Jen Gunderman, in Harmony with “Guitar Town”

Jen Gunderman
Jen Gunderman Photo by Chris Hudson

Jen Gunderman has been a musician nearly all of her life. Hailing from Topeka, Kansas, Jen made her way to the stages and studios of Nashville, Tennessee as a keyboardist and vocalist.  Now, as a touring and session multi instrumentalist and Assistant Professor of Musicology, Jen earns respect among the artists and musicians in Nashville and her presence and proficiency on the piano accordion has brought attention to the instrument in “Guitar Town.” For those of us that follow the evolution of the piano accordion in America, Jen Gunderman is a credible example of the direction the instrument is moving in the new millennium.

As a young musician, Jen Gunderman cut her teeth on “every kind of gig.” She trained as a classical pianist, graduated from Vassar College and earned her Master’s Degree in Ethnomusicology from the University of Washington in Seattle. After graduation, Jen worked for Columbia Records/Sony in New York City, then returned to academia. While on a track to earn a Doctorate, she received a call from a band she met while at the label and was offered a chance to join “Dag and the Jayhawks.” Jan seized the opportunity, moved to North Carolina and her career took off.  Since then, she has performed at Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York City, the Royal Albert Hall in London, Tanglewood, the Hollywood Bowl and the Ryman in Nashville, Tennessee among many other venues. She has recorded for major and independent record labels and appeared on radio and television around the world, including “Late Night With Jay Leno.”   She is now a 20-year veteran of performance and session work, based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Although piano accordion players are not plentiful in Americana music, their presence is increasing.  Since 2012, when Mumford and Sons earned the Grammy Award for Best Americana Album with Ben Lovett on the instrument, the piano accordion is being heard more than ever on recordings and seen in performances backing up major artists. Jen Gunderman regularly appears with Sheryl Crow. She has also performed with many other great artists such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Roger McGuinn (Byrds), Michael McDonald, Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), Exene Cervenka (X), Loretta Lynn, Vince Gill, The Dixie Chicks, Todd Snider, St. Vincent (Annie Clark), Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Patti Griffin, Travis Tritt, Warren Haynes, Steve Cropper, Gretchen Wilson, Roseanne Cash, Sam Bush, Robert Earl Keen, Buddy Miller, Don Was and many others.

Sheryl Crow accompanied by Jen Gunderman

As an educator and a seasoned professional musician, Jen Gunderman stresses the importance to young musicians that they should know and “practice everything in all 12 keys, and avoid using the transpose button on any keyboard.” As a young student, Jen also mastered “Prof. Richard Wilson’s tonal and modal counterpoint classes, which seemed archaic at the time but proved to be incredibly useful later when I started doing session work and had to think quickly about voice leading and chord voicing in an ensemble.”

All quotes by Jen Gunderman from an article by Jon Regen:

Keyboard Magazine