George Nicholson was born in County Durham in 1949 and studied at the University of York with David Blake and Bernard Rands. Following a freelance career in London he was appointed Lecturer in Music and Director of Composition at Keele University in 1988. In 1996 he began working at Sheffield University, and became Emeritus Professor in Composition in 2020. He has always been actively engaged in practical music making, both as pianist and conductor; his repertoire extends from the Renaissance to the present day.

His music has been performed by the London Sinfonietta, the BBC Philharmonic, the Orchestra of St John’s Smith Square, the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra and many other ensembles. He has received several BBC commissions, including a Cello Concerto, which was premiered by Moray Welsh. Nicholson's Flute Concerto was commissioned by James Galway and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. Other compositions include five string quartets and a variety of other chamber pieces, as well as vocal and piano music. His work is available on the record labels Metier, Oboe Classics, Cuillin Sound, Unknown Public and the British Music Label.