Toby Nelms graduated from the Royal College of Music in 2013 with First Class Honours, becoming the first person in the RCM’s history to graduate with a joint principal degree specialising in composition and jazz piano.


Toby's musical ability was recognised from an early age and he began Piano lessons at the age of 5, receiving tuition by the Suzuki method. He subsequently took up Clarinet and later Bassoon before beginning to compose aged 11.


Toby had no formal compositional training prior to being awarded the Henry Wood Scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in 2009. His early output included a 50 minute Requiem Mass for Choir and Orchestra which received 3 performances between 2007 and 2009, conducted by Jean Holt.


Toby studied composition at the RCM with Jonathan Cole and Haris Kittos as well as orchestration and arranging under Kenneth Hesketh. He took part in public masterclasses with renowned composers Mark-Anthony Turnage and Simon Holt and in 2011 he studied for 6 months at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Damien Ricketson.


In recent years Toby's music has been played by a variety of groups including the Ossian Ensemble, Kensington Brass and BBC Singers with his choral antiphon Factum est Silentium, In May 2012, his work for Chamber Ensemble Ngalyod was premiered by the New Perspectives Ensemble, conducted by Tim Lines.


In 2013 Toby was awarded 1st prize in the Polonsky Foundation Competition for his work ‘A Lost Child’. Another highlight later that year was the Pacific Trio premiering his work ‘Keel Chimes’ at St. Martin in the Field’s.

Since pursuing Jazz Piano aged 16, Toby has studied with Mike Moran and received tuition with Matt McMahon in Sydney. As a soloist, Toby has held residencies in London and further afield, most notably the Savoy Hotel.

Toby plays with a number of groups including his own Street-Nelms Jazz Quartet. In August 2014 they performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms Plus late series, the set being broadcast on BBC Radio 3 the following week.


Toby currently holds the Piano chairs with the SUBB All Stars Big Band with whom he will be touring with during 2015. He is also a member of the John Garner Quartet who will be releasing their album ‘Blue Fields’ in 2015.

List of Selected Works

Requiem for SATB Choir and Orchestra
(2007) 50'

Stay in the Mountains for Violin and Piano
(2007) 6'

Christ Our Saviour King for SATB Choir and Orchestra
(2008) 3'

Three Recollections for Flute, Clarinet, Percussion, Piano, Violin, Cello
(2010) 10'

Factum Est Silentium for SATB Choir Acapella
(2010) 3'

Orbitas for French Horn and Trombone
(2010) 3'

Impetere for Wind Ensemble
(2011) 9'

Nglayod for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello
(2011) 8'

Kopanitsa Miniatures for Solo Bassoon
(2012) 8'

Three Native American Songs for SATB Choir Acapella
(2012) 9'

Adnamira for Jazz Ensemble
(2013) 7'

The Might of Pale Death for Tenor Trombone and Marimba/Chinese Cymbals
(2013) 5'

In The Numbed Branches Of Grief (A Lost Child) for Violin, Cello and Piano
(2013) 7'

Keel Chimes for Violin, Clarinet and Piano
(2013) 4'

Ilarion for Brass Dectet
(2013) 7'

Canyon Dusk for Violin Duo
(2014) 5'

Recruit Green for solo Piano
(2014) 4'

Upcoming projects

In September 2014 Toby was delighted to be appointed Director of Jazz at Queen Mary University, London. This role see’s him leading the Big Band and other jazz ensembles with some exciting performances lined up for 2015.

Throughout the Autumn alongside the John Garner Quartet, Toby has been working on a collaboration with talented artists Scrufizzer and Josh Bevan. The song in progress is based around a jazz piece Toby composed earlier in 2014 called ‘Hadal Zone’ and will be released online in the coming months, produced by Flyotw Film Studios.

On the 17th November, Toby’s was honoured to have his work for violin duo ‘Canyon Dusk’ included by Mainly Two on their album ‘Poetry’.

During 2015/16 Toby will be continuing his relationship with Brass Ensemble Kensington Brass with some more works and arrangements in the pipelines.

Toby will be touring the South Coast with the SUBB All Stars Big Band during summer 2015, showcasing the music of Count Basie. The performances will include some of Basie’s lesser known works which Toby has been transcribing over the past year.

Function band ‘Groove On Up’ of which Toby is a founding member are already getting bookings through for summer and autumn 2015. They can be contacted here.