Philadelphia guitarist, composer, arranger, bandleader, performer, poet, singer and recording artist MONNETTE SUDLER learned folk songs at her uncle’s feet, growing up in the rich musical neighborhood of Germantown. Starting her musical education with the piano, she began playing a small guitar “almost before she could talk.” Inspired by her family, colleagues and community, Monnette listened to Nat King Cole and Motown, but soon fell in love with Jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, and Bolo Sete. Sudler began to play professionally while attending Boston’s Berklee School of Music in 1970, and earned her degree from Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music in 2003.
Monnette joined the mostly-Philly group The Sounds of Liberation in the ‘70s and climbed steadily in her career, going on to work with Archie Shepp, Cecil McBee, Grover Washington Jr., Hugh Masakela, Reggie Workman, Steve Turre, Philly Joe Jones, Hamiet Bluiett, Odean Pope, Kenny Barron and poet Sonia Sanchez. Her own releases include the critically-acclaimed and eclectic Brighter Days for You, Live in Europe, Other Side of the Gemini, Time for a Change and most recently, Born Again, featuring her all-female quartet. Sudler has appeared throughout America, Europe, Japan, South Africa and Jamaica, including the Newport and Berlin Jazz Festivals.
But then Monnette was diagnosed with the rare Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis lung disease. Unable to play, short of breath and constantly on oxygen, she waited for the transplant that would save her life. She miraculously survived, and has triumphantly continued on to support the Jazz Bridge Monnette Sudler Family Fund with her benefit performances. She received the Leeway Art and Change grant in 2014, the 2011 Leeway Foundation Transformation Award, and grants from the American Composers Forum and the Kimmel Center, commissioned to score and/or arrange for various ensembles. Sudler is the founder and artistic director of the Philadelphia Guitar Summit, which includes an annual concert and workshops for inter-generational audiences.
Monnette believes that “Social change in our communities can be implemented through music and the arts,” conducting both clinics and private instruction on composition, creative development, performance and music therapy, offering nothing less than positive reinforcement and encouragement.
In 1997, Monnette Sudler asked the Philadelphia Inquirer “Do I dare to dream and take a chance the world is there for me? Maybe yes, at least a little piece.”