When Grammy-nominated Mack Avenue recording artist, composer, and bandleader Tia Fuller picks up her saxophone, something amazing happens. Blending technical brilliance, melodic creativity, and the performing precision drawn from both her academic and stage experience, Fuller is a force to be reckoned with in the worlds of jazz, pop, R&B, and more. Currently, Fuller balances the worlds of performance and education, fulfilling a demanding schedule as both a busy touring and recording artist and a full-time professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Fuller’s resume makes her uniquely qualified for these roles. The Denver, Colorado native graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, and summa cum laude with a Master’s degree in Jazz Pedagogy and Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Already established as a leading jazz musician, Fuller was selected to be a member of the all-female band touring with Grammy-winning pop star Beyoncé. Performing as part of the I AM … Sasha Fierce and Beyoncé Experience World Tour on stages across the globe, Fuller also became a featured soloist on the Beyoncé Experience DVD (Me, Myself and I), I AM Yours I DVD (Wynn Theatre) and also appeared on number of major television shows, including Today Show, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, BET Awards, American Music Awards, Grammy Awards and as a featured soloist with Beyoncé for President Obama at the White House.
An accomplished solo artist in her own right, Fuller has recorded five full-length projects with her quartet. Her most recent album, Diamond Cut, received a Grammy nomination in the Best Instrumental Jazz category; produced by three-time Grammy Award winner Terri Lyne Carrington, the album also features two superb rhythm sections, both of which contain some of jazz world’s brightest luminaries – bassist Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, then bassist James Genus and drummer Bill Stewart. Adding texture and harmonic support of several compositions are guitarist Adam Rogers and organist Sam Yahel. Additionally, Carrington contributes to two tracks with percussion.
Fuller debuted in 2005 with her self-produced set, Pillar of Strength (Wambui); her sophomore release, Healing Space (2007/Mack Avenue), is an offering of “melodic medicine” and healing agents. Her third CD, Decisive Steps, also for the Mack Avenue label, received the number one JazzWeek rating for two weeks straight, landed at number three in JET magazine’s top jazz CDs listing, and was nominated for Best Jazz album by JazzWeek. And in 2012, she released her fourth album, Angelic Warrior, which received praise from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and numerous jazz publications. The saxophonist’s quartet has performed in countries and jazz fests around the world, including Angola, Croatia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Italy, Scotland, and the United States, just to name a few.
Fuller can also be seen touring regularly with several bands. She has appeared with Terri Lyne Carrington to perform her Grammy-winning Mosaic Project and Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue; served as assistant musical director for Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society tour; and recorded and toured with Dianne Reeves for her Grammy-winning Beautiful Life album. She has also performed with such luminaries as the Ralph Peterson Septet, Rufus Reid Quintet, Wycliff Gordan Septet, T.S. Monk Sextet, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Nancy Wilson Jazz Orchestra, the Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Chaka Khan, Ledisi, Kelly Rowland, Jay-Z, Jill Scott, Patti LaBelle, Sheila E, Valerie Simpson, Dionne Warwick, Janelle Monáe, Patrice Rushen, Erykah Badu, and the late Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, and Geri Allen.
Fuller has also expanded her media presence as a model and essayist. In early 2019, she appeared in a cutting-edge “Rhythm in Blues” advertising campaign for national women’s retailer J.Jill. Her life-size image has been featured in more than 270 J.Jill display windows nationwide. In addition, Fuller will be featured in an exclusive Vanity Fair magazine shoot, celebrating women in jazz. Furthermore, Fuller has shared her experiences as a performer, educator, and first-time Grammy nominee as a female jazz musician via a timely opinion piece, on sexism in jazz for NBCNews.com, a feature story in the Associated Press and live interviews on such outlets as TV One’s Sister Circle. The dynamic saxophonist has also graced the cover of Downbeat Magazine, JazzTimes Magazine, Saxophone Today, Jazzed, and Jazz Education Journal.
In addition, she has received numerous awards and marks of distinction including, winning JazzTimes Jazz Critics Poll for best alto saxophonist (2018), and Downbeat Critic’s Poll-Rising Star two years in a row in the categories of Soprano Sax in 2014 and Alto Sax and Flute in 2013. In 2018, Fuller was honored with the Benny Golson Award from Howard University; received the Distinguished Alumnae Award as the commencement speaker at the University of Colorado at Boulder; and was appointed as the 2018 Artist-in-Residence at the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, CA.
As a Professor at Berklee College of Music, Fuller shares her expertise with more than 70 students per week. She leads the college’s Rainbow Big Band and All-Stars, the Esperanza Ensemble, repertoire class, jazz improvisation, two jazz combos, and the Christian McBride Ensemble. In addition, she produces and directs groundbreaking large production ensembles focusing on the works of major pop innovators Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, and Micki Miller. Innovated by Fuller to provide more contemporary, real-world experiences for students, these ensembles are cross-collaborations with other college departments and duplicate an “A-list” tour production incorporating musicians, choreography, strings, dancers, video, and lighting.
As an artist, performer, and teacher, Fuller feels that she is fulfilling her purpose here on this earth, which is to “serve as a light for others.”