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Featured Performer: Donna Herula
Donna Herula performed at the Woodstock Folk Festival in 2013 with her husband, Tony Nardiello. In 2018, Donna performed with fellow “Slide Guitar Master” of Old Town School, Chris Walz. The celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in the U.S. continues with Donna’s Woodstock Wednesdays performance of the music and history of women in the blues.
Donna was born and raised on the northwest side of Chicago. She began playing piano at age 5 and guitar at the age of 10. In high school, she wrote, arranged, sang and played an original blues song with the jazz band for a variety show and also played lead guitar in an all-girls’ band. Donna received a music scholarship from her high school and studied jazz guitar and, later, classical guitar in college.
Influenced by slide guitar players Rory Block, Johnny Winter, Eric Sardinas, and Bob Brozman, Donna discovered the early blues musicians that inspired these players, which included Son House, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.
At the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, Donna learned country and Delta Blues, bottleneck slide guitar, ragtime and Piedmont styles by listening to and copying licks from old blues recordings. She also began collecting and learning music performed by women blues singers and/or guitar players such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace and Memphis Minnie.
Donna was the co-winner of the Chicago Blues Challenge, solo/duo category two years in a row; in 2010 with harpist John Jochem and in 2011 with singer/songwriter, Liz Mandeville; and with Liz, also placed in the semi-finals at the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. In addition, Donna won the 2008 Illinois Central Blues Clubs blues challenge as a solo performer and competed in the IBCs in 2009.
Donna was a semifinalist in the 2012 Yamaha Six String Theory international guitar competition. She placed in the top 6 of the blues guitarist category among contestants from 58 countries.
An accomplished slide guitarist, Donna headlined the 2014 Durban International Blues Festival in South Africa, playing both solo acoustic blues and also with a band. She has performed multiple times at the Chicago Blues Festival. At the 2015 Chicago Blues Festival, Donna performed a tribute (as a solo performer) to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Johnny Shines for their centennial celebrations, in 2013 in a duet with Tony Nardiello and in 2009, she performed a tribute (as a solo performer) to slide guitar master Robert Nighthawk for his centennial celebration at the Chicago Blues Festival. As a soloist, she also performed as part of a Nighthawk symposium for the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas (Nighthawk’s hometown), and at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (King Biscuit Blues Festival).
In May 2016, Acoustic Guitar Magazine named Donna as one of the top 10 up and coming resonator guitar players in an article, “Down and Dirty: 10 contemporary resonator players talk about their love for that nasty sound.” On October 16th, 2016, she was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame at Buddy Guy’s Legends.
Donna is a regular performer at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago – having been the acoustic opener for Buddy Guy seven times – and has performed at the House of Blues Chicago as well as BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups in St. Louis, MO.
In addition to playing traditional blues on National resonator guitars, she had also played electric guitar as part of the Chicago Women in the Blues, led by Joan Gand and now has her own band. Other blues, folk and music festivals that she has performed at as a soloist or in a duet include: the King Biscuit Blues Festival, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, The Juke Joint Festival, the Woodstock Folk Festival, the Bayfront Blues Festival, CU Folk & Roots Festival, Mother’s Best Music Festival (Helena, AK), Blues by the Bay (East Tawas, MI), Festival for the Eno (North Carolina), Alpena Blues Festival (Michigan), Old Town Blues Festival (Michigan), and the Portage Township Music Festival (Michigan).
Since November 2015, Donna has been teaching Acoustic Slide Guitar, Fingerstyle, and Electric Slide Guitar classes and individual lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music, in Chicago. Donna has taught at Blues & Swing Week – Augusta Heritage Center in West Virginia. Donna also teaches individual students and has taught workshops on slide guitar, blues fingerstyle and Delta Blues guitar at venues such as the Folk Alliance Region Midwest conference, the Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Festival, Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, folk clubs, and music stores. She has given numerous educational performances at libraries in an acoustic duet with her husband, singer, guitarist and harmonica player, Tony Nardiello.
Donna has performed on a number of blues radio shows including seven times on King Biscuit Time, with Sonny Payne, legendary host and member of the blues hall of fame, and on Delta Sounds both on www.KFFA.com radio in Helena, GLT Blues Next in central Illinois, WNUR in Evanston, IL, WDCB in Glen Ellyn, and KUAF Radio in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Donna’s second CD “The Moon Is Rising: Songs of Robert Nighthawk” was released in February 2011 and in September 2011, placed #32 on the Roots Music Report for top Blues albums played on the radio. Her CD was selected to represent the Illinois Central Blues Club in the Best Self-Produced CD Competition at the 2012 IBC. The song, “Crying Won’t Help You” was listed as song #13 on James “Skyy Dobro” Walker’s Top 50 Songs of 2011.
In 2012, Donna’s slide guitar playing was featured on 3 tracks of Liz Mandeville’s CD, Clarksdale http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lizmandeville1 as well as in Dutch blues film Cheesehead Blues: http://vimeo.com/58095701 which was released in 2015.
In October 2011, Donna was nominated for the “Best Female Blues Performer” by the Chicago Black Music Awards.
Donna is a featured artist on the National Reso-Phonic Guitars website.
She plays as a soloist as well as in a duet with various artists and also with her husband singer/guitarist/harpist, Tony Nardiello. (See website page “Duets” for more information.)
Please visit performer websites to purchase their CDs and other merchandise and to donate to them. With all their gigs cancelled, they need your support. Your donations and purchases are a great way to thank Donna Herula for creating this Woodstock Wednesday video! https://donnaherula.com/
You may also donate to the Festival via the Donate Button at the top of the right column on every page of this website.
We know you’ll enjoy the show!