Anya Menk 22’ Returns to Gustavus for Jazz Performance with Gustavus Faculty and Friends Posted on February 19th, 2024 by

Anya Menk 22’ will return to Gustavus on February 23 19 at 7 p.m. for a jazz performance featuring original songs, tunes with lyrics written by Anya, and jazz standards. Alongside Anya will be Ryan Rader on drums, Eric Zimmerman on bass, adjunct guitar professor Johnathan Moeller on guitar, and Evan Bierer on the saxophone.

“I’ve been loving meeting new musicians and playing fun music”, says Menk. “I’m really excited to share that music with the Gustavus community. It’s been awhile!”

Since her graduation, Anya has been teaching at Downtown Sound Music Studio in New Prague, Minnesota, where she instructs around 50 students—children and adults—every week in private lessons that can involve piano, vocals, and every band instrument.

Anya attributes her teaching abilities to her time studying under Gustavus professors and adjunct professors.

“I learned a lot from my mentors at Gustavus: Dave Stamps, Masa Ishikawa, and Dr. Trish Snap, because they were all such great pedagogues themselves,” says Anya. “Watching them work on a daily basis and how they explain abstract things like improvisation and expression in the realm of jazz really helped me as a future educator to think about how I would frame a private jazz lesson. I owe it all to them.”

Anya also expresses her gratitude for Gustavus’ adjunct faculty and stresses their importance.

“[The adjunct faculty] work so hard, and they put in so many hours for their students, which is so deeply appreciated. I feel like they don’t get enough recognition for all the intense, hard work that they do,” Anya says.

Anya’s mentors in the Jazz Department encouraged her to pursue her music dreams and supported all her endeavors, whether it was becoming a music major and pursuing jazz or recording an album.

“[The Jazz Department] were so encouraging and really, really amazing mentors and totally the type of educator that I want to try to become!” says Anya.

With the encouragement of the Gustavus Jazz Department and Anya’s friends and family, she released her album, Inner Voice, last year.

Inner Voice was a combination of a lot of different inspirations, which is why it’s called Inner Voice. During the pandemic, I really dug into the art of self-accompaniment and playing and signing myself. Aside from performing with my family, who I recorded 110 concerts with for our Facebook friends, we couldn’t record with really anyone, so I started digging into walking a baseline, signing, and comping,” says Anya. “I had been working on [Inner Voice] during that period of unrest across the world politically and socially. I wanted to make a statement about how I feel about certain issues, so Inner Voice has a couple tunes that take a stance on political issues I’m passionate about, such as gun control and climate change.”

Inner Voice is brimming with personal influence; every song is dedicated to a person or group of people. One song, “Will She Know Me,” features lyrics written by Anya’s dad, and the closing song, “Avalon,” is dedicated to the Gustavus jazz band.

Anya attributes the best tour she’s ever experienced to her tour of Minnesota with the Gustavus Jazz Band.

“I will always remember that tour for the rest of my life because of the amazing, supportive group that G-Jazz was. It was a very wholesome community!” Anya remarks.

Anya’s deep connection to Gustavus started before her time with the Gustavus Jazz Department.

“[My family’s] ties to Gustavus go back to when I was super young. [My siblings and I] took piano lessons with Helen and Paul Baumgartner when they were on the classical piano faculty. We studied with Helen and Paul for probably 10 years. They took us to Gustavus for piano guilds, the Bernice Jones Festival, and piano competitions,” says Anya. “From a young age, Gustavus felt already like an extension of our home… That sounds really cheesy, but we felt so comfortable there because we’ve performed there since we were little.”

Anya is performing at Bjorling Recital Hall at 7 p.m.. The performance is free admission and there will be a QA with Anya afterwards.


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