founded the Oakland Symphony in 1933-1934.
It's unclear when the conservatory closed, but Nicholls continued teaching piano for many years; the 1965 directory lists him as a piano teacher living in Palo Alto. His sister Lyda May Nicholls (1894–1978) was organist of Santa Clara Methodist Church for 50 years. 4