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James Niblock was born in Scappoose, Oregon, on November 1, 1917. His musical background includes violin study with Franck Eichenlaub of Portland, Oregon and Jascha Brodsky of Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia. After serving in the US Air Force (1942-46), he began his graduate work at the Colorado College in Colorado Springs where he studied violin with Josef Gingold and music composition with Roy Harris and Paul Hindemith.
In Colorado Springs he met and married Helen Beall (on August 17, 1947) a young violinist and student of Josef Gingold. They have two children: Howard E. Niblock, Professor of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconson; and Cynthia N Thoen, a reading specialist in Andover Schools, Andover, Minnesota. Since earning his MA from Harvard Divinity School in May of 2012, Grandson Elliott J. Niblock is teaching at the University of Montana, Missoula.
From 1948 until 1985 James Niblock was a faculty member of the College of Music at Michigan State University where he taught theory and composition, performed in the Beaumont String Quartet, and served as Chairman of the College of Music for 15 years, during which time he also was Concertmaster of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra.
Niblock has more than 150 major compositions of which 100 have been published and are frequently performed. Since his retirement from the University, he continues to compose, conduct, and perform—especially during the summer sessions of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Muskegon County, Michigan. His most recent compositions (since 2000) include: three operas; three double concertos for Violin, Clarinet, and orchestra; several short pieces for solo instruments (clarinet, double bass); as well as numerous choral settings of verse by Medieval and Modern poets.
While James Niblock holds a B.A. and B.Ed. from Washington State University, an M.A. from Colorado College, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, his most cherished experiences include:
1) The summers (1975-85) spent in Europe conducting the Blue Lake International Youth Orchestra and directing the International Blue Lake Youth Camp in Bavaria.
2) The sabbatical on a Composition Fellowship at the MacDowell Colony in NH.
3) The several Sabbatical terms spent with the eminent Ethno-musicologist, Samuel Marti, who was engaged in the study of Pre-Cortesian instruments from Central Mexico. Together they collected and recorded performances of these instruments which subsequently enhanced many of Niblock’s lectures and enabled his doctoral students to continue similar studies.
4) The three visits to Argentina and Brazil to lecture about and to conduct orchestral concerts of contemporary American Music.
In April, 2006, Michigan State University honored Dr. Niblock with the first ever Distinguished Emeritus Faculty Award for his continung work in Fine Arts Education—mainly accomplished through his more than 40 years association with Blue Lake fine Arts Camp, an organization founded for and dedicated to promoting Arts Education for young people.
In August 2012 James received an elegant red-leather bound document announcing his new award given by his Alma Mater, Washington State University Alumni Association which reads in part:
"We extend our sincere congratulations to you in your selection of WSUAA's highest award, the Alumni Achievement Award which recognizes prominent alumni who have brought distinction to WSU through their professional accomplishments, community service, and/or loyalty to their alma mater. Out of the nearly quarter million individuals who have attended WSU since 1890, only 497 alumni have received WSUAA's
Highest Achievement Award to date... Please know that we bestow this award with the utmost sincerity, gratitude, and reverence.
You, Dr James F. Niblock, class of '42, are clearly one of the outstanding alumni of WSU".
Lisa Steele Haberly, '99
President, WSU 2012-2013