Jerry Tolson is professor of jazz studies and music education at the University of Louisville, where he is chair of the music education division, directs instrumental and vocal jazz ensembles and teaches jazz pedagogy, jazz style, jazz history, and African American Music classes. He is a clinician for Alfred Music, a consultant for Pearson Educational Publishing, and serves as an adjudicator, guest conductor, and jazz camp instructor internationally. He taught previously at Central College (IA) and the University of Nebraska-Omaha as well as several Iowa high schools.
A graduate of Drake University and the University of North Texas, Tolson has made presentations at state, regional, and national Music Education conferences, the International Association for Jazz Education Conference, Jazz Education Network, the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, and the Midwest Clinic. as well as universities in the U.S. and abroad. As a composer/arranger Tolson writes for both large and small instrumental ensembles as well as vocal jazz ensembles. His vocal jazz works are published by UNC Jazz Press. He is a clinician/consultant for Alfred Music Publishing Company and a content consultant for Pearson/Prentice Hall Educational Publications. In addition, he is a faculty member of the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshops.
He is the educational director for the University of Louisville Jazz Festival and co-founder of U of L's African American Music Heritage Institute, a celebration of the contributions of African Americans to America's musical history, as well a series of jazz teacher training institutes. Tolson’s articles have appeared in Music Educator’s Journal, Jazz Educator’s Journal, The Journal of Jazz Studies, and The Instrumentalist, and he is a contributor to the following publications: Teaching Music Through Performance in Jazz, (ed. Carter and Miles), Jazz Pedagogy: The Jazz Educator's Handbook and Resource Guide (Dunscomb and Hill), and The Jazzer’s Cookbook: Creative Recipes for Players and Teachers.
Performing on keyboards, woodwinds, and vocals, Tolson leads three groups and has worked with such popular artists as the Temptations, Four Tops, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, and Manhattan Transfer, and with jazz artists Delfeayo Marsalis, Antonio Hart, Rufus Reid, Winard Harper, Mark Gross, Kevin Mahogany, Sunny Wilkinson, Pete Christlieb, Phil Wilson, James Moody, Benny Golson, and Marvin Stamm. Tolson has released three CDs of original jazz selections, Nu View, Back at the Track, and Fresh Squeezed. His composition, "In the Company of Strangers", from Nu View was a runnerup in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Tolson's jazz groups have appeared at local and regional jazz festivals including the Louisville Jazz and Blues Festival, Jazz In Central Park, Evansville Jazz Festival, and the Legacies Music Festival. Tolson’s CDs include Nu View, Back at the Track, and Fresh Squeezed, and his groups have appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy, and in Barbados, Brazil, and Trinidad.
Tolson has been named to "Who's Who Among America's Teachers", and has received the Kentucky Music Educators "College Teacher of the Year" award and the University of Louisville Distinguished Faculty Service and Multicultural Teaching Awards. Tolson has served as a board member of the University of Louisville Athletic Association, the University Club of Louisville, and IAJE. His other professional memberships include the American Federation of Musicians, Jazz Education Network, ASCAP, NARAS, College Music Society, National Band Association, Louisville Jazz Society, and National Association for Music Education.