Hoboken resident Jason Nelson has made his passion his purpose. His passion: high-energy, live music performance on the saxophone. What started as a fun hobby playing pop music on his sax has now turned into a full-time business for this Rutgers grad. Jason has performed at countless weddings and other private parties, as well as such (literally) high-profile stages as opening The Edge at Hudson Yards. Jason, who performs as ‘The Essential Jason Nelson,’ quit his 9-to-5 to pursue music and has never looked back. The Hoboken Girl had the chance to talk with him about turning his side hustle into a full-time career. Read on to learn more about Jason, and how he combined his passion for entertaining others with a love for music.
(Photo credit: Susan Teplinsky Photography)
HG: What brought you to the area?
JN: I moved to Hoboken in April 2021. While I loved growing up in the Central NJ suburbs, I believe that everyone should live in at least one city in their 20s. It forces us out of our comfort zones and it’s easier to meet people. I believe that NYC is the greatest city in the world because of its vibrant culture and incredible entertainment scene.
HG: How did you get started in entertainment and playing high-energy sax?
JN: I’ve been playing the piano for 19+ years and the sax for 16+ years. From an early age, I learned that I have a perfect pitch which has allowed me to play any song by ear. In college, I started an Instagram account where I posted short videos of popular songs on the piano and sax (The Chainsmokers, Post Malone, Blink-182, Fetty Wap, etc.), and eventually was hired by a friend’s sister to play cocktail hour piano at her wedding. She also had me play along with the DJ for her intro to her reception, and I ended up staying the entire wedding.
I was so attracted to the adrenaline rush I got from this wedding that I became obsessed with trying to replicate the feeling. I reached out to several entertainment companies in the NJ/NY area and quickly started getting booked to play at events. Above any compliments I received about my musical talents on the sax/piano, I kept on hearing the word “energy”. “OMG you literally have so much energy,” and “You’re literally the life of the party,” were two common phrases I heard over and over again, so I realized that my passion for entertaining others far outweighed any passion I’ve ever had for music.
^ Jason (middle) with Melissa Gorga (right) + her husband Joe Gorga (left) from RHONJ
HG: Tell us about the special events you’ve played at and what that was like.
JN: I’ve been so grateful for all the amazing events I’ve been able to play at and all my clients, vendors, and industry friends who have given me the opportunity to share my love of entertainment with the world. Being a part of Angelina Pivarnick [and her husband]’s wedding back in 2019 was really awesome because I grew up a big fan of Jersey Shore in high school. I was booked to play cocktail hour sax as well as reception sax with the DJ.
Playing the sax at the Gorga family’s (from The Real Housewives of New Jersey) annual July 4th party last year was also an amazing experience because there is truly nothing like a backyard party on July 4th down the shore. The fireworks in the air, the food and drinks, the good vibes, and everyone dressing up in red, white, and blue – it was such a great experience and I was thankful to be a part of it.
HG: What was your favorite event you’ve ever played?
JN: Playing one of the grand opening parties for Edge NYC back in March 2020 was definitely the absolute coolest. I was lucky enough to have experienced the breathtaking views before the observatory deck opened to the public, and it’s literally mind-blowing to think that I performed there before The Weeknd and Tiesto.
HG: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to face in what you do?
JN: Realizing that I can’t always please everyone. It’s always been important to me to get along with everyone I meet. However, by owning a business that also acts as my livelihood, I’ve had to make some tough decisions for the sake of my business’ growth, as well as my own mental health.
HG: What are your goals for this year?
JN: I’m always looking for more opportunities to travel for events to cool new places I’ve never been to. I’ve been fortunate enough to play events in several different states, so I’m really interested to continue tapping into the destination wedding market – they’re so much fun and I’d love to get booked overseas. I’d also love to play more weddings locally because Hudson County/Manhattan has so many great venues.
^ Jason (middle) with Terese Giudice (right) + her fiance Luis Ruelas (left) from RHONJ
HG: What does a typical day look like for you?
JN: On weekdays, I typically focus on answering emails and hopping on calls with clients and vendors, and preparing for my upcoming weekend event schedule. This includes figuring out logistics on what time I have to leave and what I need to bring. I also have a wonderful Yamaha keyboard in my room that I can sit down and play for hours, so I’ll often browse the Billboard Hot 100 and see how many songs I can play by ear.
HG: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
JN: Being able to play a huge role in the happiest day of my clients’ lives! Getting reviews like, “You made our wedding – it wouldn’t have been the same without you” is truly humbling.
Another is making my own schedule and being able to decide when I want to work and when I want to take time off for myself. I’m so thankful that I have full control over my business.
HG: What has been the highlight in life so far?
JN: Leaving my 9-5 job during the pandemic, while being patient and trusting my gut that the entertainment industry would eventually make a comeback in 2021. We’re currently in a wedding BOOM. Leaving my 9-5 was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made.
HG: What advice would you give to those who want to start in entertainment?
JN: Find out what specific aspect of the entertainment industry you’re most passionate about and ask yourself the question, “If money didn’t exist, what would you do?” For me, I never feel like I’m working because I love what I do.
Find your strengths and triple down on them. What sets you apart from everybody else? Be yourself, and I promise you, people will want to hire you for you.
Always be prepared, show up on time, strive to work well with others, and be able to adapt to any and all situations.
Get organized or hire someone to organize for you. I can’t even begin to explain how much being organized has helped my business in every single way.
HG: Anything else you want to share about your business, career, or yourself.
JN: I’m always looking to meet new people, and I’m obsessed with trivia if anybody out there wants me to join their team on weeknights in the area. I’m also a die-hard Mets, Jets, and Rutgers sports fan.
On a side note, I absolutely love the vibes of Pier 13 and would love to play here either with a DJ or solo (sax with backing tracks/playlist). If anyone knows any information on how I can help make this happen, please let me know.
HG: What is your favorite restaurant locally?
JN: Cafe Michelina – the vodka sauce is next-level and the owner, Sal, is the man.
HG: Where do you like to shop locally in the area?
JN: I love Jefferson’s Coffee on Washington Street – I often come here to drink a cold brew and sift through my emails. I also love Lululemon on Washington Street – I wear my black Commission pants to every single event – they allow me to drop it low on the dance floor.
HG: What do you love most about the area?
JN: I’m super thankful to now have so many close friends both from my hometown and college all living in one place. Not to mention the NYC skyline view will never get old.
HG: What is your favorite thing to do in Hudson County?
JN: I love riding my bike during the day to Liberty State Park on a nice day while listening to the perfect Spotify playlist of course.
HG: Tell us about another business in the area you admire.
JN: One of my best friends from college is a photographer living in Hoboken who takes outstanding shots. She specializes in couples, family, and portrait photography and has done several shoots for me over the years. The business is called Susan Teplinsky Photography and you can find her online or on Instagram.
HG: What is your favorite outdoor place to spend time in Hoboken?
JN: Laying in Pier A on a perfect summer day.
HG: What is your favorite place to work out in Hudson County?
JN: Retro Fitness in Hoboken.
HG: Where do you go out with friends in the area?
JN: You’ll frequently catch me with friends at a mixture of the downtown bars like Mills, Texas Arizona, and Green Rock, but I also am a sucker for a cover band, so I love Willie McBride’s too.
HG: What is something you think needs to come to Hoboken or Jersey City?
JN: A hard Kombucha bar. I visited a place called June Shine when I was in LA and the drinks were delicious and the vibes were perfect. I believe they’re opening up a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so Hoboken would be the next best location.
Keep up with The Essential Jason Nelson on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, or his website. You can also contact Jason via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and all inquiries should be made here.