Women in Jazz Initiative

Women in Jazz Initiative Mission

Walker West Music Academy’s “Women in Jazz Initiative” is focused on providing more opportunities for women, non-binary and femme-identifying youth to participate in music performance in a safe, supportive environment. WWMA recognizes its own gaps in representation of women throughout our jazz programs and teaching faculty, and is determined to build relationships with women artists across the Twin Cities to support this initiative.

Walker West’s Women in Jazz (WIJ) programs provide unique opportunities for students to explore improvisation, hone their performing skills, connect with other like-minded musicians from across the Twin Cities, and receive mentoring and coaching from leading local and national women jazz artists. These activities is a part of Walker|West’s Women in Jazz Initiative. Sponsored by Jazz88/KBEM.

Programming includes:

– A series of all-women jam sessions at Walker West, presented in partnership with She Rock She Rock, open to players of all ages and experience
– An annual Women in Jazz Retreat, starting in 2024
– The formation of an ensemble of emerging Women in Jazz, that premiered at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival on the Youth Stage in 2023, and on the Mears Park Mainstage in 2024.

– Masterclasses with National Touring Women Jazz Artists, including Alexa Tarantino, Camille Thurman, Karrin Allyson, and Regina Carter

– the formation of Women in Jazz ensembles at area high schools

– in-school Women in Jazz workshops at area high schools

Spring/Summer 2024 Activities

Intro to Jazz Workshops & Jam Session

When: Saturday, March 23 & Saturday, May 18 @ 1pm

Who: Women, Non-binary and Trans students of all ages. All welcome in the audience.

Women in Jazz Retreat

Join Walker West for our first ever Women in Jazz Retreat, with Twin Cities Jazz Festival performers, Claudia Medina and Ivanna Cuesta! This is a week-long comprehensive experience for women, non-binary and trans musicians to hone their performing skills, connect with other like-minded players and receive mentoring and coaching from leading women jazz faculty. Culminating in a live performance at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival! 

Open to intermediate to advanced jazz instrumentalists and vocalists ages 14-27, with prior jazz experience.

When: Monday, June 17 – Friday, June 21 (Off 6/19) 9:30am-4pm

Locations: Walker West Music Academy. Final Day & Performance (Friday June 21) at Creator’s Cup (218 E 7th Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101).

Who: High School & College-age Women, Non-binary and Trans instrumentalists and vocalists.

Public Performance: Friday, June 21 2pm (1:30 sound check) at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival on the “Walker West Youth Stage” at Saint City

She Rock All Ages Open Jam

When: Saturday, April 27 1-4pm at Walker West

Who: Women, Non-binary and Trans instrumentalists and vocalists of all ages. All welcome in the audience

Walker West’s Women in Jazz Combo

Walker West’s Women in Jazz Combo for the 2023 season include young women and non-binary musicians, led by professional players all based in the Twin Cities. Learn more about these talented musicians, below.


Clinic with Camille Thurman
Friday, June 23 2pm at Twin Cities Jazz Fest @ Creator’s Space (218 7th St E)

Twin Cities Jazz Festival, “MPSVoices Future of Jazz Stage with Walker West”
Saturday, June 24 7:30pm at Twin Cities Jazz Fest @ Creator’s Space (218 7th St E)

Taste of MN Festival
Monday, July 3 3:30pm at Jazz88 Stage (Near Nicollet and 5th St), Downtown Minneapolis Learn more

Saturday Night Jazz at kj’s hideaway
Saturday, July 15 9:30pm at kj’s hideaway (408 St. Peters St. Lower Level), Downtown St. Paul
Opener Jeffrey Merrill Trio at 8pm.


Bernadette Brownrigg Spray – Vocals

Bernadette Brownrigg Spray began her jazz singing journey in high school. She participated in the late Pat Moriarty’s Roseville High School jazz program and sang with their big band ensembles and combos. This jazz program competed in jazz festivals in Minnesota and Wisconsin. At jazz competitions at McNally Smith, Stevens Point and Eau Claire, she received consecutive outstanding soloist awards. In addition to jazz bands, she performed with Minnesota Jazz Education’s Experience Jazz and Walker West’s youth ensembles, and at local clubs and at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. By the end of her high school school career and into college, she was organizing her own singing gigs at jazz venues across the Twin Cities.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, her live jazz performances came to a halt, but she did not stop making music. She formed a family band and produced a number of recordings. In her family band, she explored new music genres such as Americana and folk. Bernadette is a proud Augsburg University graduate, receiving her BA in music education in May 2023. She sang in Augsburg’s Chamber Collective and Global Harmony choirs and has also been singing in their vocal jazz ensemble.

Madi Edens – Drums

Madi Edens is starting her senior year at Augsburg University, studying Music Therapy with a minor in Psychology. She’s been playing music all her life in various places such as her grandpa’s band growing up, and at all of the schools she attended. Madi is currently a member of Augsburg’s Concert Band, and Jazz Band, as well as a couple of student clubs around campus. Madi has a deep passion for music, cooking, and traveling. Other interests/hobbies include painting, volunteering, swimming, and spending time with her partner and pets. She’d also love to possibly collab with other local artists like those in this WIJ combo! :)You can follow Madi on instagram @ _madi.jo_

Ella Grace – Trumpet

Ella Grace is an up-and-coming performer, composer, educator, and producer based in Chicago and Minnesota. She started studying trumpet in middle school with Steve Strand and soon began gigging locally with her own jazz combo. Ella moved to Chicago in 2021 where she is working towards a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Trumpet at DePaul University. Ella currently studies with Chad McCullough and Dana Hall, performs regularly around Chicago, and also visits Minnesota to perform around the Twin Cities.

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Soundcloud

YouTube | Apple Music | Spotify

Hannah Harder – Tenor Sax

Hannah Harder is a saxophonist and composer from Elk River, MN. She is pursuing a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Hannah is passionate about performing, educating, and advocating for more inclusivity in jazz.

Gabby Helf – Drums

Gabby Helf is a drummer and percussionist originally from Glen Echo, Maryland, now based in Saint Paul. Gabby recently graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English Literature and played drums for four years in Mac Jazz, Macalester’s big band. She grew up playing in all sorts of wind ensembles, jazz combos, rock bands, and pit orchestras in the DC area and was the drummer for the 2019 Maryland All-State Jazz Band. Gabby currently plays drums in the indie-rock band, Bakermiller Pink (Instagram and Spotify).

Izzy Karr – Flute, Piano, Vocals

Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Izzy Karr began playing the flute when she was 10, and started taking lessons with James Devoll 2 years later. In middle school, she participated in concert, marching and jazz bands. Izzy went to SPCPA (Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists) for high school where she studied instrumental music, and enjoyed her wealth of opportunities to play 20th-century music with the chamber orchestra, play in woodwind trio and quintet, pit orchestras and ‘Improvestra’ for J-terms, jazz combos and big band. Outside of school, Izzy played in GTCYS (Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies) and MYS (Minnesota Youth Symphonies), as well as the top All-State band.

After graduating in 2020, Izzy attended the University of Minnesota – Duluth for 2 years and began to take an interest in singing/songwriting before making the decision to drop out and pursue her degree elsewhere. She moved back to the Twin Cities and has supplemented her musical education by taking lessons and classes at Walker West and will be finishing her degree at Berklee College in Boston. You can stay up to date with Izzy on Instagram: @izzykarr.music or on Spotify, Soundcloud, or Apple Music under ‘Izzy Karr’.

Sophia Kaufmann – Bass

Sophia Kaufmann is an upright and electric bassist from Oakland, California now based in Minneapolis. Sophia recently graduated from Macalester College with degrees in music and sociology. At Macalester, Sophia was the manager and upright bassist for the big band Mac Jazz and she plays in smaller jazz combos around the Twin Cities. She grew up playing jazz in combos and big bands around the Bay Area and participated in the summer Stanford Jazz Workshop for multiple years. She also has played electric bass in various rock bands and currently plays and writes songs for the indie-rock band, Bakermiller Pink (Instagram: @Gabby Helf is a drummer and percussionist originally from Glen Echo, Maryland, now based in Saint Paul. Gabby recently graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English Literature and played drums for four years in Mac Jazz, Macalester’s big band. She grew up playing in all sorts of wind ensembles, jazz combos, rock bands, and pit orchestras in the DC area and was the drummer for the 2019 Maryland All-State Jazz Band. Gabby currently plays drums in the indie-rock band, Bakermiller Pink (Instagram and Spotify).

Sophia Kickhofel – Saxophone

Sophia Kickhofel is a saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist currently studying jazz music in New York City. She is originally from Minnesota, but has moved to the East Coast in order to study at the prestigious Juilliard School. Sophia has performed around the world with many notable musicians including Sean Jones, Ulysses Owens Jr, and jazz historian Loren Schoenberg.

Lo Salinas (they/them) – Piano and Vocals

Lo is a Minneapolis-based jazz pianist who is influenced by the works of Stevie Wonder, Herbie and Hancock, and Chaka Kahn. Born in New Orleans, they found themselves influenced by the deep jazz culture of the city. Lo graduated from Winona State University in 2021 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing while also studying music. They have started performing this year in jazz trios, chamber orchestras, and combos while additionally performing as a singer. They are excited to be a part of this opportunity to represent diversity in jazz.

Teaching Artists

Katia Cardenas – Vocals

Luminous, multi-genre vocalist and international touring artist Katia Cardenas inspires audiences with her sultry, soulful voice and infectious energy and presence. Katia grew up in a musical family, and her professional training came largely “on the job,” performing throughout high school with her mother’s Bay Area bands and collaborating with her Seattle-based father on numerous recording projects. Katia has graced the stages of local venues since 2012, as well as venues in Colorado, Seattle, California and Central México. Katia has also performed with Casablanca Orchestra, Sonically Speaking, and Boogie Wonderland. Her connection to the Twin Cities music scene dates back to the 1980s when her dad, Mark Cardenas, played keyboards for Morris Day & The Time on their Ice Cream Castles album and the film Purple Rain, and with Jesse Johnson’s Review. Katia is passionate about education and the arts, after leading Minnesota Jazz Education (formerly Dakota foundation for Jazz Education), she joined Walker West as a Program Director for Walker West Without Walls. Learn more at KatiaCardenas.com

Victoria Hopwood – Bass

Victoria Hopwood is a string bass player who has played off and on over the past thirty years. Victoria currently plays for the Swing Sisterhood Big Band (Jazz), Tommy Robinson Group (Jazz), and the Sweethearts (Rock/R&B/Pop).  While living in the Baltimore & Washington, D.C. area, she played in the Eubie Blake Big Band featuring vocalist Cecelia Calloway, Mixx Company, and the Chico Johnson Trio.

Victoria was born in Minnesota (a fourth generation) and received a B.A., Finance from Augsburg College.  Victoria enjoys a career in information technology as a certified project manager/scrummaster in Agile development and has lived and worked around the world.  She currently studies under bassist Tom Pieper at MacPhail.  Her goal is to spend more time playing her bass now that her two children have finished college.

Lucia Sarmiento – Sax, Flute, Guitar, Vocals

Lucia Sarmiento is a young Peruvian Multi-instrumentalist, Composer and Educator, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Besides being an active member of the Minneapolis music scene for the past decade, Lucia has toured with international popstar Pitbull on saxophone and guitar, playing on the biggest stages in the country. Growing up in South America and living in the US for the past 9 years, Lucia has been exposed to a broad variety of rhythms and styles of music, but her passion has always been jazz and 80’s fusion.

Lucia’s upcoming album “Escape” is the expression of a diverse and multicultural musical upbringing, fused with her own sensibility for angular, yet beautiful melodies. It is scheduled to be released at the end of Summer of 2023.

Glory Yard – Drums

For most of her life, Glory Yard has been surrounded by sounds, music, and voices. Now based in Minneapolis by way of Brooklyn NYC, drumming has been her golden ticket, taking her across the country and around the world. Her passion and dedication to rhythm has awarded many opportunities, leading her to support well-known artists such as Lizzo on Saturday Night Live (2019), Alaina Castillo at Coachella and Coldplay’s Music of Spheres tour in Houston, and Dua Saleh. While her hard work has allowed her to play main stage and big festival acts, Glory maintains a strong connection to her local community through service at churches, and mentoring/teaching in programs like SheRock & Walker West Woman In Jazz. Specializing in Pop, RnB, Jazz and Gospel, Glory is experienced in a diverse range of genres and continues to develop her musical expertise.

Opportunities to engage in the Twin Cities Jazz Community

– Saturday Night Jazz at kj’s hideaway music series (Downtown St. Paul). Shows Saturdays, 8pm opener, 9:30pm headliner. Hosted by Steve Kenny

Jazz Central Studios (in NE Minneapolis). Shows Friday and Saturday 8pm, also live-streamed at jazzcentralstudios.org

Icehouse (S Minneapolis). Shows Monday nights, 6pm doors, 8pm showtime, regularly featuring jazz artists and monthly curators. Other jazz artist featured throughout the week.

 – Crooner’s Lounge and Supper Club, jazz artists regularly featured throughout the week, check their calendar! (in Fridley)

 – kj’s hideaway (Downtown St. Paul). Thursday Night Jazz Jam hosted by Cody Steinmann (every 2nd Thursday, 8-10pm). Bring your instrument and get in free! Jazz artists occasionally featured throughout the week.

 – Tuesday Night Jazz Jam at Whitey’s Old Town Saloon (NE Minneapolis). Hosted by Graydon Peterson, 10pm-1am. Open to all musicians.

Walker West Youth Programs

Walker West Jazz Combos – To learn more and sign up, click here.

Digital Music Production Program – Learn more.

Private Lessons – Check out the line up of teachers, here.

Summer Jazz Intensive at WW – July 31-Aug 4. Learn more

Women in Jazz Interest form