Elsa Nilsson

The Bio

My Story + passions

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The exact type of evolution we’re looking for in music.

As a musician and a flutist, Elsa’s sound reflects the sense of awareness and urgency of this generation. A generation that is more aware than ever of our self destruction, after decades of habitual planetary abuse which also happens to be what propelled us into the technologically inclined world we are in today. Her music imbibes the energy of Rock N Roll, the cadence of street protest, the visceral improvisations of Jazz and the compositional language of Classical music. The resulting sound reflects the urgency of her generation - our world through her reactions, her passions, and her emotions.

The Story

From Gothenburg, Sweden to Brooklyn, New York City, Elsa’s musical journey began at the age of two, singing in her father’s ex-navy choir. She began playing piano at five and composing at six, and by 15 she had been playing the flute for a year improvising along with records. 

After attending Hvitdfeldtska - a classical conservatory-style program in Gothenburg, Elsa landed in Seattle at the Cornish College of the Arts. She completed her degree in 2008, and two years later, moved to Brooklyn as she began her work on her masters in the NYU Jazz Studies program.

She has studied with Chris Potter, Peter Bernstein, Kenny Werner, Jean-Michele Pilc, Robert Dick, Jamie Baum, Brad Shepik and many more in the process of obtaining her Masters degree from NYU’s Jazz Program. Elsa has performed with the likes of Jon Cowherd, Davy Mooney, Marc Ferber, Brad Shepik, Kenny Werner’s NYU ensemble, The Jim Knapp Orchestra, Jovino Santos Neto and more.


“I started playing the flute at 14 mainly because I couldn’t take my piano backpacking.”

elsa nilsson  |  hot house jazz, June 2016

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The Performer

If you’ve never been caught in a sudden downpour amidst a tornado with the earth splitting open beneath your feet, you’ve never heard Elsa live. It starts with the chatters dying off as the room turns quiet - feels like another night in another room. The band is introduced and you can sense the nervous energy of the room as the music creeps up. The first steps of an evening stroll down a familiar path with strange new faces. But each time she’s just feeling out the room, scoping out its depth and nooks so she can fill it with her sound. And you’ll know when that moment happens, because whatever thoughts were lingering a second earlier, it’s no longer there. Instead, you’ll wonder if you’ve never really heard the flute before. 

Elsa has performed around the US and throughout Europe, and you can always find her trying out new tunes in her current home city, New York. 

The Composer

Listen to one of her pieces, and you’ll know who she is. Wasn’t it Monk who once said “genius is one who is most like himself”? 

If you break it apart, each of her pieces has technical intricacies that can be discussed for days, but that’s not why the melodies randomly pop into your head days later. Elsa obsessively finds a balance between musicality and emotional expression so that each song tells a story, a story where you get to fill in your own details. And that is who she is - someone unwilling to compromise on the integrity of art, but incredibly open to her collaborators and her audience.

The Educator

The true creative has no boundaries. As someone who has spent years improvising and exploring sounds, Elsa is the type of teacher that nourishes the creativity of each of her students. While she would be the first to tell you how important perfecting technique is, in the end, the sharpening of a tool is so you can better use it when you need it. 

Aside from specialized clinics and workshops, Elsa teaches out of a small private studio within her home, where students get one-on-one sessions customized for their skill level and style.


Group or classroom lesson that cover topics ranging from strengthening rhythm to connecting to music through improvisation.


private lessons

One-on-one lessons covering a range of topics from stylistic ideas, rhythmic concepts, improvisational strategies and technical concerns.


online lessons

Videos demonstrating techniques and exercises from my book “Between the Beats”, as well as other educational content for the flute.


Buy my book!

“Between The Beats” shares my techniques for developing your relationship with rhythm for any style of music or instrument.



Booking Inquiries

“One of the most dynamic bandleaders in the New York jazz scene.” - Nick Dunston, Hot House Jazz Magazine