Front and Center: Dr. Monika Herzig, Jazz Pianist, Author, Educator and Composer

The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.

Front and Center: Dr. Monika Herzig, Jazz Pianist, Author, Educator and Composer

Monika at Piano-1

In 1987, the pedagogical institute in Weingarten, Germany awarded a scholarship for a one-year exchange program at the University of Alabama to one of their students, jazz pianist Monika Herzig. Together with her partner and guitarist Peter Kienle, she arrived in the States on a one-way ticket, with one suitcase of belongings and one guitar in August 1988.

Now Dr. Monika, who received a PhD in Music Education and Jazz Studies at Indiana University, is a faculty member at that institution. Her book David Baker – A Legacy in Music was released November 2011 on IU Press.

As a touring jazz artist, she has performed at many prestigious jazz clubs and festivals, such as the Indy Jazz Fest, Cleveland’s Nighttown, Louisville’s Jazz Factory, the W.C.Handy Festival, Jazz in July in Bloomington and Cincinnati, Columbus’ Jazz & Rib Fest, to name just a few. Groups under her leadership have toured Germany, Italy, Japan, and opened for acts as Tower of Power, Sting, the Dixie Dregs, Yes, and more.

To learn more about Dr. Herzig, visit www.monikaherzing.com and www.owlmusicgroup.com.

WiMN: What was your introduction to music? What made you decide to pursue it as a career?

MH: All four of us children learned an instrument. I wanted to learn piano but we didn’t have one. So I had to play Melodica for two years to prove that I was serious.  Finally I got my piano and also apprenticed with our church organist. I always knew I wanted to teach, loved music and mathematics, so I tried to figure out a way to combine all three until I found jazz and fell in love with the creative freedom and the music.

WiMN: What is ISIS, and what is the mission of the organization? Can you discuss Girls Create Music as well?

MH: ISIS is an organization whose mission is to create role models for female musicians and find opportunities to feature female musicians. Girls Create Music is a summer camp for girls ages 9-16 now in its fourth incarnation in partnership with the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN.  Girls learn to play all instruments in a combo (bass, drums, guitar, keys) and write songs in their bands.  At the end of the week they all perform their music in a final concert. More info at www.girlscreatemusic.org  – enrollment for the 2014 edition is open until March 19.

WiMN: What do you enjoy about teaching music? How did David Baker influence this? (Feel free to discuss your book here as well!)

MH: I actually teach in the Arts Management program at Indiana University with classes in Music Industry, Community Arts, Programming, and Creative Thinking Techniques. I do some private piano teaching, and I used to teach about any music class possible. The best thing about teaching is learning along with the students.  Also, the energy from a room full of young adults is wonderful, it keeps me moving and learning and I love to see their success in the industry.

David Baker is an incredible example for someone dedicated to teaching.  He is a mentor, friend, and cheerleader for all of his students and was an inspiration as a teacher during my studies and even more so when I got to write his story down in my book David Baker – A Legacy in Music on IU Press.

WiMN: What current musical personal projects are you working on?

MH: I want to collect audio and video recordings of female jazz musicians around the world – feature their unique global voices.  I also was just part of a brand new recording of David Baker’s cello works with cellist Manuel Fischer-Dieskau on the MDG label.

WiMN: Who are some of your role models – musicians or otherwise?

MH: Marian McPartland, Carla Bley, my mom.

WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young woman pursuing a career as a musician?

MH: Be prepared to lead and never burn any bridges.

WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been any challenges?

MH: Here is a blog I wrote about this that explains some of these challenges.