When Monika Herzig talks to students in her IU Bloomington classes about the challenges of being successful in the music industry, she knows whereof she speaks. The jazz pianist continually goes the extra mile to develop an audience for her music through touring, recording and outreach.
Her most recent project, Come with Me, on the Owl Studios label, is a perfect example. It includes not only a CD with 10 cuts recorded by Herzig and her band, but also a DVD featuring a professionally produced, 25-minute documentary film about the pianist and her music.
"Making records these days, you have to find a way to add value or do something special," Herzig said. "I'm trying to reach out more to the audience and make that direct connection."
A native of Germany and a classically trained pianist, Herzig discovered jazz and followed her passion for the quintessential American art form to the U.S., where she earned a master's degree from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in music education from IU's Jacobs School of Music.
Appropriately for such a well-traveled artist, Come with Me follows a journey theme, with several tunes evoking travels or far-away places. Herzig and her band -- her husband Peter Kienle on guitar, Tom Clark on saxes and flute, Carolyn Dutton on violin, Frank Smith on bass and Kenny Phelps on drums -- explore a mix of her originals with classic and contemporary compositions.
The title tune comes with a story, and with a poem by Herzig's sometime collaborator Norbert Krapf, a former Indiana poet laureate. Its carefree, wandering melody was inspired by an incident in which Kienle, on a visit to Germany, became lost while hiking in the woods and had to tramp cross-country.
Later, playing a show in Jasper, Ind., he looked down and exclaimed, "I have the mud of Germany on my boots," provoking a hearty response in the Indiana town that was settled by German farmers.
The CD also includes five other Herzig compositions -- "The Pianists Say," "Olé," "Italian Taxi Ride," "Heavy Burden" and "Paradise on Ice" -- along with an expressionistic version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years," and two standards by Indiana songwriters, Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia."
The accompanying DVD, directed and edited by Susanne Schwibs, a lecturer in the IU Bloomington Department of Communication and Culture, captures Herzig and her music through photo montages, interviews with the pianist and band members, and footage from a concert at Stable Studios near Spencer, Ind. Included as "extra features" are four full-length tunes performed by Herzig and the band (with Steve Davis replacing Phelps on drums).
Herzig grew up in a small town in Germany's Swabian Alps, where she had limited exposure to jazz. "I remember hearing 'Take Five' on the radio all the time," she said, referring to the Dave Brubeck hit. But as a pianist who could read music, she persuaded members of a jazz-fusion group called Beeblebrox to let her play with them. She eventually joined the band, which included Kienle on guitar.
"I just thought it was what I was looking for," she said. "Playing in a band and taking part in that interactive process was really fun."
When she came to IU in the early 1990s, she said, "It was pretty much because of David Baker," the legendary musician and jazz educator who established the jazz studies program at the Jacobs School. She and Kienle have stayed put in Bloomington "because it's just too nice a town." They have two daughters, ages 9 and 11.
Now Herzig's primary day job is as a lecturer in the arts management program in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, where she teaches classes on the music business, community arts organizations and the creative process -- and where her professional experience informs her pedagogy.
"Being out there every day and doing it, touring and dealing with record labels, I can bring that back to the classroom and say, 'This is what you encounter. This is what works,'" she said.
Herzig is also an ambassador for jazz, conducting Jazz in the Schools programs, helping run the Jazz from Bloomington organization, promoting recognition for women in jazz, and working on a book about David Baker, due this Nov. 11 from IU Press. For seven years, she also has taught an IU continuing studies class in Indianapolis that combines jazz history and the history of the once-thriving Indy jazz scene, with each class culminating in a live performance at the Chatterbox Jazz Club. She said it's all part of "trying to spread my jazz message."
More about Monika Herzig http://monikaherzig.com.
Come with Me can be purchased from retail music outlets and from the Owl Studios website http://www.owlstudios.com/, which also includes information about the label's new Headhunters CD.