To a casual observer of the Rocky Mountain jazz scene, pianist-percussionist-educator-composer-arranger Tenia Nelson seems to be everywhere all at once.

A Denver native and graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver (where she studied with the late, great cornetist Ron Miles) and University of Colorado Boulder, for the past two decades she’s taught music from early grades in public schools or university classrooms – she’s currently mentoring private students of all ages in their pursuit of jazz excellence on keyboards, drums, guitar or ukulele from her person studio, or leading classes at Neighborhood Music at Stanley Marketplace, the innovative community-oriented retail center and food hall in Aurora or teaching at the DPS charter Denver Language School. A talented artist in her own right, she leads two very busy bands – the Monk tribute group Spherio and the Tenia Nelson Trio, commonly known as “TNT!”, with a broad repertoire, at our best venues, including Dazzle. She’s been profiled by our radio station, KUVO (writer Candace LeGault reports that Tenia plays piano barefoot, to feel the earth’s vibrations). She’s a director at large on the board of The Gift of Jazz, the Denver-based jazz education and performance nonprofit, curating our Women in Jazz events. Why, she’s even heard on a commercial for the Colorado lottery!

Tenia records for LifeForce Jazz Records, is proudly a voting member of NARAS (the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences) and a Grammy U Mentor, connecting college students with the record industry’s brightest minds, helping to provide aspiring professionals the tools and opportunities necessary to start their careers. She does that because such a career is so fulfilling to her that she’s eager to bring the joy to others.

“I live, eat, and breath music!” Jazz Hero Tenia Nelson (whose son is named Thelonious) exults on her website. So it’s great she’s omnipresent – we need Jazz Heroes like her everywhere, now!

By David Froman

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