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Paris Gibson Award goes to Bud Nicholls

Bud Nicholls
Bud Nicholls - Paris Gibson Award plaque
Posted at 10:42 AM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 12:42:21-04

Bud Nicholls has been named as the winner of this year's Paris Gibson Award for exemplifying the vision and excellence of Great Falls founder Paris Gibson.

He was chosen from a list of nominees by former winners of the award.

Bud started as a teenager in the public schools and served as the lead music director and organizer of the Great Falls Municipal Band since the 1980s. From his father's (Harold Nicholls) Big Band to the Great Falls Municipal Band, he has made music accessible and fun in Great Falls.

"My dad was a professional musician," Bud noted. "So were his parents, and back in the 40s and 50s, there was music all over town. He worked every night, from 9-2, 5-6 nights a week."

Prior to his leadership, he performed with the Municipal Band on trumpet. The joke of the band is that he was around for the founding of the Municipal Band in 1896.

Not only has he directed the band, but he has spent countless hours picking out music, arranging rehearsals, putting together the programs, recruiting musicians, all while drumming up community donations to keep the organization afloat.

Bud noted some of the things he enjoyed the most during his time. "I worked quite a bit with the schools, so building that rapport with the local teachers and getting them more involved with the band," he said.

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Bud transformed a bunch of random musicians into an amazing band to listen to, with only one rehearsal per concert. He has picked music that not only the audience enjoys, but that the band can perform well with limited rehearsal time. Bud’s favorite has been Henry Mancini which the audience has loved.

Bud has organized and performed with the Harold Nicholls Big Band, a jazz band dedicated to his late father. The band performed at the Ozark Club in the History Museum as well as other venues in and around Great Falls.

Although Bud still runs a music store on Central Avenue in downtown Great Falls, due to health reasons he has passed the torch to the Great Falls Municipal Band board with details coordinated by Dusty Molyneaux and John Gemberling. Work formerly done by Bud will now be done by five people. You can stop by his store located at 511 Central Avenue.

To be eligible for the award, selected by previous Paris Gibson Award winners, a nominee must meet the following criteria:

  • Is currently a resident of Great Falls
  • Has provided significant impact to the City of Great Falls
  • Has provided leadership for the community through volunteerism
  • Has performed selfless action for the betterment of the community

Previous winners of the award are:

  • Doug Wicks, 2010
  • Norma Ashby, 2011
  • Greg Hall, 2012
  • Ian and Nancy Davidson, 2013
  • Gene Thayer, 2014
  • Bill and Joan-Nell Macfadden, 2015
  •  Arlyne Reichert, 2016
  •  Sheila Rice, 2017
  • Brad Talcott and Linda Caricaburu, 2018
  • Chuck and Gerry Jennings, 2019 
  • Judy Ericksen, 2020
  • David and Tanya Cameron, 2021

Each award winner receives a $500 check provided by Jimmy and Debbie Filipowicz of Steel Etc., which may be given to a charity of the winner’s choice; a tree, donated by Steve Tilleraas of Tilleraas Landscape Nursery, planted in West Bank Park in their honor, with a granite marker donated by Montana Granite; a plaque donated by Greg and Leanne Hall; a dinner for two at P. Gibson’s, donated by P. Gibson’s Sports Grill; and a ride in a 1918 Model T Ford provided by Kurt Baltrusch of the Skunk Wagon Club in the annual Independence Day parade.