D. Riley Nicholson has composed for a wide range of ensembles and performance venues including music for contemporary ballet, theater, orchestral music, wind band, film, chamber music, vocal music, and electronic music. Riley creates post-classical, metaphorically rich music that is viscerally satisfying and intellectually enriching. As a composer and performer, he creates ambitious and often collaborative new works that aim to inspire by embracing both aesthetics and innovation as means to emotional freedom and significance.


Fascinated and committed to working with artists outside of music as well as within, collaborations include original music for Dance Film SF, Post:Ballet, Switchboard Music, Amaranth Quartet, Hot Air Music Festival, David Herrera Performance Company, Ballet Memphis's Cecily Khuner, Three Penny Theater, Cello Street Quartet, SFCM New Music Ensemble, Balmoral Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Roar, SFCM Percussion Ensemble, and many other talented artists and organizations. 

Riley was the recipient of the Horizons Foundation grant in support of his work One, for large string orchestra, which headlined Hot Air Music Festival on March 6th, 2016. In 2017, his music was featured on Not Art Records Mixtape. Riley received another Horizons grant in support of his full-length Shimmer production which recently toured nationally. In 2018, he was honored as the CAPMT Distinguished Composer of the Year. Recently, Joshua Kosman described his performance of the music of Julius Eastman as a "powerful, ingeniously wrought rendition." (SF Chronicle)

In addition to composing and performing, Riley supports original and talented performing arts organizations in management and production to create artistic experiences of all kinds. Riley is currently the Project Manager for the Center for New Music, the Marketing Consultant for Dance Film SF, and serves on Post:Ballet's Board of Directors.

Riley has a M.M. in Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, a B.M. in percussion performance, and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Memphis.

D. Riley Nicholson     drileyn (at)​

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