Mona (28) received NOK 100.000 last year, now she creates commissioned works for the Kongsberg Jazz Festival

Attractive scholarship for young jazz musicians

Text: Sven Ove Bakke / Photo: Oliver Grudt Berre

For the third time, DNB and Kongsberg Jazzfestival are seeking candidates for the #huninvesterer grant. For saxophonist Mona Krogstad (28), the grant has made it possible to free up time to find the creative peace for the commissioned work "Serenity Now".

DNB and Kongsberg Jazzfestival established the #huninvesterer scholarship in 2022. This is a scholarship of NOK 100.000 which will go towards development for a performer at the start of their career. 

The guitarist Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir from Oslo was the first recipient of the scholarship, while saxophonist Mona Krogstad from Trondheim received a scholarship last year.

In addition to honors and financial appreciation, it also comes with a special concert performance at the festival the following year. In other words: This year it will be a commissioned work with Mona Krogstad.

- This will be the first time I will present myself on request in this way, so all emotions are in flux, she says of the commissioned work, which has been entitled "Serenity Now".

Scholarship last year, premiere this year

The calm that "serenity" describes is present in full abundance in the coastal landscape outside the living room window on Inderøya in Trøndelag, where Krogstad stays when she teaches jazz students at Sund Folkehøgskole. But the main job is to be a jazz musician, and here there is a strong pull in the inner landscape, three months before the first performance at Kongsberg.

- It's a mixture of me working best under pressure and walking around like a wreck to get this done. You get to know yourself very well in such processes. I know my own strengths and weaknesses and must channel everything into something positive, she explains.

Photo by Mona Krogstad
Saturday 6 July / Time: 16:30

Mona Krogstad: Serenity Now feat. Kristoffer Lo (commissioned work)

The many faces of the saxophone

Mona Krogstad grew up in Trondheim, and is a true-born child of the jazz line at NTNU, a formidable hatchery for Norwegian jazz talents. She seriously introduced herself to a Norwegian jazz audience just before the pandemic broke out, through JUNO's aptly titled debut album "Young Star". The first fifteen seconds of the opening cut "They See You" consist exclusively of Mona's saxophone, almost a revelle for the Norwegian jazz generation of the 2020s.

- Many of JUNO's concerts also start like this. It's a sick boost to be able to do it there. Then it is also the case that the rawness that is expressed here is just one of many ways to be a saxophonist. From the melancholic with long notes and great emotions to the rhythmic and playful, Mona explains.

Among the various saxophone expressions she has been inspired by, she mentions a concert with Hanna Paulsberg at Dokkhuset in Trondheim while she was still in high school around ten years ago and Harald Lassen in Pixel.

- We speak in a playful and light sound, with the scissors in a percussive role, explains Mona.

The list of sources of inspiration is long and rich. On it stand established greats such as Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson together with Fredrik Ljungkvist ("he was my teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm"), Melissa Aldana and Martin Myhre Olsen.

The legacy of Garbarek

- The other day I played the saxophone in the church here on Inderøya, with a large choir and band on a production of Jan Gunnar Hoff's "Meditatus". Then I felt in my element, with long melodic stretches, completely alone. Vulnerable, big emotions, long tones, nice melodies and melancholic sound.

Here we also sense that the legacy of Jan Garbarek, the Nordic sound and the 70s generation at ECM continues to deliver with the younger generation of Norwegian saxophonists.

- Jan Garbarek and Tore Brunborg are great role models. I like the focus on nature and the lyrical sound. I probably approached that more with my quartet than we did with JUNO, which was supposed to be innovative, chaotic and expressive. At the same time, it is very inspiring to see how important the 70s era in Norwegian jazz has been. It involves both footsteps to follow, but also a starting point for creating something completely unique and new.

SHARP SCISSORS: Mona Krogstad has a wide range in her saxophone expression, from fierce and free outbursts to elongated landscapes in Jan Garbarek's footsteps. Photo: Elisabeth Anstensen

Scholarship that extends the day

In the criteria for the #huninvesterer grant it says that the recipient must have shown a significant willingness and uncompromising commitment to their own artistry. For Mona Krogstad, investing in her own artistry is a lot about securing the financial framework and peace of mind to be able to work well with "the thoughts in the right place at the right time". 

The theme underlying the commissioned work "Serenity Now", made possible by the #huninvesterer grant, reflects precisely this need.

- You have to wear an incredible number of hats if you want to make a living from music. This is a workplace in itself. You must be good at writing applications, deal with booking, logistics, finance and marketing, and at the same time be able to compose and be innovative and perform on stage. I myself like to keep up with photography and media, and really have a positive approach to administrative work. The big problem is primarily that there are too few hours in the day.

- What has it meant to you to receive the #huninvesterer grant?

- I feel privileged, it is a great recognition and gives me confidence. I like to be active and say yes to most things, and throw myself into the unknown, from playing with death metal bands to playing the saxophone with a DJ at après ski in Oppdal and everything in between. But the scholarship has given me the opportunity to indulge myself in focusing completely on this very own project. And I've also booked studio time for record recording, because I like to think big when I first start.

MONEY AND GLORY: Mona Krogstad with a big smile and a big check at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival last year. Photo: Birgit Fostervold / Kongsberg Jazz Festival

The guest who is going to roost in peace

But first a concert at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival. Mona has a close relationship with Kongsberg and the festival, as an audience, volunteer and participant, both as an amateur in the Jazzbox and a professional musician with JUNO. In addition to his regular quartet, there will be a musical reunion with an old acquaintance, Kristoffer Lo, at the concert. Lo has been "all over" in Norwegian jazz and pop/rock in recent years, perhaps most prominently in Highasakite, but also in the producer's chair for JUNO.

- With my quartet, the starting point is usually in the acoustic, so this will be an opportunity to challenge myself with something that can tear and rumble in the melodic, meditative music. Kristoffer will wreak havoc with this with his fleet of machines and create unrest in the calm, while at the same time preserving our acoustic, melodic improvisation.

Balance in the gender account

- Through the #huninvesterer grant, we at DNB together with Kongsberg Jazzfestival wanted to shine a spotlight on the structural differences and the capital gap that we often see in private finance, but also in the music industry, says Aina Lemoen Lunde, marketing director at DNB.

Gender balance and diversity in the Norwegian music industry has been a recurring theme throughout the 2000s.

- In my second year at the jazz line in Trondheim, I was the only girl among all the boys, at the same time that almost every band I've played in has had female members. But as I observe and experience it, there is a different awareness of this type of issue now, and that is for the better. It is a lot about how we talk to each other and how we interact. When I went to folk university in Sweden almost 10 years ago, I was shocked by how much more reflective people my age were. Now I experience the same thing here at home, says Mona Krogstad.

More about the #huninvesterer grant

Criteria for the #huninvesterer scholarship and expectations for the recipient:

  • The scholarship will go to a musician in the establishment phase of their career who has shown a significant willingness and uncompromising commitment to their own artistry. 
  • The candidate may also have demonstrated the ability to reach a new audience through new communication methods, and the ability to collaborate across borders/spheres/expressions. 
  • The grant is a development grant to be used to invest in your own career. It can be recordings, tour/travel, investments in equipment, composing etc. 
  • By awarding a scholarship, the recipient will be profiled in both DNB and Kongsberg Jazzfestival's channels, and must be available to perform for DNB during the next year. 

Application deadline: 15.05.2024/XNUMX/XNUMX

You can find the link to the scholarship application form here.