CJC in the News

Published articles about the CJC

Announcing the first ever: “Meet Me Downtown” Day in Berkeley!


The first ever MEET ME DOWNTOWN DAY is Sunday March 20, 12noon to 5pm. Six Downtown Berkeley cultural venues will feature a variety of free activities to give you a taste of their amazing facilities and programing. And Downtown restaurants will offer food and drink specials for event visitors. www.meetmedowntown.info

Explore the stunning architecture and collection of the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive at its new location on Center Street, and watch short films on their spectacular outdoor screen. Experience the newly reopened The UC Theatre with drinks and snacks in its beautiful remodeled interior and be amazed by a demonstration of their Meyer Sound system. Then rediscover showcase Downtown venues with performance workshops at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, interactive bands at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, and live music at the California Jazz Conservatory. Plus you can start it off with yoga, a swim, or workout at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA all for free!

Collect MEET ME DOWNTOWN stickers at each of the art and music venues to unlock specials only available that day at participating restaurants. Collect ALL SIX stickers, and register at the Welcome kiosk at Bart Plaza to enter drawing for a Weekend Extravaganza including two nights at Hotel Shattuck Plaza, dinner at FIVE, and tickets to the Berkeley Rep, Freight and Salvage, and BAMPFA.

PLUS enter into a drawing for a free iPad mini by posting your best pictures of you, your friends, and family exploring Downtown Berkeley with #MeetMeDowntownBerkeley on the Meet Me Downtown Facebook page.

Visit www.meetmedowntown.info for schedule of events of the various venues and list of restaurant food and drink specials.

Professor Jeff Denson talks about teaching at the California Jazz Conservatory

Jeff Denson

Jeff Denson is a musician on a mission. With three jazz ensembles, a full professorship at the California Jazz Conservatory and leadership of a nonprofit organization devoted to the enhancement of jazz in the Bay Area, the double bass master, vocalist and composer is among the busiest musical artists in Northern California. The Jeff Denson Quartet will perform Sunday at Silo’s in Napa.

Following a rich academic and artistic journey that took him around the country and the world, Denson accepted his appointment at the conservatory (then the Berkeley Jazzschool) in 2011 and moved to the Bay Area. On the phone from his East Bay home last week, he talked about the local jazz scene.

“I think there’s a fantastic scene in Northern California,” Denson said. “In many ways, it’s kind of an unsung jazz scene on the national and international scale. You have great musicians performing all throughout the Bay Area in large and small venues.

“If not many people know that it’s going on, though, it’s like if a tree falls in the woods and no one’s there. Does it happen? Does it make a sound? That’s one thing I would personally like to help with in whatever small way I can, trumpet and boost people’s awareness of the wealth of music we have here.”

As a bass player, Denson is regarded as a master in both jazz and Western classical traditions. He has recorded 10 albums as leader or co-leader of an ensemble, and a dozen more as a sideman. He has a cherished relationship in performance and in the recording studio with Lee Konitz, the veteran alto saxophone icon.

Denson CJC Ensemble

Denson spoke enthusiastically about the work of the California Jazz Conservatory, where he serves as director of its outreach program. “It’s a major center for jazz education and the only conservatory solely based on the study of jazz in the U.S.,” he said. “Any time you have a city that has a major jazz program, there’s benefits to that.

“Musicians have a place they can go and a community develops around it. You have young musicians going to study with their peers. They go in and out. They leave the school and they have a peer group that they can communicate with artistically and focus on developing a career together.

“We’re nurturing these young artists who are trained and passionate, and they’re going to keep pumping out new blood and new inspiration in the music scene. We have that here in the Bay Area now. That’s a really important component to be aware of. They’re always going to be generating this new vibrant energy.”

“And not only do you have students that are going to be young blood injected into the scene,” Denson added, “you also have people that want to see what’s going on. They’re going to want to go out and check out what the professionals are doing in the city. This helps bolster the audience base. It’s a great cycle.”

Denson’s pride was on full display when he talked about the members of his Quartet. “I have a really great band,” he said, “and we’ve worked a lot together developing a connection, a musical connection. I think that really shows in the recording that we just made, and you’ll hear it in the live show. It’s a great group.”

The Jeff Denson Quartet is Denson on bass and vocals, Dan Zemelman on keyboards, drummer Alan Hall and Grammy-nominated Paul Hanson, whom Denson regards as the world’s premier improvising bassoonist. Their upcoming CD is “Concentric Circles.”

“I really do hope there’s a lot of people out for the show,” Denson said. “This is very unique music we’re performing. It’s challenging, but I think it’s very special. Of course I’m biased, but it’s special music that brings together influences of many things. The true thing about it is the heart behind it, the integrity and the strength of the melodies.”

Sunday, Feb. 21, 4 p.m. Presented by the Napa Valley Jazz Society (NVJS). $45, $25 for NVJS members. Silo’s, 530 Main St., Napa. 707-251-5833. nvjs.org/tickets.

See original article at napavalleyregister.com

2 students give Berkeley jazz school $500,000

Susan Muscarella, founding president of the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, is working with architect Donn Logan to renovate 6,000 square feet of space across the street. Photo: Chris Hardy, Courtesy CJC

It’s always nice when somebody gives your institution $500,000, particularly in the case of the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley. The gift will cover nearly half the cost of renovating the ground floor of the brick building right across Addison Street, where the school will almost double its size with a new club-like performance venue, practice and rehearsal rooms and a second cafe.

“But what makes this gift so meaningful to me is that it came from two of our students,” says Susan Muscarella, the school’s founding president, referring to Kathi Rendon and John Kainlauri, the retired educational administrators who gave the seed money for the 6,000-square-foot project. It’s being designed by Berkeley architect Donn Logan, who designed the facility that opened in the old Kress Building in 2002. Rendon is a singer, Kainlauri plays trumpet, and they’re both longtime students at the Jazzschool, as the conservatory was called before it started its degree program in 2009 and as its vital community music program is still called.

“This would not be possible without Kathi and John,” says Muscarella, a pianist who in recent years has poured her considerable energies into building up the jazz conservatory and getting it accredited, as well as writing a doctoral dissertation through Portugal’s University of Évora on the modern jazz piano trio. She plans to start playing again when her plate isn’t as full.

Right now she’s jazzed about creating the much-needed new space, which will give the students a big band room to rehearse and provide a new 100-seat performance venue that, unlike the school’s multipurpose Hardymon Hall across the street, will be an enclosed space, with tables and chairs. It’s modeled conceptually on Minton’s Playhouse, the storied Harlem club where bebop was born in jam sessions encouraged by Henry Minton, a saxophonist who opened the hotspot in 1938 and later hired Thelonious Monk as house pianist.

“What Minton did was very similar to my personal mission — to support the leading jazz musicians of the day. He fed them, gave them a place to rehearse and perform, and really nurtured the bebop style.” The CJC’s new space, named for Rendon, “will be a club-like setting, but one where you won’t hear the milk being steamed.”

Muscarella hopes to get master metalsmith Russ Williams of Eclipse Design, who made the “Yardbird Suite” sculpture in Hardymon Hall — the notes of the Charlie Parker tune bear the names of sponsors — to create a similar mural for the new room using Monk’s classic “’Round Midnight.” A whole note will go for $50K, a sixteenth note for $100. The new facility, which is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2016, will be acoustically enhanced with Meyer Sound panels visually enlivened by Deborah O’Grady’s photographs.

Why a second cafe?

“I’m Italian,” Muscarella says. “We’ve gotta have the food.”

All That Jazz in Berkeley

By Mark MacNamar, San Francisco Classical Voice – March 20, 2014

Here’s a new-new thing: The California Jazz Conservatory — formerly known as The Jazzschool or the Jazz School Institute, or more colloquially, ‘that jazz school over in Berkeley.’ It was, until just recently, a small, unaccredited school, with no formal program of study, and known largely only to aficionados. In fact, the school was perhaps better known for its community outreach program.

Now, ‘that jazz school’ down in the Arts District in Berkeley has become a fully accredited, four-year conservatory, offering a top-rated faculty — including artist-in-residence, Benny Green, once a member of Art Blakey’s famed Jazz Messengers. The conservatory will offer both financial aid and the ability to provide visas to students coming from abroad. The tuition for four years is about $72,000; the degree is a B.A. in Music with a focus on jazz studies.

“I would like to see this become the Juilliard of Jazz on the West Coast,” Susan Muscarella said earlier this week. She founded the school in 1997, which was originally upstairs from La Note restaurant on Shattuck Avenue. And used her life savings to do it.

Muscarella, who grew up in Walnut Creek, studied classical piano as a child and was performing jazz professionally before graduating from Las Lomas High School, in 1968. Her first jazz piano teacher was Wilbert Baranco, a student of Art Tatum’s. She went on to study music composition at UC Berkeley and, in 1984, became director of the Cal Jazz Ensembles. Her preforming career includes time with Sonny Rollins, Sheila E., and Marian McPartland.

To read complete article visit www.sfcv.org.

Berkeley’s Jazzschool elevated to California Jazz Conservatory

By David Becker, Bay Area Jazz Examiner

Congratulations to the institution formerly known as Jazzschool. The Berkeley training ground for world-class jazz talent recently received full accreditation from the National Associations of Schools of Music, putting its degree programs on a par with the nation’s top music schools but in a league of its own due to its focus on jazz.

The new status is reflected in a new name — the California Jazz Conservatory. Community programs will still run under the Jazzschool moniker, and the organization will continue to present concerts featuring top local and international talent…Read More

Berkeley’s Jazzschool earns conservatory accreditation – Inside Bay Area

By Zoe Young Oakland Tribune Correspondent

Laurie Antonioli

Laurie Antonioli, left, vocal performance instructor, works with students Rose Cristman, right, and Kyra Gordon as drummer Bryan Bowman and bassist John Wiitala accompany during private lessons at the former The Jazzschool Institute, now called California Jazz Conservatory, in Berkeley on Feb. 26, 2014. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

In this new incarnation the Jazzschool will be renamed the California Jazz Conservatory, with the nondegree program called the Jazzschool Community Music School at CJC. The conservatory is now the only free-standing accredited university in the nation devoted solely to the study and performance of jazz music.

Jazzschool founding President Susan Muscarella made the announcement after a four-year application process that required the Jazzschool faculty to educate and graduate three bachelor’s students.

“NASM evaluated our application by evaluating the progress our graduates had made,” Muscarella said. “You can’t just fill out an application and say, ‘You know, I’d like to be accredited today.’ You have to take a minimum of three students through your proposed course of study.”

The original CJC graduates have now received official degrees retroactively in light of the finalized accreditation. The institution now has 60 students enrolled in the degree program for the fall, though Muscarella projects higher numbers. The maximum number of students it can enroll is 120, “with 30 to 35 in each grade level,” she said.

To read complete article and to see additional photos, visit www.insidebayarea.com.

Berkeley’s Jazzschool now the California Jazz Conservatory – SF Chronicle

Jesse Hamlin
Published 2:22 pm, Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Susan Muscarella

Susan MuscarellaFounding President and Dean of Instruction, CJC Inc.

California Jazz Conservatory: Newly accredited Berkeley school chooses 1st artist-in-residence Pianist Susan Muscarella was teaching jazz at UC Berkeley 36 years ago when she first heard Benny Green. She was auditioning the serious little swinger for the piano chair in the storied Berkeley High jazz band directed by the late Phil Hardymon, who disliked the sometimes alienating audition process, so he enlisted his friend Muscarella. She’d later hire Hardymon to teach at the jazz school she started on Shattuck Avenue in 1997, and name the performance space in the Jazzschool’s new Addison Street digs Hardymon Hall.

“Benny was amazing then,” says Muscarella, who has chosen the celebrated pianist as the first artist-in-residence at the just-accredited California Jazz Conservatory, the new name for the Jazzschool. Its four-year program offering a bachelor of music degree in jazz studies was certified this week by the National Association of Schools of Music, a major milestone that, in addition to attesting to the school’s rigorous academic and artistic standards, qualifies the conservatory’s students for federal loans and allows it to admit students from abroad.

“Accreditation is the key to our long-term sustainability,” says Muscarella, a tireless worker who has always tapped the best musicians in the area to teach at the jazz school, whose vital community classes and workshops will continue alongside the expanding programs for aspiring professional jazz performers, educators and recording specialists.

“It was always my dream to create a degree program like this, where the courses in the curriculum are mutually beneficial,” says Muscarella, whose conservatory’s general education classes connect to its core subject. The social studies requirement, for example, can be satisfied with four semesters of jazz history, from its African roots to right now; a science course covers the physics of music.

Changing the name to the California Jazz Conservatory “better reflects our mission. In three words, it sums up who we are: a serious music school in California dedicated to jazz.”

In addition to running the school and occasionally teaching private lessons there, Muscarella is finishing her doctoral thesis on the jazz piano trio. She’s getting it through the University of Évora in Portugal, whose jazz school will participate in a new exchange program with the Berkeley institution. A German music school is also going to be involved. Some young European piano player may get private lessons with Green, who learned his craft on the job, playing with Art Blakey and Betty Carter.

“Benny is the perfect mentor for our students,” says Muscarella, who hopes Green will be in residence for several years. “He’s the real deal, everything I want in a musician,” she adds, a great player who’s also “considerate and conscientious. Our degree is about music but also about preparing students for the world and making sure they have high ethical standards.”

Green was delighted when Muscarella called to offer the gig.

“I’ve watched Susan’s pure labor of love grow year after year, with great admiration and respect,” Green e-mails from Bern, Switzerland, where he’s performing with his trio. “I feel that this is a good time in my life to take more responsibility and share my experiential perspective with young folks – of all ages!

“I do my best to let my students witness my own enthusiasm for records and the joy of jazz. If they can see what this music means to me, I hope our exchange will instill something of the fire and passion I saw in my mentor-bandleaders like Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson. People like me, who played with people like them who played with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, are a serious young person’s link to jazz.”

To see complete article, go to www.sfgate,com.

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