Cover photo for Neil W. Bridge's Obituary
Neil W. Bridge Profile Photo
1929 Neil 2023

Neil W. Bridge

August 18, 1929 — December 7, 2023

Denver

Neil W. Bridge, 94, of Denver, Colorado passed away on December 7, 2023.

Funeral Service to be held on Friday, January 19, 2024 beginning at 12pm with a viewing one hour prior, at Horan & McConaty Family Chapel, 1091 South Colorado Boulevard, Denver, Colorado 80246. Following the service, Neil will be laid to rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery, 3698 S. Sheridan Boulevard, Denver, Colo - please follow the signs for Staging Area C. We will line up at Staging Area "C" at 1:45pm and full military honors will be held at 2pm. Maps will be printed out at the service. If guests wish to stay in the Horan & McConaty chapel to visit, you're welcome to do so until 3pm. Coffee and water will be provided.

Additional information is in the flyer below.

In Lieu of flowers, everyone can help by making a contribution in honor of Neil to Karen through
Venmo @KarenLee-Bridge (Give the last four digits of Karen's cell phone... 6191 which confirms for you that it is her account)
And/Or...
By purchasing the Bridges most recent recording, "In The Key Of Music" ...find it on their website at https://www.neilbridgemusic.com

 

Neil Bridge Bio

Neil was born on August 18th 1929 in Kutztown, Pennsylvania and grew up Kutztown during the Great Depression when he really learned to be so grateful for literally everything! His beloved parents were William and Verna Bridge.

Neil began taking Piano lessons at 8 years old from Mr. Moyer, who traveled quite a distance from another town in PA to Kutztown to teach Neil privately in the Bridge home on their upright Piano.

Neil’s Mother who loved many Music styles…. dreamed of her son playing classical Piano in Carnegie Hall. But Neil heard Jazz Music as a teenager and said…That’s how I want to play! His Mom and Dad and Sister lovingly and totally supported his choice, and his illustrious musical journey began!

After High School, Kutztown friends encouraged Neil to live in New York City to receive natural street learning about Jazz…. and invited him to stay with them. He got a day job, stayed with his friends to get settled and then lived in Greenwich Village. Neil spent a year in NYC and earned his “Jazz Degree” during the heyday of the 52nd Street scene while hearing and seeing the greatest of all time LIVE…Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Count Basie Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Machito, Tito Puente, etc etc etc

Neil knew he also wanted to study music education but finances were challenging. A friend suggested he join the Air Force where he could have the opportunity to apply to hopefully receive a college education on the GI BILL. So he joined the Air Force and was in Roswell NM in the Jazz Band. They rehearsed new tunes every day and he was inspired by a sax player in the group who was awesome…that is where he developed his chops.

Neil and his family were honored and thrilled he did receive the GI BILL and that he was accepted into The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He graduated while gigging 5 or 6 nights a week.

While looking for a teaching position he was offered to teach in Colorado….it was 1958 when he arrived in Colorado and taught at Sheridan Union High then to Denver Public Schools and became a pioneer and shining light in the world of music education and in the world of playing as a professional musician in Denver and throughout Colorado. As a professional educator, his noted appointments have included teaching instrumental music and choral music for the Denver Public Schools ( Baker Jr. High School and The Career Education Center ) Among his many honors include an induction as the 1988 Colorado Jazz Educator of the year by the Colorado Chapter of the National Association of Jazz Educators ( now the International Association for Jazz Education – IA JE ) and many prestigious student music awards by Downbeat Magazine. These awards reflect his outstanding work as the former director for the award winning Denver Public Schools Citywide High School Jazz Combo (1978 -1987).

CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER
PROCLAMATION
I, Michael J Hancock , Mayor of the City and County of Denver, Colorado proclaim June 16th, 2013 to be known as…
NEIL BRIDGE DAY

THE 5 POINTS jAZZ FESTIVAL IS PLEASED TO PAY TRIBUTE TO
NEIL BRIDGE
FOR SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DEVELOPMENT AND APPRECIATION
OF JAZZ IN THE HISTORIC FIVE POINTS NEIGHBORHOOD AND BEYOND
MAY I7,2014

Neil adored Colorado, fly fishing and the outdoors…honored to play in the Bronco Band, nightclubs, private parties, weddings, Jazz Festivals in and out of Colorado, Denver Symphony Orchestra performances, Musicals at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Theatre performances and accompanying the Greatest of All Time Jazz Musicians and Vocalists as they came through Denver. Neil adored teaching, and is truly beloved by the town of Denver as THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME music educators and pianists.

Neil is AKA… “NEIL BRIDGE”,” EL PUENTE GRANDE”, “MAESTRO”, “MISTA BRIDGE” “THE JAZZY BABY, MR. HOLLAND” OF DENVER!

Neil is survived by…

His loving Sister, Barbara Bridge Lantz who currently lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and she has a beautiful extended Family. His loving Son and Daughter in Law David and Esther Bridge and their two beautiful children Caitlin and Derek Bridge. Loving Daughter and Husband Pamela and Pete Dailey and their beautiful Daughter Lauren and Husband Joe Scrofani who will be bringing a newborn into the world in June 2024.

Married for 31 years…..In 1992 Neil met and fell in love with his soulmate, muse, professional vocalist, producer, professional dancer/ two time National Ballroom Dance Champion, and recording artist…Karen Lee Bridge, and their life in love, music and marriage is well known as a fairy tale love story.

Remarkably….Neil used to hitchhike to Karen’s Grandfather’s shows in Pennsylvania before Karen was born although Neil and Karen met in Denver.

The Bridges have 5 different Bands for their various performances and Karen is honored to announce that with the love and blessings from her Husband…she is planning to carry forward The Bridge Musical Legacy, as her Husband suggested…. under the direction of Karen Lee Bridge.

You can find The Bridges most recent recording and see and hear professional videos and professional photos on their website www.neilbridgemusic.com

IN THE KEY OF MUSIC

NEIL BRIDGE & THE PRIDE

FEATURING KAREN LEE BRIDGE

Neil Bridge is a legendary Jazz Piano player, composer, arranger, band-leader, musical director and former DPS music educator. Throughout his illustrious career he has accompanied Mel Torme. Anita O’Day, Nancy Wilson, Dakota Staton, Johnny Smith, The Mills Brothers, Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, and many more. He is well known for accompanying Johnny Smith (legendary world-class guitar player) for 30 years.

Due to his work as a former music educator with the Denver Public Schools, there is a room dedicated to Neil at the Denver School for the Arts. The room is appropriately titled, the Neil Bridge Jazz Room. Neil created and directed the first Denver Public Schools City Wide High School Jazz Combo. He and his students received the prestigious Downbeat Award for best High School Jazz Combo in the United States.

Many of his former students went on to have successful careers in Jazz and the entertainment industry, such as Don Cheadle Actor, Nelson Rangell Sax & Flute, Javon Jackson Sax, Gary Sosias Latin Percussionist, Brad Leali Sax, Clarinet and Flute, Ron Miles Trumpeter, Jill Fredericksen Drummer, Julie Fredericksen Piano, Andrew Hudson Bass, David Pearl Pianist, Byron Hamer Sax, Kelli Cox Pianist, Paul Taylor Sax, among many others.

Inside of every musician gig book….Neil has handwritten this quote

“TO PLAY A WRONG NOTE IS
INSIGNIFICANT;
TO PLAY WITHOUT PASSION
IS INEXCUSABLE.”
“BEETHOVEN”

Neil wrote this loving quote for everyone to receive and embrace…

“MAY THE GIFT OF MUSIC
HELP YOU TO ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS AND PERSONAL GOALS
THROUGHOUT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE”
“NEIL BRIDGE”

Neil Bridge’s Education:

B/M in Music Education – New England Conservatory of Music

M/N in Music Education – University of Colorado

Jazz Pianist Neil Bridge Celebrates His Ninetieth BirthDay

  Westword Jon Solomon, August 20th, 2019

Pianist Neil Bridge on starting jazz combos programs in Denver Public Schools

  Westword, Jon Solomon, July 15th 2011

Influential jazz pianist Neil Bridge hits Dazzle stage

  Denver Post, Bret Saunders June 26th 2011

Cool Kudos

  Westword, Richard Kellerhals, September 28th 2004

Bridge to the Future

  Westword, Michael Roberts, June 20th 2002

Please share memories of Neil W. Bridge and condolences with his family by signing the online guestbook below.

MAP - STAGING C.pdf
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Bridge - Flyer.pdf
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Service Schedule

Past Services

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Friday, January 19, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Mountain (no DST) time)

Horan & McConaty Funeral Service and Cremation

1091 S Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80246

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Funeral Service

Friday, January 19, 2024

12:00 - 1:00 pm (Mountain (no DST) time)

Horan & McConaty Funeral Service and Cremation

1091 S Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80246

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