Pianist Monika Herzig leads an all-female troupe of jazz players through the music’s history (via Daily Progress)

There’s a toy instrument called the melodica that found its voice in Jamaican music, being used as an additional fleck of sonorousness in the stripped-down music. It also happened to be the instrument Monika Herzig had to master before moving on to piano.

“We didn’t have one and it wasn’t that easy to buy one. My parents had to put all their savings into building a house, which was a huge deal,” she recalled about asking her parents for a piano during a childhood in Germany. “So, they said, ‘We want to make sure before we buy a piano; show us what you’ve got.’ I got the little melodica and had to trudge to my lessons. But I didn’t like the thing; it’s so small, you can’t really do anything on it. You only have two octaves.”

Despite the initial distress, Herzig persevered, decamping to Alabama for a round of academia before eventually settling in at Indiana University as a senior lecturer in arts administration. Prior to arriving in the States, though, she’d already run up against a bit of difficulty landing a spot in a regular jazz group, fusion or otherwise. There was another pianist in a bigger town her ensemble intended to sub in when they had proper gigs. She convinced them otherwise.

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