Vocalist and pianist NeLda Washington was a pleasant surprise last week at Bendt Distilling Co in Lewisville, when she ended up filling in for her daughter Nadia Washington. NeLda is actually Nadia’s mother, who has taken over some local shows for her daughter as Nadia takes on a new teaching position at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Amid the faint clattering of cocktail mixing and patrons visiting, NeLda Washington’s voice soared into the evening.
NeLda’s performance in the corner of the room carried the technical precision that showcases the skills she’s picked up over her lifelong musical career.
She graduated from Booker T. Washington HSPVA as part of the first graduating class when the school when it became an arts magnet institution in 1981 – and where her daughter Nadia would later graduate in 2006.
“I was Nadia’s music teacher from Kindergarten to 8th grade,” NeLda said of the family ties and her start in music education. “All the gigging left an unstable life. I was invited to substitute at an elementary school, and it turned into a full time job. I went back and picked up a degree when Nadia was 6 or 7 [years old]. From the elementary, I went to a charter school, then high school. I’ve been celebrating children for 32 years.”
At the high school, she was appointed as the first music teacher for that school, and created her own jazz curriculum.
“I took the kids from late 1800s all the way up to the present,” NeLda said. Unbeknownst to me, [Nadia] just fell in love with jazz.”
Now, NeLda is stepping back out into the performance scene, where in the late 80’s and early 90’s she was a premiere performer in Dallas.
Her last album My Desire Is To Please You released in 2003, which is a Christian jazz record that includes both original tracks and jazz standards.
“My song ‘This I Know‘ is about suicide, and basically carries the message that you don’t have to do that,” NeLda said. “When five officers got shot in Dallas years ago, they asked me to write a song. The music is still relevant, I just haven’t promoted it much.”
More recordings are on the horizon for NeLda, and in the meantime – the family celebrates Nadia’s 2023 album release Hope Resurgence.
Being a single parent, NeLda would bring Nadia to the studio sessions as well as other gigs. This was the beginning of Nadia’s education. “When I was an infant, I would watch her work intently and would never make a sound. It was mesmerizing to watch my mother perform.” Nadia shared.
Her debut album Hope Resurgence touches on themes of perseverance and faith, capturing Washington’s superb vocal range and dexterity on an array of instruments including acoustic and electric guitars, auxiliary bass and harp.
Nadia also lent her talents as a singer and songwriter for Dianne Reeves’s Beautiful Life, an album that received a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocals in 2014.
Nadia entrusted a roster of world-renowned musicians to actualize her vision with Hope, including co-producers Jesse Fischer, Coran Henley and 11x Grammy award-winning trumpeter and arranger Phil Lassiter and Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Nicholas Payton.
“Every musician here is like a musical family member to me. It was humbling to see how much they respected my vision and contributed their style to the music,” Nadia said.
Nadia will return to DFW for shows in September, while NeLda will continue branching out back to her roots performing around the metroplex.
Jessica Waffles is a freelance photographer/videographer and regular contributor to KXT.
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