Montana Public Radio

Erica von Kleist Plays Jazz And Builds The Flathead Valley's 'Music Biodome'

Aug 9, 2018

Erica von Kleist graduated from Julliard in 2004 with a jazz degree, and spent the next ten years in New York City working as a pianist, saxophonist and flautist, a bandleader, a theater music director, a composer, and an arranger. She collaborated with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra,  Chris Potter, Broadway star Eric Michael Krop, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Rufus Reid, and Anne Hampton Callaway, among many others.

Von Kleist released her own albums, won awards and magazine reader polls, and wrote a music theory textbook. She lectured, taught and adjudicated student musical ensembles. Some of the recordings she contributed to were nominated for Grammy awards.

Then, in 2013, she made a life-changing move to Montana's Flathead Valley, where her happiness meter zoomed upward and her improvisational skills got a workout. Erica is demonstrating how to to make a living in Montana by creating opportunities - not only for herself, but for her fellow musicians and music teachers. She launched two sister companies, The Montana Artist Collective and Groovetrail (for-profit and non-profit companies, respectively), that book and manage paid performances throughout Northwest Montana: weddings, therapeutic nursing home stints, jazz summer camps, school residencies, and more.

Von Kleist calls her vision for the Flathead Valley's musicians and music teachers a 'biodome' of employment.

"Creating employment for musicians is one of my passions," she says. "It's crucial we develop new, exciting and sustainable platforms on which to perform and thrive."

Listen to host John Floridis's conversation with Erica von Kleist, a Montana musician who's demonstrating how to synchronize creative and entrepreneurial grooves.

(Broadcast: "Musician's Spotlight,"  8/9/18 and 11/29/18. Listen on the radio Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., or via podcast.)