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Monika Herzig’s Indiana Jazz For Kids

Jazz educator Monika Herzig and other musicians and educators are bringing Indiana's heritage jazz to life for area school children.

  • Herzig and Baker

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    Photo: Heike Meya

    Jazz educators Monika Herzig and David Baker.

  • Jazz Legacy auditorium

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    Photo: Heike Meya

    David Baker talks Indiana jazz to a student audience at University Elementary School in Bloomington.

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    Photo: Heike Meya

    Monika Herzig and David Baker addressing students at University Elementary School during the Jazz Legacy of Indiana presentation.

Event Information

The Jazz Legacy of Indiana

A jazz concert featuring performances by Monika Herzig and University and Fairview Elementary students.

Fairview Elementary School

Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.

From Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter to Wes Montgomery and Freddie Hubbard, Indiana’s jazz heritage constitutes one of the state’s greatest contributions to our national culture. But how do you teach that heritage to a fifth-grader? Pianist and jazz educator Monika Herzig has recently taken on the mission of bringing the history of Indiana jazz to life for Bloomington school children.

‘The Jazz Legacy Of Indiana’

Herzig has been a leading figure in the Bloomington jazz community for many years now. She’s ventured into the area elementary schools before, through Jazz From Bloomington’s Jazz in the Schools program. For Artsweek, she developed a presentation called The Jazz Legacy of Indiana, in which she uses narrative and musical performance to convey the significance and vitality of the state’s jazz heritage to children. She sees her project as an opportunity to teach creativity and history at the same time.

Herzig has presented her Jazz Legacy project at both University and Fairview Elementary Schools in Bloomington. The program features live music, visual elements, and a visit from IU jazz educator David Baker; the project culminates in a concert involving students from both schools at Fairview on February 24.

Integrating Young Audiences Into The Program

Performance has played a key role in the project, with Herzig and other musicians playing music that ultimately involves the students (primarily fifth-graders, with some sixth-graders joining the presentations as well). Herzig says ten- to twelve-year-olds are the perfect age for musical experimentation. “They’re not afraid of improvising or making up things,” she says.

Storytelling has also proven to be an effective way for kids to connect with jazz history. Herzig says the students enjoyed her recounting of how Hoagy Carmichael wrote “Stardust” by knocking on the door of the Bloomington hangout The Book Nook at three in the morning and asking the owner if he could use the piano.

Teaching Against The Grain

Drummer Lawrence Clarke’s tales of working with Indianapolis’ jazz-dynasty Hampton family also went over well. “Their dad had taught them, ‘You have anything that bothers you, any problems, you leave them outside, you go on stage. If you have to die, die after the gig,’” Herzig says, laughing. “The kids all latched onto that. All the poems they wrote had that: ‘If you gotta die, die after the gig!’”

Herzig says her jazz presentations can seem a little unorthodox to the music teachers whom she’s working with. “You go in, and it’s not like you’re preparing a set repertoire. While we go along, a song evolves. They’re going with me, but it’s definitely an experience for them!”

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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