2013 Changemaker: Pippi Ardennia

Supporting and showing the way for young female jazz musicians

Pippi Ardennia, photograph by Andrea Canter

Thirty-five years of singing and producing – from Chicago nightclubs to a couple of recording contracts – led up to Twin Cities jazz singer Pippi Ardennia’s latest CD release in October. But making a name for herself hasn’t been enough for Pippi, as she is known locally and in Chicago.

Despite fairly equal representation in high school band and related musical outlets, teenage girls aren’t exploring – and thus succeeding – in jazz careers as much as boys and young men, Pippi said.

“It’s very clear that it’s a male-dominated industry. We don’t see many female-owned businesses, band leaders, club owners or band members,” she said.

While the Twin Cities is blessed with resources to educate and give opportunities to young musicians, females generally do not take those resources to the next level, she added. Jazz in particular is not promoted to girls as much as other musical genres.

“What I mean by the next level is they don’t seem to show up to explore possibilities, and if they do show up, they are usually faced with a lack of support. There are outstanding female musicians falling through the cracks because we have yet to create a supported pathway for these girls,” Pippi said.

Enter the PipJazz “Women in Jazz” workshop. The annual event launched in March drew more than 30 mostly teenage girls interested in jazz. The three-hour workshop featured a panel presentation with eight local female jazz artists as well as an open jam session with youth participants and established artists. Besides Pippi, artists included Debbie Duncan, Patty Peterson and Mary Louise Knutson, as well as PipJazz youth-artist-in-residence Zosha Warpeha.

“It is so important for us to share with these girls our experiences in the business, what we’ve overcome, how to make your way in this business, and most of all, to let them know they are not alone and a path has been laid for them,” Pippi said.

Pippi’s own path began as a child in a family of musicians. Her mother accompanied her to nightclubs from age 13 so she could perform. Later, she recorded professionally and then took a break from it all to have a family and work professionally in the conventional business world.

Fortunately for the Twin Cities, Pippi was compelled to return to her musical roots a few years ago.

Last spring’s “Women in Jazz” debut was attended by more than just girls and women. Some teenage boys and men showed up and “really helped support the teenage girls,” Pippi said. The event was also partly funded by the Twin Cities Jazz Society and the Dakota Foundation for Jazz Education.

“[Pippi] is determined to be a changemaker in the lives of student musicians,” said Pam Carlson, a volunteer board member of the PipJazz Youth Foundation who nominated Pippi for the

“Changemaker” title. “I see the enormous impact Pippi has.”


 According to Pippi Ardennia, broader-based support is needed to sustain a supported pathway and mentorship for girls and young women. Support the next youth workshop event, scheduled for March 8, 2014, or the larger goal of females in the music business. Go to www.pipjazz.com for upcoming events.