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He was born as Theodore Nicholas Sflotsos in Missoula, Montana in 1928 to Nicholas Theodore Sflotsos (first generation Greek immigrant) and Josephine Ellen (Schomer) Sflotsos. He was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church and Catholic churches (1928–46), later becoming an evangelical. Ted's parents moved to Spokane, Washington where he graduated from John R. Rogers High School. He then joined the Navy, where he was trained as an aviation electrician. During specialist training in Jacksonville, Florida, he played saxophone in the Navy swing band, he also plays the violin and clarinet. He was later transferred to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he founded, directed and played in the base swing band. In 1948, he legally changed his name to Ted Nichols. After meeting his future wife, Nichols surrendered his life to Christian music ministry.
He met Doris Jane Carson in Corpus Christi, TX while in the Navy (1947). They married in 1950, and have two sons (CA) and one daughter (WA). Doris died in 2009. He married Catherine, Doris's younger sister, in 2011 and they reside in Williams, AZ.
After leaving the Navy, Nichols attended Baylor University received his BM (1952). Upon commencement of Korean War he joined the Air Force ROTC program. Upon graduation, the Air Force sent him to Sampson Air Force Base in New York where he founded and then became Commanding Officer of the Air Force Bandsmen Training School, recruiting musicians from Eastman School of Music, Juilliard School, and other Eastern music schools.
After the military service, Ted returned to Corpus Christi, founded and directed the Corpus Christi Youth Symphony while teaching in public school, and earning his MA at Texas A&I University . Wanting to work on a doctorate and having a desire to compose for films, Nichols and family moved to CA.
In the mid 50'5 Nichols began work in public schools in CA then moving onto Santa Ana College as Band Director (1958–60). He became a "Dapper Dan" at Disneyland, and actually had coffee some mornings with Uncle Walt in the coffee shop on Main Street. Later he became Director of Bands at Cal State Los Angeles; (1960–72) and later became Head of the Department of Music at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, OR (1975–82).
Nichols served as Minister of Music (1960–72) at Church of the Open Door (4,000 attendance on Sunday mornings) while J. Vernon McGee was Senior Pastor. From 1972-75 Nichols became Musical Director of Campus Crusade for Christ. He and Doris traveled to Europe and South America supervising many musical groups. Later Nichols served in churches as Minister of Music in CA, OR, AZ, WA (1982 – 2009).
While Nichols served at the Church of The Open Door, he became acquainted with the Los Angeles artistic community and the large musical productions at the church encouraged a member of his choir, an animator at Hanna-Barbera Productions to introduce Nichols to Bill Hanna. That led to a contract as musical director from 1963 to 1972 for Hanna-Barbera. He wrote score for the first incarnation of Jonny Quest, and musical cues and arrangements for The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Josie and the Pussycats (TV series), Shazzan, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Wacky Races, and the full-length feature The Man Called Flintstone. During this time Nichols wrote film scores for World Wide Pictures.
In addition to Nichols big band compositions/arrangements/choral arrangements/anthems/and cantatas, Nichols has written or composed music for several operas, including:
- He Is Forever, (lyrics and music 1974)
- Pilgrim's Progress, premiered in Finnish and English in Helsinki, Finland, (lyrics and music 1977)
- Esther, written for Southern Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky (lyrics and music 1987)
- Word of Honor, for the 50th Anniversary of the National Opera Association in New York, (music only 2007)
- Rendezvous with Destiny, (music only 2012)