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Michael W. Nickens: The Earle C. Williams Medal for Excellence in Social Impact

Professor Michael W. Nickens, director of the Green Machine pep band, an avid tuba player, and now the winner of the Earle C. Williams Medal for Excellence in Social Impact, says teaching at the university level is a way to accomplish many things.

“Higher education allows for a wide range of experiences and interactions, from the absolute beginner all the way through the world-class performer,” Nickens said in previous interview. “I like that kind of variety, and access to that whole spectrum improves how I interact with every part of it.”

Northern Virginia, his home, is a place of cultural convergence, and Nickens says there’s a way to express that cultural influence through music.

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He does that via the Green Machine, an ensemble that’s as synonymous with Mason as green and gold. Maybe more.

The band is known for its covers, especially its medley of Rage Against the Machine hits. A cell phone video of the medley from 2011 went viral and continues to rack up views on YouTube. The band’s repertoire also includes hits by Beyoncé, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.

“I wanted to make the [Green Machine] less segregated than a radio station,” he says. “I want as many people as possible to see themselves in our repertoire. I want them to see the richness of the community.”

Nickens also put his mark on the original Mason Fight Song when he updated it in 2009.

May 18, 2017 / Adapted from a story by Jamie Rogers