CULTURE SHOCK 2021: Herzig Teacher Band
Indiana University’s Monika Herzig and Oliver Nelson performed at this year’s Culture Shock. Monika Herzig is a part of faculty and administration at the O’Neill school as well as a jazz pianist, bandleader, author, and “everybody’s favorite music industry professor.” Oliver Nelson Jr. is a professor at the Jacobs School of Music and at the O’Neill school. His goal is to promote and keep his father’s musical legacy alive.
They started collaborating in 1992 before they joined Indiana University’s faculty. At the time, Herzig was a doctoral student at the music school and Nelson Jr. was a salesman for Citizens Gas in Indianapolis.
What inspired you to create this group and perform here?
Monika Herzig: Well this group… I kind of wanted to put together, We two have been performing for a long time and you know we had a very different year obviously, and I’ve not seen my students in person or very very few of them and I don’t think they even know how we look like from down here so I thought I just wanted to do something where we could do our craft and they can see us lower than the neck right?
Oliver Nelson Jr.: Yeah I haven’t been on this campus since March. Actually, Monika and I did a concert at her house in August, and some of my students came which was pretty cool just to see them in real-time. But I haven’t seen a student since last March, pretty much
How has your sound changed since you have begun performing? How has it evolved?
Monika Herzig: Well that’s interesting because you’re talking to jazz artists and as a jazz artist you’re always on the quest of sharing your ideas and things that you have in mind and transforming them into a sound and you know I’ll actually do a Ted Talk on April 17th about this, brain on improvisation and what everybody can learn from and how everybody can train their brains daily to do this step forward because hopefully over the years in terms of evolving you practice and you solidify the sound and the way that expresses best, who you are.
Oliver Nelson Jr.: And I think with us, we just evolved as players. We’ve all gotten better over the years, so Monika and I, we can play duets together and anticipate where the other person is going and it actually works out really well. It’s kind of like a basketball team where you can go down the court and they can come up with a play and the guy is right there because he kind of knows instinctively that his teammate is right there. And actually Monika and I have been doing this a lot last year before COVID because we played a couple times together and it was just clicking.
How do you play off each other’s strengths?
Monika Herzig: Right well you have to learn to listen. I love what Quincy Jones says ‘… you have two ears and one mouth’ there’s a reason you have two organs for listening and one for talking. Listen first and then find what you can add to the situation. And I think once you find that skill, you will be able to do that.
What is your favorite part of performing in Bloomington?
Monika Herzig: Well that’s interesting because you know I do actually tour all over the world and different places, sometimes I like Bloomington and sometimes not. I do like Bloomington because you know a lot of people and it feels like home but you know I also get to play quite a bit overseas and the audiences are different and sometimes when you go and play in these concert halls and you have people listening, sitting there quietly, and then you get back and you are playing where people are drinking and are noisy and nobody cares. Sometimes it can be tricky too. But I mean I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s a very special place.
Oliver Nelson Jr.: I just come down every now and then but we have really appreciated this place since its a school, so you got people who are more sophisticated with music because jazz takes intellect to really listen to it, I mean you have to think and people don’t like to think too much so having a place like this where at least people are thinking about what you are doing and can appreciate it is really a pretty good thing. We had some really great times in Europe together a couple years ago… they will tell you to shut up and I actually got told to shut up a couple of times myself um but we had some really great musicians over there and it was really really nice so Bloomington is wonderful but it is nice to play at other places like that too.
Are there any specific musicians who inspire you or your music?
Oliver Nelson Jr.: Probably my dad, my dad played with everybody: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, James Brown, and more. He also was a Hollywood film composer, wrote for television in the 70s and could do anything, had perfect pitch, could write in his sleep. So he was able to maintain a really active career as a writer and as a player. He was a really great player too. He has a lot of influence on everybody and he was a musician, he could do anything, he wrote symphonies…So he is probably my biggest influence/inspiration of anybody.
Monika Herzig will be giving her Ted Talk this Saturday, April 17th. She plans to take a group to Europe in May and play a big festival and some clubs in Germany. She explains how it has been a little tricky because of Germany’s lockdown, so there is a lot that needs to go into organizing this trip. Over the summer, they will be performing many outdoor concerts at Bryant Park and in Indianapolis. Finally, she plans to take her all-female group back out and start some new recordings. Oliver Nelson Jr. is going to Southwest Minnesota State University and planning a three-day concert with students who will be performing much of his father’s work. He also wants to get some new recordings in and will be collaborating with a SUNY on a project focusing on his father’s music.
The full interview is available now on YouTube.
Herzig Teacher Band will be performing at the 2021 Culture Shock Music Festival on Saturday, April 17th at 2:45 pm EST. Their performance, along with all others for this year’s festival, will be streamed live on the Culture Shock Website. The festival will begin streaming at 1:30 pm EST. WIUX will also be set up in Dunn Meadow from 1 – 6 pm selling shirts, sweatshirts, and other merch.