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Kobie Watkins Grouptet

Kobie Watkins

Part of Club Night Concerts

Thursday, April 6 from 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Kobie began as a small child listening and watching his father (Alious C. Watkins) playing drums in the church. Kobie started with pots and pans as a toddler. Yet over time he has developed a personal system of timely discipline and structure for music and life skill. He has progressed into who he is today– professional drummer/percussionist and music educator.

Pursuing his true passion and enhancing his talent through education, Kobie attended Vandercook College of Music studying all forms and genres of the percussion family with Marc “Max” Jacoby (vibraphonist/ mallet) and Kevin Lepper (percussionist), both teachers igniting him to reach greater achievements and goals. While learning percussion and all other instruments, Kobie’s extra curricular time was spent playing jazz standards and trading solo-s with alto saxophonist Dennis Winslett. Kobie could also be found playing in local theatre and cabaret shows. In 1998, Kobie played in the Walt Disney World American All- Star Band in Magic Kingdom (Orlando, FL).

Conferred with a Bachelors of Music Education in 1999, Kobie became a public school band / music teacher by day, by night he played gigs around the Chicago land area and throughout the United States. Kobie eventually became known as the “Swing Master” of Chicago. He was depicted in a front-page article in the Joliet, Illinois – “Herald”, -a local newspaper titled, “Teacher has Alter Ego as Jazz Musician.”

-Kobie received his Masters of Music from Northwestern University in Jazz Pedagogy 2003.

Kobie has cultivated dynamic relationships with his peers in and out of the Jazz, Latin, and Gospel community as a drummer, percussionist and a mentor. Living out his commitment to the music he holds a long list of great musicians he has played and recorded with- jazz legend Sonny Rollins, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Curtis Fuller, Bob Mintzer, Jim Hall, John Patitucci, Arturo Sandoval, George Coleman, Ira Sullivan, Sonny Fortune, including Roy Haynes, Roy Hargrove, Kurt Elling, Fred Anderson, Chrstian McBride, Bobby Broom, Orbert Davis, Ken Chaney, Ron Perrillo, Bethany Pickens, Ryan Cohan, Jarrard Harris and James Austin.

Additionally, Gospel singer Kim Burrell, R&B and Neo Soul artists Julie Dexter, Javier, Kendra Ross, Chris Robinson, and many others. Kobie has toured extensively in Africa, Europe, Asia, Canada, South America and the United States.

Kobie’s educational and mentoring relationships include working with Wynton Marsalis at Martin Luther King High School, (Chicago, IL) a clinic for high schooler’s aspiring to play jazz. The Ravinia mentors program for the Chicago Public High School students, and “Attention for Boys” a MusicAlive mentoring and teaching program, founded by Orbert Davis and Mark Ingram for inner-city youth ages 8 to 18 years.

Additionally, since 2004 Kobie has played with a band leading teens in worship at a Christian Teen Camp in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. His experiences include a rich mosaic of styles, genres, interests and qualifications. 2008 & 2009 Kobie participated with the World renown ambassador opportunities with the US State Department, American Music Abroad “The Rhythm Road.” (In Partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center)

Kobie is a product level artist with:

  • Sabian cymbals (05)
  • Sonor Drums (09)
  • Aquarian Drum heads (10)
  • Vic Firth drum sticks (12)

Aaron Miller, bassist

Aaron Miller is an accomplished musician whose broad experience in many styles defines his double bass playing: jazz and classical, contemporary and popular, chamber and solo. He performs with an energy and enthusiasm that is palpable. Aaron is in high demand as a soloist, performer, educator, and clinician throughout the United States of America and abroad. He has been a guest for the Gene Harris Jazz Festival for a decade and spends each summer working with students at the Red Lodge Music Festival. An advocate for new music, Miller recently commissioned and premiered four new works for the double bass that feature improvisation as an essential element. Starting in 2007, he joined the faculty of Brigham Young University-Idaho where he directs the double bass studio and the jazz combos program. Miller’s students have received regional and national recognition including the Downbeat student music award in 2008. Aaron has spent the past 3 years completing his doctoral degree from Northwestern University where he studied with Andrew Raciti. Miller has shared the stage with David Liebman, Bob Mintzer, Mark Levine, Joe Lovano, Jamey Aebersold, and Marvin Stamm. In 2004, Aaron toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Justin Nielsen, pianist

“Nielsen’s piano sparkles.” Dan Mclenahan,

“Justin Nielsen has tons of chops and a great sense of how to accompany.” George Colligan, the Jazz Truth

“Justin Nielsen pretty much burns the house down.” John Mcneil
Justin Nielsen is a performer, composer, recording artist, and teacher residing in Boise, Idaho. Though he has lived his life in the mountain west, he has had a dynamic career that has made it possible for him to play and teach all over the world with some of the greatest names in jazz. He is featured on scores of recordings and is currently featured on 6 albums with release dates set for 2015 – 2016.

Though Justin loves performing, he is equally passionate about teaching and inspiring young people to play and to love music. He was a founder of ArtsWest/Fresco Arts Academy, a private school for young performing artists in Eagle, ID, where he worked and taught for 7 years. His students have literally won hundreds of national honors, including recognition from Downbeat magazine, the national Grammy organization, and the Monterey Next Generation competition. His students have also garnered over $5 Million in scholarship offers to the finest music schools in the country including Calarts, Manhattan School of Music, Berklee College of Music, USC, and many many others.

Justin has just released his first album as a leader, Divine Colors

Ryan Nielsen, trumpeter

Praised for the “breathtaking singing quality of his sound, tremendous instrumental skill, and outstanding creativity” by jazz icon, John McNeil, Ryan Nielsen is recognized as a musician whose lyricism is profound, whose versatility is rare, and whose artistry grows out of a love of groove, spirit, and beautiful melody. He grew up in a musical home in rural Idaho, where his Father’s love of classical music mingled with his Mother’s love of Barry Manilow ;-) He began performing professionally at 17, often alongside his brother, pianist Justin Nielsen. He has since been a guest artist at concerts and festivals throughout the Western United States, including the Gene Harris Jazz Festival, the Sun Valley Jazz Festival, and the Salt Lake City Jazz Festival.

His musical studies have taken him across the country. At Arizona State University, he studied with world- renowned classical soloist and teacher, David Hickman, and was the recipient of the Doc Severinsen award for outstanding classical and jazz trumpet. He later went on to pursue his doctoral studies at the New England Conservatory of Music. While at NEC, Mr. Nielsen studied with John McNeil and Rakalam Bob Moses. He has gone on to record with many musical luminaries, including Jon Bishop, Rakalam Bob Moses, John Lockwood, and Grammy Award Winning Bassist, Clark Sommers. He has performed professionally with such icons as Harvey Mason, the New York Voices, Eric Marienthal, Kevin Mahogany, Brian Bromberg, Byron Stripling, Wycliffe Gordon, Conrad Herwig, Delfeayo Marsalis, John McNeil, Tiger Okoshi, the Summit Brass, and has recently been named trumpeter in the Kobie Watkins Grouptet.

Nielsen’s musical interests are diverse. He has performed and recorded jazz, classical, folk, bluegrass, country, americana, pop, and experimental world music, resulting in three albums over the last few years: “Weeds in the Wall”, recorded with the band Sister and Brothers; “Out of Nowhere”, released on Jazz Hang Records; and “Divine Colors”, a project lead by his brother Justin. 2016 will see the release of Nielsen’s first solo album, a collaboration with musical visionary Rakalam Bob Moses due to be released under the title “Matzevah” by Native Pulse Records.

Nielsen’s love of teaching has garnered him a reputation as a passionate and inspiring clinician throughout the west. He is as enthusiastic about the art of teaching as he is about the art of music. He is currently professor of trumpet and jazz studies at Brigham Young University-Idaho.


Jonathan Armstrong, saxophonist

Jonathan Armstrong is a fiercely creative musician, composer and educator living in Pocatello, ID where he serves as the Director of Jazz Studies at Idaho State University.

Prior to moving to Idaho, Jonathan resided in Los Angeles, where he worked as a sought after musician for gigs, recordings sessions, and tours. He also founded the critically acclaimed modern jazz quartet Slumgum and the cutting edge electronic psychedelic group Pitch Like Masses. He has performed with these projects throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan.

As a composer, Jonathan has written music for film, dance, and theatre. In addition, he composes contemporary classical music, and has recently been experimenting with expansive meditative pieces that incorporate just intonation and spectral stimulation. The Sydney Morning Herald referred to Armstrong as “a composer and arranger who dares to imagine…

Jonathan continues to create creative and daring music, collaborating with other likeminded artists including animators, painters, poets, dancers, and other musicians.