Edmonton jazz pianist Mboya Nicholson has been a fixture on the music scene in Alberta for 25 years. He has performed internationally , from Japan to Guadeloupe and worked as an arranger for strings for conductor Colin Mendez Morris.
Mboya’s early music education involved classical piano lessons through the Royal Conservatory Board of Music. While studying classical piano, Mboya also tried teaching himself to play jazz; a formidable task as a child. Indeed, it was easier for him to comprehend a jazz concert - to follow the form of a tune and the improvisations, even at a young age, than it was to actually play jazz. By high school however, there were signs of emerging inklings of ability. After graduating from the Victoria Composite High School, Mboya attended Grant MacEwan Community College (now MacEwan University). He furthered his jazz studies with respected Alberta jazz greats, Bill Richards and Charlie Austin. With these professors, Mboya widened his technical knowledge and also gained new insights into many things he had learned on his own by high school’s end.
Graduating from MacEwan in 1994, Mboya still knew he needed to further his musical education. At the time he graduated, MacEwan’s music program was only 2 years and did not offer a degree. So after working for 6 years, Mboya finally completed a bachelors and masters degree at the University of New Orleans. His studies there, were with jazz and New Orleans music legends Harold Battiste and Ellis Marsalis, as well as jazz greats Peter Martin and Victor Atkins. Mboya soaked up the culture ad the music (and ate a lot of the food) of New Orleans, for 7 years. He moved to Toronto in 2005, unwittingly, escaping danger, as 3 or 4 months after he departed New Orleans, it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
In Toronto, Mboya concertized, taught piano and worked with Colin Mendez Morris, conductor for Ars Musica and the Session Orchestra, writing string arrangements for various recording projects of Morris’s.
Mboya currently resides in Edmonton, composing, performing, and teaching at MacEwan University, where he is an instructor in jazz piano, ear training and a course he developed, Jazz History with Cultural Context, exploring the early development of jazz, up to 1939. The course also examines various African musical ingredients that contributed to early North American roots music; and the origins of those ingredients, prior to the transatlantic slave trade, and how they affected western music, afterward.