Vol. 110 (2021) 

A Conversation with Jazz Musician Ingrid Jensen



Ingrid Jensen won the 2019 Jazz Journalists Trumpeter-of-the-Year Award and serves as Interim Associate Dean and Director of Jazz Arts at Manhattan School of Music. Born in Canada, she is known as one of the most gifted trumpeters of her generation. Her live performances included jazz legends from Clark Terry to Esperanza Spalding. She has performed alongside British R&B artist Corrine Bailey Rae on Saturday Night Live, recorded with Canadian pop icon Sarah McLachlan and served as Artist-in-Residence at the Monterey Jazz Festival. She is a featured soloist on the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra’s Juno-award-winning album, Treelines (2011), and its successor, Habitat (2013).


Stay Thirsty Magazine was privileged to visit with Ingrid Jensen for this Conversation about her life, her music and her educational endeavors during the COVID pandemic.


STAY THIRSTY: What do you feel when you are deep into a jazz performance? What thoughts go through your mind?


INGRID JENSEN: I do very little thinking when I’m deep in the playing moment. I am focusing my listening in a way that allows me to react to all of the elements around me. The joy and the freedom of this approach allow me to think less and live in the moment more.

Ingrid Jensen

STAY THIRSTY: You have recorded eleven albums, including several with your sister, Christine, and performed with many of the greatest jazz legends. How has jazz has evolved over the past fifty years and how has the role of the trumpet changed during that time?

Infinitude - Ingrid and Christine Jensen with Ben Monder

INGRID JENSEN: That’s a big question. Jazz is like a constantly unfolding rainbow weaving its way through pastoral countrysides, noisy city centers, rugged mountain terrain ending in deep churning seas of endless colors and shapes. Except that people create it. The expanding universe of jazz or improvised music that has infused itself with classical harmony and African rhythms, has evolved, and continues to evolve in relation to the artists that come together to make it happen. The more influences from around the world, from Indian classical music, to Bulgarian or Balkan folk music, to the greater access that technology has given us to the endless musical languages from Africa, the more the music has evolved.


Jazz musicians are sponges when it comes to sounds and all of the new influences that have been made available soak that sponge with endless possibilities for exploration. The role of the trumpet is still in the forefront as the leading voice in many groups. For me, the role has become a much more flexible one, as I feel not only inspired to provide the bright and resonant “Gabriel” role, but to also utilize my endless outlets for the dearth of sounds and expressive range that is available when improvising.

Infinitude - Unleashing Freedom - Ingrid and Christine Jensen 


STAY THIRSTY: Performers from all over the world have had their performances cancelled because of COVID-19. How have you dealt with that personally and what do you do to keep your skills at peak levels?


INGRID JENSEN: It’s been a total shock on all of our systems having huge amounts of touring and local gigs wiped off of our pages in our datebooks! That said, I have been fortunate, and have truly benefited from this time at home. Not only can I be fully present for our nine-year-old daughter and a serve as a functional helper around our house here in Westchester, but this forced home-time, has allowed me the space and time to accept a full-time job. As the gigs all dissolved before my very eyes, I ended up on a learning curve, or rather rollercoaster, helping to launch the incredible MSM Jazz Arts program during this time of COVID. At the same time as I was learning what an excel sheet was, I was teaching private students, a composition class and performing regularly on my front yard with a wide array of groups from duo to quintet. The combination of all of these wonderful privileges kept me on my game.



STAY THIRSTY: You play a custom-designed Monette Trumpet by master builder Dave Monette. Why did you choose this particular trumpet? What makes this instrument so special?


INGRID JENSEN: I actually did not choose my horn. I was approached by Dave after a concert I played at the ITG Conference many years ago, and he asked if I wanted a custom mouthpiece that would help me and my horn play better. He generously sent me a wide variety of mouthpieces to try yet they were all a bit too small for me. I went out to his shop to try things in person and he gave me the largest mouthpiece (for trumpet) that he had in stock and the whole shop lit up when I played on it. Not long after this connection with Monette he called to let me know that he had a horn that I might like. It was actually designed with Chris Botti in mind, but he was set up on his Martin and not in need of a new horn. I had some savings in my Canadian bank account that I had lost track of over my busy years in New York which, now that I am reflecting on, would have been good to dip into during my early years of lean living in the city! Once again Dave was very generous setting me up with my instrument for life, adjusting it, building me the perfect mouthpieces and teaching me how to play in the most efficient and body-mind healthy way possible. The rest is history.

Ingrid Jensen

STAY THIRSTY: Performance and teaching are hallmarks in your storied career and today you are the Interim Associate Dean and Director of Trumpet at Manhattan School of Music. How does your extensive performance resume help you connect with students?


INGRID JENSEN: It is such an honor to have this space in my crazy career of travels and limited teaching time to shift my focus to the administration side of things and share the many gifts that my mentors so freely shared with me. I am not one to plan things in my life, things really did and do unfold in an organic hippy-type fashion for me. From the gig that landed in my lap and sent me to live and teach in Vienna, Austria, in my early twenties, to the positions I’ve held at Peabody Conservatory, the University of Michigan, the Berlin Conservatory and more, I have had much hands-on experience putting music into words wherever possible.


Performing around the world with so many diverse groups and embracing as many genres of music as possible continues to keep me digging for more ways to communicate and inspire. I consider myself a student for life, which I believe helps keep the muse flowing freely between my own endeavors as well as allowing me to see the needs of my students as I get to know them.



STAY THIRSTY: Because of COVID-19, virtual classes have become the norm. How did you adapt to teaching in a virtual setting and do you feel that it has been successful for your students?


INGRID JENSEN: I had to adapt my composition class at Purchase College and all of my private students when COVID shut us down last March. It was a hard learning curve for sure, but I think we have all adapted. In many ways it was an exciting change, as the ease of sharing resources from home, the focused energy that my students brought to the zoom room and the basic joy that we all got from sharing time together despite such a shocking shutdown proved to be both comforting and inspiring. On the flip side, we are all became quite exhausted by it. I was very fortunate to have both places I work at invest quickly in the equipment and protocol needed to make live playing happen, so we not only met in person to play, but there was even a successful live recording project with my composition class sextet at Purchase. Manhattan School of Music (MSM) did amazing work as well and we ended the semester with 14 live-streamed concerts. They are all up on the site by the way, search Performances/Live-streams, Jazz.



STAY THIRSTY: How are you framing the current COVID-related times to students who are looking to have a career in music? What do you think the landscape will look like for job opportunities with orchestras or jazz ensembles in the future?


INGRID JENSEN: It is not possible to exist in the format of the past and I strongly believe that those who refuse to embrace the technology of the now, will be left behind. For sure we will play again, but for whom and how many and where, remains the big question.


In the meantime, digging into the audio/video media world with a business mindset is a must. We are preparing our students with technology and business skills that will set them up now and later to take ownership of their music and hopefully create a broader skillset that will help them not just survive but thrive.

Ingrid Jensen 

STAY THIRSTY: If you could put one jazz performance together with the greatest performers of all time, who would they be and what would they play? How have you been influenced by some of these musicians?


INGRID JENSEN: I’m not sure I can do this. As a bandleader who has so many different projects going at once, it’s impossible to create just one group.


If I were to have a jam session with my top choices, it would look something like this:


-     Clark Terry (trumpet): Clark was one of my greatest mentors. He taught me about love and acceptance on and off the bandstand and was constantly supportive of me in my early years as I was both in awe of his playing and incredible musicianship;

-     George Garzone (tenor saxophone): George was another great mentor of mine. His playing is off the hook and his teaching led me to find my own pathways in the music rather than resorting to licks and patterns. He also allowed me to play in his ensemble at Berklee despite the fact that my ratings were not on par with the other students;

-     Geri Allen and Renee Rosnes (piano): Both Renee and Geri are two of the most amazing pianists and most complete musicians that I have ever played with. They directly and indirectly influenced me in digging deeper as both a musician and as a mindful citizen of the planet;

-     Christine Jensen (alto and soprano saxophone): My amazing sister whose writing and playing and endless sister support have consistently lifted me through the years;

-     Dennis Irwin (bass): Dennis showed me much kindness and support when I was younger and very insecure about my playing. We played duo a number of times, as well as many gigs in the early 90’s. There was one day in particular, one of those lightbulb days, when I realized that I wasn’t really listening to the bass and when I tried, I couldn’t hear the notes in his low register. This was the beginning of my deep dive into working with drones and pedal point and gaining strength and trust in my hearing;

-     Jon Wikan (drums): Speaking of trust, I play with so many amazing drummers, but my husband is my first call. He constantly challenges me in the most positive ways in both life and in music and is truly one of the finest musicians and teachers I know. He is a true Renaissance man (a fisherman from Alaska) and his ability to embrace things in life, beyond just the drums, make him an open vessel for creative music making that goes beyond genre. It’s always a party when we play and the luxury of communicating without words after being together for over twenty years keeps our relationship fresh and alive. Of course, if he couldn’t make the jam session, I would defer to the amazing Terri-Lyne Carrington who is one of my oldest pals in the biz.

I really do have so many legends in my life that I would love to bring together. Combined with the incredible students I have met and played with over the years, we would need three football fields of non-social distanced space to make space for this to happen!




Ingrid Jensen    

Ingrid Jensen – Manhattan School of Music     

Manhattan School of Music – Jazz Arts Program

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.