by CRAIG COLEY
Jazz has always welcomed female vocalists, but instrumentalists like Monika Herzig struggle for recognition. “Advocacy was built in from the beginning of my career,” says Herzig, a pianist who grew up in Germany. “I’m far away from anything you traditionally imagine a real jazz player is.”
Now that she is an award-winning recording artist, author, scholar, and lecturer, Herzig, 56, is in a position to advocate for women. Her all-female ensemble, Sheroes, has recorded three albums, and she is currently co-editing a book titled Jazz and Gender (Routledge), which will be published in 2022.
Herzig started on piano at age 10 and discovered jazz when guitarist Peter Kienle—now her husband—invited her to join his jazz fusion band, Bubblegun, in their hometown of Albstadt, Germany. “What fascinated me about jazz was every time you play you get to experiment and come up with something new,” Herzig says.
Raised in a family of teachers, Herzig was studying to become one herself when she won a scholarship for a one-year exchange program at the University of Alabama. Kienle joined her. “We thought we were coming to the land of jazz, where everybody loves jazz and plays it from morning till night,” Herzig says. “Then we realized it’s a very small percentage that actually even likes it.” They stayed nonetheless, and Herzig earned a master’s degree in music education from the University of Alabama.
In 1991, the couple moved to Bloomington, where Herzig began work on the Ph.D. in music education she would earn from Indiana University in 1997. Their band, BeebleBrox, recorded eight albums and opened for artists such as Santana, Yes, and Sting. Then parenthood pushed the couple to pursue separate music projects.
Since 2005, Herzig has been a lecturer in IU’s Arts Administration department while maintaining a steady output of recordings and research. IU Press published David Baker: A Legacy in Music in 2011, and Rowman & Littlefield released Chick Corea: A Listener’s Companion in 2017. Herzig founded the Jazz Education Network’s research committee and edits the committee’s journal. Last summer, she began an interview program on YouTube called Talking Jazz.
Since 1996, Sundays have found her playing organ for the First United Methodist Church in Ellettsville, Indiana.
Kienle is a makerspace technician at the IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. Their son Zackary, 21, is finishing circus school in Philadelphia. Daughter Jasmin, 19, is a freshman at IU.