Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) Alumna Bradlie Jones, known as Jelie, is no stranger to a performance stage. With a knack for the art of rap and spoken word, Jelie is putting her college education to work by running a successful business while growing her career as an artist.
Jelie will share how her college journey equipped her with the tools to forge her own path—both on and off the stage—at TEDxCherryCreekWomen on December 10. With a theme of “Bold and Brilliant,” this year’s TEDxCherryCreekWomen event will feature Jelie alongside 16 other presenters and performers.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career as a rap artist?
At age four, I knew where I wanted my life to take me. I grew up watching my Dad make beats and rap with his friends, and starting writing my own raps at age eight. I could easily memorize words and arrange rhymes—English was my best subject. I used to I write my own Junie B. Jones stories when I was allowed to free write in first grade.
How did your high school and college education help you get to where you are today?
I took Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory in high school. Like most AP classes, the course structure was entirely focused on the AP Test, and left me very little room to explore my art. This is when I first became aware that breaking the rules could help me find my own bold brilliance. But I had to learn the rules and continue my education first.
I knew I wanted to continue my education through college. Although I’m a first-generation college student, my parents had always expected me to make the most of my education. DSF and financial aid helped me get there.
In my performance ensemble class at the University of Colorado Denver, I watched groups performing vocal and instrumental pieces.When it was my turn to perform, it was really difficult to get constructive feedback from my peers and professors because no one else was familiar with my genre. I then realized that being solo in my class wasn’t about being confined—it was an opportunity for me to come into my own.
What makes your story your own?
By 16, I was performing in venues around Denver, and at age 19, I had launched my own production company, Kickback Couture. What makes my story my own is that I made my education work for me, as there was no audition track for rap. I was not fluent with any instruments nor was I educated about where I could take my skills for commission.
As a rising artist, my education laid the foundation for me to create a successful business. I design and build synthesizer drums from scratch, a unique skill that has allowed me to monetize my art. As an ambassador for the genre, I produce online tutorials and give private lessons in music production and sound design.
While my story is my own, I am just one of many talented young people going against the grain today. I present the story of the lost, and the vision of raw truth. I want to show other young people with unconventional approaches to work that their dreams are valid. I want to show them that with the right resources, they can challenge the status quo, too.
Hear more from Jelie at TEDxCherryCreekWomen on December 10. A Q&A session with Jelie and DSF CEO, Lorii Rabinowitz, will follow Jelie’s performance. Tickets are now on sale online. This event will sell out—don’t wait!