Twenty years of Education…

CLICK HERE to buy A Cool Approach to Jazz Theory by Erica von Kleist.


I was fortunate enough to grow up in a community that supported the arts in public education. A graduate of Hall High School in West Hartford, I developed a love for music and strong work ethic at a young age.

My seriousness for the study of music began in my freshman year of high school which was also a time when money was a real struggle in my household. Finding the money to pay for bills, rent and food was a constant stressor, and I wanted to help contribute. I knew my town lacked a beginner sax teacher, so I began working with young students and within a year I held a studio with over twenty students a week and was able to help with family finances.

Fast forward to my early career as a musician. My love of education has made it possible for me to work with students of all ages and has brought me to lecture at Juilliard, University of Montana, Drake College, Whitworth University, among others.

My early career was stationed in New York City, but as life there grew prohibitively expensive and exhausting I relocated to Whitefish Montana, an isolated but vibrant cultural hub near Glacier National Park. Within a few years getting my feet wet (in the snow) I’d started two sister companies, one nonprofit and one for profit. Between these two entities I’ve booked hundreds of performances, from private events to appearances at nursing homes and care facilities. These companies have not only provided paid work for the local musicians, they’ve run over a quarter million dollars in revenue through the arts scene in northwest Montana.

Because of the knowledge I’ve gained through these projects, music entrepreneurship has become my most impassioned subject to lecture on. The survival of jazz and the musicians playing it depends on an understanding of its tenets. I believe that if I’d learned about the ins and outs of the business when in college my career would be ten years ahead of where it is now. I hope to share my knowledge with music students across the country and give them tools that will set them up for future success.

In December 2019 I launched a revision of my book A Cool Approach to Jazz Theory, a music theory textbook/workbook that fills a huge gap in materials available for jazz education. Illustrated by Emily Leibin, this book walks beginning improvisers through the basics of understanding chord symbols, transposition, chord progressions and outlining harmony. A must-read for beginners wanting to solo in jazz band, or teachers who need a simple yet comprehensive resource to use with students.