Interview with Monika Herzig: Our goal is to change perceptions: Video

Jazz interview with jazz pianist and composer Monika Herzig. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

Monika Herzig: – I practice as much as possible making sure I know and memorize the music. I also have a church organ position that requires me to sight read on a regular basis and keep my classical chops up. I make sure to write music consistently so there is always new material. With this specific group we rehearse extensively before we go on tour or in the recording studio with a democratic process of everyone providing input as all group members are leaders in their own right and very accomplished musicians. We support each other also spiritually in our quest to change perceptions for this male-dominated musical genre and create opportunities.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2020: <Eternal Dance>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

MH: – As it explains in the liner note, this is music that was created throughout a year successfully battling cancer but also losing dear friends and family members to the disease. The album has a theme of healing and overcoming and the deep emotions shine through the compositions and the playing. There is a quality to instrumental music that allows expression on a deeper level than words – music is a language that goes beyond verbal expression.

Right now everything is on hold, we had to cancel our CD release tour in the middle and all our summer engagements and it is very unclear how the future of live performance will look like. Everyone is frantically learning new technology to be able to keep creating and stay in touch with audiences – very difficult times, emotionally and financially.

JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

MH: – I’m not sure this question applies to our album – no live dates and only one studio session. The group has been together for six years as an advocacy project for Women in Jazz and now with a strong core group featuring Jamie Baum, Reut Regev, Leni Stern, Monika Herzig, Jennifer Vincent, Rosa Avila and special guests.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

MH: – Not sure you can find a percentage number for this and it probably is different for everyone who listens to our music. For this album the balance tips very much to soul as the music was created during a year of despair, and emotional turmoil.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

MH: – People do not know what they want, they know if they like or can relate to something when they hear it and feel it. It is not the role of the musician to figure out what people want but to provide the best they can give and share it with those who are open and can relate.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

MH: – We still have a long time to go towards equal acceptance of women on stage, perceptions are deeply ingrained. Audiences lower their expectations for profiles that they don’t associate with the typical ‘middle-aged, male’ image. At a jazz festival last September after the performance one of the audience members approached me complimenting for our performance. Then he added “I didn’t expect that from you, you look more like a school teacher”. An unfortunate incident confirming the way jazz is still perceived.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

MH: – There are plenty of groups like ours that create original music, crossover music, exciting new collaborations and I don’t think there is a problem in getting young people interested. The problem is more in diminishing venues and media representation and of course now a very uncertain future.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

MH: – Get rid of this pandemic so we can do what we do best – play with and for people.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

MH: – Our group has a message of empowerment – all members are powerful musicians, band leaders, women, wives, mothers and hence strong role models for our future generations. Our goal is to change perceptions, have our voices heard and included into the sound of jazz, and encourage the next generation of girls to participate and raise their voices.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

MH: – I want to go 2 years in the future and find out how we will solve this current crisis so I can figure out where to put my energies. It is very difficult at the moment to pinpoint if we all need to recreate the way we perform, record, write, and share and which aspects of our current income streams and interactions will come back or prevail.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

MH: – Thank you for the support Simon. How do you envision the future after this pandemic? What aspects of the business will survive, what will change, and how many of us will have to give up and/or change our professions and what we do because we can’t make a viable living?

JBN: – Thanks very much for answers. Yes, of course. All will be fine !!!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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