For composer, saxophonist, visual artist, and writer, Monica Shriver, the power of telling our stories is the central inspiration depicted in all of her creative work. Shriver is dedicated to exploring the connections between composition, improvisation, visual art, writing (poetry and memoir) and how each of these involve memory, imagination, expression and feelings about the past and present. She uses composition, specifically, as a way to document events that have happened in her life and the improvisation within each performance of these compositions as the primary way that she “talks” about the events. Flexibility within the arrangements and interpretation is very important to her and she deliberately creates space within the compositions for all of the musicians to make some decisions in the moment and be present to what is happening unique to each individual performance. Such intuitive and vulnerable music encourages and requires spontaneous musical decision-making, awareness, emotionality, deep musical understanding and a willingness to express as a whole as well as an individual. 

Shriver uses a variety of traditional composing techniques as well as processes derived from experimentation, exploration, the “following” of a feeling or story, and improvisation. She has always held wonder and curiosity for how different songs are structured and how composers and arrangers shape and use different musical elements. Monica describes her compositional process as, “I often meditate on a memory, and take myself back to a time, get deep into the space and feeling of that moment and then start to compose. Sometimes it’s with my saxophone and sometimes at the piano. My goal is to compose something that matches what I feel in my body. It’s often a stream of consciousness at first, then I craft it into something that can be performed by the ensemble. Later, when I’m improvising in a performance, I feel like I’m getting a chance to talk about what I’ve experienced through the lens of who I am presently, not just when the event occurred or when the piece was written.”

Monica has been writing and performing her original works for over twenty years. Her two most influential teachers were Mike Crotty (Airmen of Note), whom she met as an undergrad at Arizona State University, and Stan Smith (Capital University), whom she met while completing her graduate degree, and with whom she continues to collaborate. She continues to learn from “unofficial teachers” drawing inspiration from the recordings of jazz composers like Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, and conversations with composers like Matt Endahl, Rahsaan Barber, Michael Abene, Art Lande, Alan Baylock, and others. 

Monica openly shares her knowledge and experience in a variety of educational settings, including private instruction and an online workshop for students interested in exploring composition called “Dive Into Composition” offered through Brave Musician, an online community she co-founded. On her Brave Musician® podcast, she often discusses compositional process, struggles, and inspiration with others as well as producing a solo episode called “Sharing the composition process and 6 lessons to help you create” in November 2020. Monica will be presenting a poster session on her composition “The Possibility of Us” at the 2024 International Symposium of Jazz Arrangers and Composers (ISJAC). 

For most of her career, someone could only hear her music in-person, but after making a move in June of 2020 to Nashville, TN, Shriver went into the studio and recorded her debut album, Acceptance, featuring her original compositions plus arrangements of “Lonely Woman” (Ornette Coleman) and “Love is Everywhere” (Pharoah Sanders). One of her original compositions, “Knom,” an ode to Thelonious Monk, features saxophonist Rahsaan Barber as a special guest and was released on YouTube in September of 2022 and as a bonus track on the physical version of the album. “I Wanna Go Nowhere With You” composed by Monica Shriver, was her first single released in November 2022 and features her poetry in the intro. The album, Acceptance, which features one of Shriver’s abstract paintings as its’ cover art, was released in July 2023 in conjunction with a tour of the South and Midwest made possible with the support of the South Arts Jazz Road grant. In June 2023, the ensemble went back into the studio and recorded their second album, Unfolding, (released April 2024) which was made possible by a grant through Chamber Music America’s Performance Plus program and features two of Monica’s original compositions. 

Shriver’s artistic expression embraces vulnerability, collaboration, honesty, and connection, and is deeply inspired by the shared human experience of “trying to figure out this thing called life”. Her intensity and honesty is evident, from the music she writes and the authenticity she’s willing to show as a performer. Monica’s musical expression is full of intense joy, love, adventure, humor, emotional processing, and lots of feelings. 

Monica's Original Compositions: 

Recorded on Acceptance (2023)

  • Keep it on the DL - free over groove 
  • The Possibility of Us - ballad, free solos
  • I Wanna Nowhere With You - floaty, relaxed Neo-Soul groove, free solos
  • KNOM (ode to Thelonious Monk) - blues 

Recorded on Unfolding (2024)

  • Brick By Brick - groove, even 8ths
  • It's Not All On You - ballad, free


  • I'm Sorry About Your Face - medium swing


Please contact Monica using this form if you are:

  • Interested in purchasing Monica's original music (leadsheets available in C, Bb, Eb and Bass Clef)
  • Interested in commissioning Monica to write something for your ensemble or special event
  • Saying "Hi!" or have a question. :)