search articles: 

   from the issue of March 24, 2005

Jazzer Hersch sets Whitman

Walt Whitman's masterwork Leaves of Grass inspired jazz pianist Fred Hersch to set parts of the work to music. Hersch and his jazz ensemble present his work at a 7:30 p.m. concert March 31 at the Lied Center.

Fred Hersch
 Fred Hersch

The performance is presented in conjunction with the "Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Conference," March 31 through April 2, hosted by UNL.

Pianist and composer Fred Hersch has earned a place among the foremost jazz artists in the world today. He is widely recognized for his ability to reinvent standard jazz repertoire, while continuously composing new works.

Long inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman, Hersch knew it would not be practical to set the entire 600-plus pages of Leaves of Grass to music. Instead, he selected a few entire poems that were particularly moving to him; he drew passages from other poems. Some of the musical pieces Hersch composed do not use Whitman's words at all, but were inspired by the mood of a particular poem. The finished works - written for instrumental octet and two vocalists - were released on CD last month.

Described by The New Yorker as "a poet of a pianist" Hersch received a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition and two Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance. He has recorded more than 20 albums as a solo artist or bandleader, co-led another 20 projects, and appeared as a sideman or featured soloist on some 80 further recordings.

Hersch continues to compose and collaborate with a variety of artists and enjoys blurring the lines between classical and jazz forms. He toured with concert pianist Christopher O'Riley during 2003-04 in a program titled "Heard Fresh: Music for Two Pianos." He has also partnered with pianist Jeffrey Kahane and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as well as sopranos Renée Fleming and Dawn Upshaw. In addition, Hersch has appeared as a soloist with orchestras across the U.S. and Europe.

Tom Larson, instructor with the UNL School of Music, and Kenneth Price, Hillegass professor of English at UNL, will give a pre-performance talk in the Lied's Steinhart Room 30 minutes prior to curtain.

Tickets are are $32/$27/$22, half price for students. Call 472-4747 for tickets.

For more information on the entire Whitman conference at UNL, visit



Great Plains Quarterly commemorates 25 years of publishing
Backyard Farmer's 52nd season brings new features
Full Monty full of fun at Lied April 1, 2
Husker Softball takes on Texas on NET2 April 2
Jazzer Hersch sets Whitman
New exhibit opens at Kruger Miniatures Gallery
Statewide looks at rural businesses
The Bathtub Dogs' a cappella stylings hit Lied March 29
Undergrad's photography exhibits at Uni Place Art Center in April
University Theatre presents The Voice of the Prairie