b. October 21, 1955, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Fred Hersch is a contemporary American jazz pianist who has become a consistent and highly sought after performer on the international jazz scene.
Hersch began playing piano at a very young age, growing up in the North Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, attending Walnut Hills High School. He also had an early interest in mandolin. By age 12, Fred had written his first symphony. He studied at Grinnell College in the mid 1970s and began playing in jazz clubs in Cincinnati. He later graduated from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. His teachers included Sophia Rosoff. He moved to New York City in the late 1970s where he soon found a place playing with artists including Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, Art Farmer, and Charlie Haden.
Hersch soon began recording his own records and composing music. Like a number of jazz pianists who have come of age over the past 20 years, he is strongly influenced by the work of Bill Evans, though Hersch has also been at pains to distance himself from Evans' influence. Although Hersch has played in a number of different instrumental combinations, he also plays as a solo performer, and many of his albums—such as Live at the Bimhuis (2005)--are solo recitals. In 2006 he was invited by club owner Lorraine Gordon to perform the first-ever solo piano booking at the legendary Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City.
Hersch's also works as a vocal accompanist and has recently recorded duo work with Jay Clayton, Nancy King, and Karin Oberlin.
In 1986 he was diagnosed with HIV. Since then, Hersch has campaigned and performed for several AIDS-related charities and causes. Along with Gary Burton and Andy Bey, Hersch is one of the few openly gay jazz musicians.
He is also a music educator, having taught at the New School University, Manhattan School of Music, Western Michigan University, and his alma mater, the New England Conservatory.