About the band
Led by trombonist and composer Sean Nelson, the New London Big Band is a 17-piece jazz orchestra made up of the finest musicians in New England. The band plays a mix of classic jazz standards, upbeat dance tunes, and original music by band members, and regularly features instrumental and vocal soloists. Formed in 2016, they play monthly to sold out crowds at the Social Bar + Kitchen in New London, where they attract professional and amateur dancers from near and far.
The band wants to show the world that big band jazz is a vibrant and joyful sound that is not just for “jazz aficionados.” The Day of New London calls them “a stellar outfit celebrating the greatness in exuberant fashion.” Thanks to their loyal fan base, the band won “Best Jazz Band” for CTNOW’s Best of Hartford.
Sean Nelson is the leader and founder of the New London Big Band. By day, he is enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he plays with the Coast Guard Band, Dixieland Jazz Band, and works as staff arranger for all ensembles. In addition, he is music director for the Guardians Big Band, where he has presented concerts with guests including Doc Severinsen, Joe McCarthy and Lou Marini.
As an arranger and composer, Sean worked on the production team for the 2015 National Christmas Tree Lighting, creating several arrangements for guests including Andra Day, Kelsea Ballerini, and Tori Kelly. This program was performed for the Obama family and heard nationally on PBS. Sean has won the National Band Association Young Composers Jazz Composition Contest and is a two time winner of Downbeat Magazine’s Student Jazz Arranging Contest. He attended the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, where he studied with Jim McNeely and Mike Holober. He currently works as the arranger for Sam Houston State University Bearkat Marching Band, writing new shows each season.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Sean received a Bachelor of Music degree from Sam Houston State University, studying trombone with Henry Howey, and a Master of Music degree from the University of North Texas, studying trombone with Tony Baker and jazz arranging with Paris Rutherford and Rich DeRosa. While at North Texas, he was trombonist and composer for the world renowned One O’Clock Lab Band and sang with the Jazz Singers I. Sean’s trombone quartet won the International Trombone Association Quartet Contest, and he was honorable mention in the ITA’s Frank Smith Solo Competition. He spent his summers and winter breaks playing in house bands on cruise ships for Princess Cruises and Cunard Cruises.
Sean on faculty of the University of Connecticut, where he teaches jazz trombone. He lives in Quaker Hill, Connecticut, with his wife Megan and children Lucinda and Giles.
Origin of the band
"For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to have my own big band - an epic jazz orchestra of 17+ musicians. A band that would play music old and new - tunes ranging from the Roaring 20s to brand new compositions written by band members. And most of all, a band made up of the absolute best musicians.
It began in the summer of 2016 when a buddy and I saw a new place opening on Bank Street in New London. The signs said “The Social”, coming soon, and would feature craft burgers and beer. Sounds like my kind of place! We peeked in the window, trying to get a good view, and even when so far as to try opening doors and windows. After a minute of generally looking like we were trying to break in, someone comes out, hammer in hand (he was renovating the place) with a what-the-hell-are-you-doing look on his face, and asks “Can I help you?” I told him about my idea for a band, and he perked up (turns out he was the owner, Brian) and put me in touch with the music manager, Sean Murray. So I started calling all the best musicians I knew, found all my favorite tunes to play, and decided to name the band after New London. Every great town needs a great big band, and I think we capture the spirit of the town! We had our first gig that Fall, and it went even better than I could have imagined!
We love our home at the Social, where we play once a month, and we love the wonderful people that come to see us and dance (or to just watch other people dance!) We’ve sold out every seat for a while now, and it means the world to us to have that kind of support.
The band has a spirit of being laid back and full of positive energy. The members of the band are incredible virtuosos, but you will not find a big ego here. They are all team players, full of encouragement and humor. I think you can tell when you hear and see the band - there is a real sense of joy coming from the bandstand. But keeping a big band together is no easy feat. 17 musicians means 17 different schedules, 17 pieces of music for every tune we play, and 17 boneheads all joking around! But there is a special sound that comes from a big band, and a special sort of energy from having 17 musicians totally in sync with each other."
Facts about the
Members of the band:
10 states represented
30 music degrees
7 music professors