Marilyn Lerner, jazz pianist, composer (born 4 February 1957 in Montréal, QC), hon BFA (York) 1980. Marilyn Lerner began her formal musical training at an early age, enrolling at Montreal's Ecole Vincent d'Indy 1965-75. She pursued classical piano studies with Reginald Godden, and continued her studies at York University, graduating with a BFA in jazz performance. Between 1992 and 1997, she studied jazz piano with Ritchie Bierach, Hal Galper, Cedar Walton, Joanne Brackeen and Fred Hersch.

As Performer

A consummate musician, Marilyn Lerner is renowned for her avant-garde, improvisatory style, as soloist or ensemble player. In addition to her solo work, she has played with the Flying Bulgars; the Queen Mab Trio (with clarinetist Lori Freedman and violist Ig Henneman); and her own ensembles. Lerner regularly performs with Sonny Greenwich, the Mad Satie Trio, Nick Frasier, Matt Brubeck, and Lou Grassi, and has also appeared with Gerry Hemingway, Steve Lacy, Tito Puente, and Michael Vatcher.

Lerner's musical approach is eclectic, encompassing improvisatory jazz, klezmer, and 20th-century classical music. As a result, she enjoys an international reputation, causing critic Andrew Parker to write: "Lerner's expertise in integrating the genres of jazz, classical, and experimental music gave her achievement a mesmerizing intensity" (Drop-D Magazine, 9 Nov 1997). She is a frequent guest at festivals, including the Toronto Jazz Fringe Festival, the Yiddishkeit Festival in Los Angeles, and the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, in addition to klezmer festivals in Kiev and Weimar.

As Composer

A prolific composer in many genres, Marilyn Lerner has composed music for radio and television dramas, live theatre, and film scores. In 1994, her piece Healing Hands won the SOCAN prize for best jazz composition as part of the Montreal Jazz Festival. The song initially appeared on her first solo album, Miss Overboard, on the Justin Time label. She was also involved in a jazz/classical project in which she created improvisations on music by Eric Satie, in addition to a song cycle to the poetry of Anna Margolin, for which she received a Hadassah-Brandeis research award. In 2006, she was the recipient of a CBC commission honouring the 100th birthday of Dmitri Shostakovich; her composition Meditations on Mitya was premiered by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra 22 Nov 2006. Reflecting upon the Jewish aspect of her music, Lerner wrote: "We talk about Jewish music as being happy and sad at the same time, and I feel an organic identification with that" (Globe and Mail, 26 Jul 2001).

Lerner has recorded extensively, both as a soloist and in collaboration with other artists, encompassing the genres of improvisation, mainstream jazz, klezmer, and classical. Her labels have included CBC, Justin Time, Traditional Crossroads, and Spool.

Lerner has taught at improvisation and klezmer workshops in such diverse places as New York, Weimar, and Moscow.