Pitt Jazz Spotlight

Throwing a spotlight on our Faculty, Instructors, and Students.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome to the stage...

Irene Monteverde

irene Monteverde

Irene Monteverde is a pianist, composer, scholar, and part-time faculty member in the University of Pittsburgh’s Music Department as an Instructor of the Jazz Piano course. For the past year, while classes have had to be conducted virtually, she has enjoyed finding ways of guiding students as they cultivate their own sound and dive deep into the works of their favorite artists of the music, whose roots and transformations come from Black American creators and culture. She believes in providing a compassionate learning environment where people, no matter their musical background, are encouraged to tap into their unique, artistic spirit.

Irene’s research centers around African American, three-time Grammy-nominated, jazz pianist and composer, Erroll Garner. Her dissertation, “Anarchy, Hesitation, and Happiness: Tracing the temporal in Erroll Garner’s musical objects,” confronts the narrow lens through which the world has come to recognize him, mainly as the composer of “Misty” who “didn’t read music.” She proposes an expanded encounter with Garner’s work by stepping outside of what we know in an effort to discover the real Garner, the part of him which, thus far, has been withdrawn from us. Borrowing from critical race theory, historical musicology, sociology, art history, disability studies, and reception studies, her project investigates four objects surrounding Garner - his song titles, musical introductions, visual art, and his hometown of Pittsburgh - and the powerful temporal effect they and Garner’s presence wield.

Her interest in the piano began at age 5 with piano lessons from Mrs. Patricia Ashliman, who, fortuitously lived on her street. But it wasn’t until Irene turned 21 years old, after hearing a Freddie Hubbard record, that she became curious about developing as an ensemble player. While she was earning an undergraduate degree in Business Administration, Irene took Jazz Piano lessons with Ron Bickel at Duquesne University. His instruction was instrumental in developing her foundational understanding of harmony and improvisation. Irene went on to study with Frank Cunimondo, who is a distinguished instructor of Jazz Piano at the University of Pittsburgh. Like Professor Bickel, Professor Cunimondo has created his own system of pedagogy, and Irene is grateful to have benefited from their wisdom.

Irene Monteverde

In 2011, Irene relocated to Florence, Italy where she enrolled at Fondazione Siena Jazz (now Siena Jazz University) and was influenced by the late Professor Alessandro Giachero for the next three years. The mark that Giachero left on her style is palpable and she is passionate about passing on his approach to the piano to her own students.

Irene moved back to the United States to study under the late pianist and composer, Professor Geri Allen, who was then the director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Among other highlights in her graduate studies experience, Irene had the privilege of accompanying Professor Allen on a 2-week European tour with Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava. Irene is particularly indebted to Professor Allen, who remains a guiding source of inspiration, for bringing the archive of Erroll Garner to the University of Pittsburgh. The archive’s accessibility provided the essential research material that formed the basis of Irene’s Masters thesis: “Paris Impressions: Critics and gimmicks in the art world of Erroll Garner, 1957-58.”

Currently, Irene is involved as pianist with Noel Quintana and his Latin Crew. With Quintana, who has led his salsa band for over 20 years, she has played the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, the Ohio City Street Festival in Cleveland, and regular stints at Pittsburgh’s premier jazz club, Con Alma. She has also toured the Northeastern U.S. with La Sonora Santanera de Carlos Colorado, an internationally-acclaimed Mexican group that was inducted into the country’s musical Hall of Fame in 2009 with over 50 albums to their credit. Irene also serves as the pianist and organist at a local church for weekly services. 

Irene has had the opportunity to perform, twice, at the University of Pittsburgh’s annual Jazz Seminar concert on piano. As a vocalist, she has recorded with the late alto saxophonist, Richie Cole, as well as The Blue Hots. She has been commissioned by Jumping Jack Theater to compose for sensory-friendly audiences and by Off the Wall Theater to create works for four productions that combine dance, acting, and video animation. 

In her free time, Irene enjoys cooking, exercising, and building her “philosophy wall.”

Irene Monteverde