Monterey Jazz Festival And California Jazz Conservatory Launch Long-Term Collaborative Program: “The MJF-CJC Partnership for Excellence in Jazz Performance and Education”



May 15, 2019; Monterey and Berkeley, California; The legendary, iconic jazz presenter, the Monterey Jazz Festival (MJF), has joined forces with the innovative, pioneering jazz education leader, the California Jazz Conservatory (CJC), to form a new, long-term collaboration: The MJF-CJC Partnership for Excellence in Jazz Performance and Education. The program was designed to share each organization’s strengths in pursuing their mutual mission to support and promote jazz performance and education.

“I could not be more excited about our new partnership with the world-renowned Monterey Jazz Festival. Given our shared mission to forward both jazz performance and education along with our long-standing close personal friendship, this mutually beneficial collaboration is a natural fit,” noted CJC President Susan Muscarella.

MJF Jazz Education Director Paul Contos added, “We all share the same vision, the same demand for top quality, the same drive for excellence––and we all like each other! It was an easy decision to combine our expertise and take this great leap forward for jazz presentation and jazz education.”

The newly designated affiliation is a continuation of the successful three-year relationship between the two internationally recognized, California-based jazz institutions, enhancing an existing partnership established in 2017 between CJC and MJF at the MJF-produced Next Generation Jazz Festival.

In addition to sharing faculty, programs, marketing and facilities on a long-term basis, specific proposals for the 2019-2020 timeframe include CJC’s development and presentation of a new, nationwide college-level composition competition with the winning work slated to be premiered and presented live at the 50th Next Generation Jazz Festival (April 3-5, 2020).

As a part of the partnership program, performance opportunities will abound year-round for both organizations. CJC student and faculty groups have been invited to play on the North Coast Brewing Co. Jazz Education Stage during the upcoming Monterey Jazz Festival (September 27-29, 2019), and in future Monterey and Next Generation Jazz Festivals. The Partnership for Excellence also includes multiple opportunities for CJC and MJF faculty to participate in one another’s presentations and programs.

MJF Executive Director Colleen Bailey concluded, “This is a timely opportunity for us to join forces with the California Jazz Conservatory. We view this Partnership for Excellence in Jazz Performance and Education as a long-term commitment to collaborate, to the benefit of our students and fans. It makes strategic sense for both entities, and that makes sense for the future of jazz.”

About the California Jazz Conservatory: The California Jazz Conservatory is the only independent, accredited music school in the country completely devoted to the study and performance of jazz. CJC offers a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and an Associate of Arts degree in Jazz Studies; CJC’s non degree-granting community music school, Jazzschool at CJC, offers over 100 classes and workshops on a quarterly basis; the CJC Weekend Concert Series presents concerts in two intimate venues featuring visiting artists, students and faculty. For more information about CJC, visit

About Monterey Jazz Festival: Monterey Jazz Festival, a leader in the jazz world since 1958, celebrates the legacy of jazz, expands its boundaries, and provides opportunities to experience jazz through the creative production of performances and educational programs. Tickets for the 62nd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, September 27-29, 2019, can be purchased online at or by calling 888.248.6499. The full lineup for the 62nd Monterey Jazz Festival can be found on For more information about MJF, contact

For Immediate Release / Contact 831.373.3343 /




Dr. Jeff Denson Named Dean of Instruction, California Jazz Conservatory


April 17, 2019; Berkeley, California; For the first time in its 20+ year history, the California Jazz Conservatory will name a new Dean of Instruction, succeeding CJC founder Susan Muscarella, who continues in her role as President of the renowned Berkeley-based jazz institution.Dr. Jeff Denson––the internationally acclaimed bassist, vocalist, composer and educator––will officially take on his new title and role as Dean of Instruction, California Jazz Conservatory, in August of 2019. In addition to his new duties as Dean, Denson will continue teaching at the Conservatory – a dual role he relishes and anticipates with enthusiasm.

“The California Jazz Conservatory is an exceptional institution, fostering the next generation of artists and educators––many on the cutting edge––performing, composing, teaching, and touring throughout the world,” Denson noted. “I am honored to be following in the footsteps of Dr. Susan Muscarella in this important role and I am excited at the prospect of working closely with CJC students, faculty, supporters and friends to grow the institution in the future.”

Muscarella added, “Jeff is one of the most talented artist-educators I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He has deep and long-established relationships with our students and fellow faculty; he is the perfect person to step into this important role – especially given that our artistic standards are so fully aligned.”

Ideas are a part of Denson’s quest to push his creative ability to its limits.“I’ve got so many ideas I want to try and I don’t want to put myself in any kind of box,” he says. “I am looking forward to bringing many of those ideas to fruition here at CJC,” Denson added.

Denson takes on his new role in the midst of a bountiful and consequential year for the prolific musician. 2019 witnesses the release of two new recording projects by Denson, along with his overseeing releases by other artists on his Ridgeway Records label.

In addition to taking on his new CJC position, Denson will maintain his busy schedule of tours and live performances, including a summer of educational and performance activities at CJC, where Denson will participate in a Piano Intensive headed by Susan Muscarella; a two-day Vibraphone and Bass Boot Camp, co-led by Denson and Philadelphia-based vibraphonist Tony Miceli; and a Guitar Intensive headed by Mimi Fox.

“This is a significant milestone in the history and future of the California Jazz Conservatory,” concluded Muscarella. “With Jeff taking on the duties of Dean, I will be able to focus more fully on bigger picture goals and objectives that will forward the Conservatory’s impact on the future of jazz.”

About Jeff Denson 
Born December 20, 1976 in Arlington, Virginia, Jeff Denson grew up in the Washington, DC area. He began playing alto saxophone in the third grade, switching in high school to bass and vocals. He studied at Virginia Commonwealth University and Northern Virginia Community College, transferring to Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music to complete his degree. At Berklee, Denson co-founded the trio Minsarah, touring and recording with the band for fifteen years and becoming the accompanist for the legendary saxophonist Lee Konitz for over twelve years. In the meantime, Denson completed a master’s degree at Florida State University and a DMA at the University of California at San Diego, and recorded his first solo project in 2012’s Secret World.  Denson moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011 to become a professor at the California Jazz Conservatory. Since then, he has become a major player on the international scene and earned wide critical acclaim for his musicianship. DownBeat Magazine has cited Denson’s “considerable gifts as an improviser, interpreter and sonic trailblazer…” earning him a spot on the DownBeat International Critics Poll. Germany’s Jazz Podium Magazine noted that “Denson is breaking new ground (he is) one of the leading bassists of contemporary jazz.” Denson has released twelve albums as a leader or co-leader and performs in some 60 concerts annually.  He also spearheads Ridgeway Arts, a nonprofit designed to enhance and fortify the Bay Area scene with educational initiatives, concert presentations and recordings released on Denson’s Ridgeway Records label.

About the California Jazz Conservatory
The California Jazz Conservatory is the only independent, accredited music school in the country completely devoted to the study and performance of jazz. CJC offers a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and an Associate of Arts degree in Jazz Studies; the non-degree-granting Jazzschool at CJC offers over 100 classes and workshops on a quarterly basis; the “CJC Weekend” series presents concerts in two intimate venues featuring visiting artists, students and faculty. For more information about CJC, visit

For Immediate Release / Contact Paul Fingerote
831.373.3343 /

Jazz Voices From Way Out West

Back in March, SFJAZZ hosted a community forum for Bay Area musicians, many of whom expressed frustration at the organization’s seeming lack of interest in showcasing original music by the region’s resident artists. In the meeting’s aftermath there have been a few signs that SFJAZZ’s doors are opening, like the Nov. 4 Joe Henderson Lab premiere of El Cerrito trumpeter Ian Carey’s Fire in My Head (The Anxiety Suite), an extended work written with the support Chamber Music America’s 2016 New Jazz Works program.

Read Complete Article

The Next Generation Jazz Festival Full Tuition Scholarship

The California Jazz Conservatory Announces
The Next Generation Jazz Festival Full Tuition Scholarship

The California Jazz Conservatory is awarding a full tuition scholarship
to a well-deserving Next Generation Jazz Festival participant!
This is a four-year scholarship to the only independent, accredited college
in America completely devoted to the study and performance of jazz.
You’ll learn from and work with a faculty of artists/educators who are
unequalled in their ability to transform musicians into artists.

Applications are available this weekend only, so drop by our booth for
details and sign-up today!

(Applications Available This Weekend Only at Our Booth)

Jazz venue’s opening week in Berkeley packs in music fans

San Francisco Chronicle
By Andrew Gilbert | March 5, 2018

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Hovering around the door to Rendon Hall, the intimate 85-seat theater in the California Jazz Conservatory’s new Fiddler Annex, Susan Muscarella looked anxious on Sunday, March 4. Since opening on Wednesday, Feb. 28, the Berkeley venue had been packed every night for concerts focusing on foundational conservatory faculty, like Brazilian pianist Marcos Silva and singer Laurie Antonioli, with disappointed fans turned away at the door.

Sunday’s sold-out show featured another faculty mainstay, trumpeter Erik Jekabson and his 17-piece Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, but Muscarella was fretting about logistics and the show running behind schedule.

“We still have to wrinkle out some irons,” she said, turning a cliche into mysterious koan (which is a pretty good description of jazz).


Read Complete Article


Women’s History Month brings a wealth of great concerts to SF Bay Area

…Ashkenaz isn’t the only venue showcasing the Bay Area’s deep bench of groundbreaking women musicians. The California Jazz Conservatory celebrates the opening of its new Fiddler Annex (across the street from its main downtown Berkeley campus) with a talent-packed run of shows, including the Montclair Women’s Big Band on March 1, vocalist Laurie Antonioli and the American Dreams Band with special guest Theo Bleckmann on March 2, and Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir on March 3.

Saxophonist Jean Fineberg, who co-leads the Montclair big band, debuts a new female-centric octet JAZZphoria on March 9, and on March 23 she and trumpeter Ellen Seeling, her Montclair partner, present a free concert marking the end of the weeklong Women’s Jazz & Blues Camp, an intensive program of ensembles and classes in jazz, blues, Latin styles, improvisation, percussion techniques and jazz history.

Read Complete Article

California Jazz Conservatory marks 20 years with new concert venue in Berkeley arts district

San Francisco Chronicle
Sam Whiting
| on February 26, 2018

Susana Pineda was studying vocal jazz at a university in Medellin, Colombia, when the American singer Madeline Eastman came to perform in 2013. After the show, Pineda tracked Eastman down for a career tip.

“She said, ‘There’s this really cool jazz school in California,’” recalls Pineda, who followed that lead to the California Jazz Conservatory.

That title suggests something more than what turns out to be the basement of a bookstore in downtown Berkeley. But downstairs, Pineda discovered the only accredited stand-alone music college devoted to jazz and related styles of music in the United States.

“I found everything I needed here,” says Pineda, now 26, with a bachelor’s in jazz studies, a CD and a touring act. “My bandmates, my producers, my mentors and my vocal sound.”

Her only regret is that it ended two months too soon. In December, Pineda gave her final recital in a makeshift concert hall where you can hear the footsteps of people shopping for books overhead.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, the conservatory will emerge from this basement to open Rendon Hall, an intimate, 100-seat performance venue designed to evoke the spirit of Minton’s Playhouse, the famous Harlem club that gave rise to the style of jazz known as bebop.

An expansion of the main campus, which will stay open, Rendon Hall is the centerpiece of a $3.5 million build-out into the ground floor of a brick storefront. Called the Jerry Fiddler Annex, it will include the conservatory’s first-ever music library of 8,000 titles, largely on vinyl with turntables for playing them.

Read Complete Article

The California Jazz Conservatory on the March

Susan Muscarella speaks softly and carries big ambitions. Meeting up with her at the California Jazz Conservatory campus on a recent sunny afternoon in downtown Berkeley, she walked me across Addison Street to the new Fiddler Annex, which was in the final stages of construction. With office space, a student lounge, five practice rooms, and a large-ensemble studio, a library overflowing with LPs, CDs, and decades-old copies of Downbeat, and the 85-seat Rendon Hall concert space, the Annex expansion takes Muscarella one large step closer to her master plan.

“We’re making this the Juilliard of the West Coast,” she says, without a hint of braggadocio or hubris. The claim might seem grandiose, but you underestimate this woman at your peril. The CJC’s founder, president, and dean of instruction (and a formidable pianist in her own right), Muscarella has patiently shepherded the institution since she launched it 20 years ago in cramped quarters above a French cafe on Shattuck Avenue. Long known as the Jazzschool (the name still used for the CJC’s popular community music school), the nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation took on a new identity in 2014 when it earned accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music.

Read Complete Article


Jazz Education Leader Expands Berkeley Facilities With New Classrooms, New State-of-the-Art Practice Rooms, New Listening Library and New 100-Seat Performance Space

20th Anniversary Marked With Associate of Arts Degree Program Blue/Green Advanced Ensembles North American Roots Concentration Strategic Partnership with Monterey Jazz Festival


February 20, 2018; Berkeley, California; The California Jazz Conservatory, the only independent, accredited school in America completely devoted to the study and performance of jazz, has announced the “Dawn of a New Decade”––­­a weeklong series of concerts and events celebrating the launch of the third decade of the iconic Berkeley jazz education institution.

Established in 1997 as the Jazzschool, a year-round community music education program, the California Jazz Conservatory has grown into an accredited, independent college offering a 4-year Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies degree (since 2009) and a new Associate of Arts Degree in Jazz Studies (since 2017), as well as continuing to offer its popular Jazzschool classes, workshops, summer jazz camps and intensives––a 20-year tradition of leadership in music education in the Berkeley arts community.

With the advent of its third decade, the Conservatory is taking significant steps to expand its programs and grow its facilities, plans and partnerships.

The most visible addition to the organization’s future is the Conservatory’s new 5,550 square foot annex––located at 2040 Addison Street, directly across the street from CJC’s current location––named in honor of CJC board member Jerry Fiddler. Jerry Fiddler Annex will more than double the size and scope of the Conservatory’s facilities and offerings, adding new classrooms, state-of-the-art practice facilities, a 16-station keyboard lab, and a new 100-seat performance venue, Rendon Hall. The expansion will also allow for the establishment of a much needed listening library, a new student lounge, and the addition of new office space.

The grand opening celebrations will commence on Saturday, February 24th, with an invitation-only party in honor of “those donors, faculty members, students and volunteers who have helped us reach this landmark occasion,” commented Susan Muscarella, CJC Founder, President and Dean of Instruction.

Entertainment for the VIP launch event and weeklong series of concerts is focused on performances by its students and teaching artists, reflecting the growth of the California Jazz Conservatory.

For the February 24th concert, students will be showcased in a performance by the Conservatory’s Blue Ensemble (see below), under the direction of CJC faculty member and bassist Jeff Denson. CJC faculty member, bassist Glenn Richman, will lead “Jazz Standards for Gigs” in concert. The evening will close with Cuban son, danzon, bolero and jazz by “Calle Ocho,” featuring CJC Board of Directors member and percussionist Rita Hargrave.

Other events in the week-long celebrations include:

  • Sunday, February 25th, 4:30 pm: Marcos Silva Group, led by CJC faculty member Marcos Silva, Director of CJC’s Brazilian Department ($25);
  • Monday, February 26th (6:30 pm): Participants in CJC’s Young Musicians Program in concert under the direction of CJC faculty member and Young Musicians Program Director Erik Jekabson ($10);
  • Tuesday, February 27th (8:00 pm): CJC’s Blue and Green Advanced Ensembles perform ($25);
  • Wednesday, February 28th (8:00 pm): An Evening with Jazz in the Neighborhood, featuring Wil Blades and Scott Amendola ($25), kicking off a weekly Jazz in the Neighborhood night at Fiddler Annex with two Bay Area favorites starring in this series opening concert.
  • Thursday, March 1st (8:00 pm): a special appearance by the renowned Montclair Women’s Big Band ($25);
  • Friday, March 2nd (8:00 pm): CJC Vocal Chair Laurie Antoniolli, in a rare appearance with Grammy-nominated singer/composer and CJC Artist-In-Residence Theo Bleckmann ($25);
  • Saturday, March 3rd (8:00 pm): Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Oakland’s own lauded presenter of African American Roots Music and Dance ($25);
  • Sunday, March 4th (4:30 pm): The Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, a 17-piece big band, with added special guest John Santos.

On the academic side, in conjunction with its 20th anniversary in 2017, the Conservatory announced a new, 2-year Associate of Arts degree in Jazz Studies, a unique program consisting of the first two years of CJC’s Bachelor of Music degree program.

Also in 2017, the Conservatory launched the Blue and Green Ensembles, advanced-level opportunities for instrumentalists and vocalists who demonstrate artistic leadership and academic excellence. Ensemble members serve as jazz ambassadors while earning their degree in Jazz Studies from CJC.

In addition, a new area of concentration was added to the Conservatory’s Bachelor of Music degree program in 2017: A concentration in North American Roots Music focusing on examining the stylistic development and cultural origins of North American folkloric music. This new opportunity joins two existing concentrations, allowing Jazz Studies majors to specialize in one of three areas of interest: Brazilian Jazz, Audio Production (presented in conjunction with Berkeley’s famed Fantasy Studios) and the new North American Roots Music focus.

Also announced in 2017 in conjunction with the milestone anniversary: A three-year strategic partnership with another jazz icon, the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival and its Next Generation Jazz Festival, a salute to the future of jazz, held annually in downtown Monterey, California. The California Jazz Conservatory hosted the Next Generation Jazz Festival’s Opening Night Concert in 2017 and committed to hosting the event through 2019. The Conservatory celebrated the partnership with the awarding of scholarships presented to students performing at the Next Generation Jazz Festival.

For more information on the California Jazz Conservatory and to arrange a tour, please contact Paul S. Fingerote, 831.373.3343 or The California Jazz Conservatory is located at 2087 Addison Street, Berkeley, California, 94704. Website is Telephone number is 510.845.5373.


Fiddler Annex Donor Recognition

The completion of our new Jerry Fiddler Annex was made possible by generous donations from the many supporters of the California Jazz Conservatory. Following is a description of some of the highlights to be found in Fiddler Annex.

Jerry Fiddler Annex
Fiddler Annex more than doubles the Conservatory’s capacity, adding new classrooms, practice facilities, a new listening library, a new student lounge, new office space, and a classic, new performance venue, Rendon Hall.

Made possible by a gift from Jerry Fiddler, Board of Directors member and longtime benefactor of the California Jazz Conservatory.

Rendon Hall
Rendon Hall was conceived in the spirit of Minton’s Playhouse, the renowned Harlem nightclub founded by tenor saxophonist Henry Minton in 1938. Like Minton, who generously provided jazz musicians with unconditional support, the California Jazz Conservatory devotes itself to promoting artists and musicians who are, or aspire to be, at the forefront of innovation in jazz.

Made possible by a grant from vocalist Kathi Rendon and her husband trumpeter John Kainlauri, two longtime Conservatory students who provided the seed money for our campus expansion

‘Round Midnight Sculpture
Among the most iconic jazz compositions, ‘Round Midnight, was composed in 1944 by one of bebop’s revered founding fathers, pianist Thelonious “Sphere” Monk (1917 – 1982).

A staple to this day, ‘Round Midnight is one of the most performed and recorded compositions in the history of modern jazz. The sculpture of ‘Round Midnight gracing Rendon Hall was designed and fabricated by artisans at Eclipse Design, with names of supporters impressed on the notes of ‘Round Midnight.

Jennifer A. Maxwell Music Library
A music library for use by students and faculty, with thousands of jazz LPs, CDs and books.

Maxwell Student Lounge
A comfortable place for students to gather together to share ideas and enjoy a break from classes.

The Library, Lounge and ‘Round Midnight Sculpture made possible by a gift from longtime Conservatory student and drummer Jennifer A. Maxwell.

Jazz Studios
A number of donors helped us build and outfit 5 new, state-of-the-art Wenger practice studios.

The Jamey Aebersold Jazz Studio
Named in honor of Jamey Aebersold, one of the world’s most influential and highly esteemed jazz artists and educators.

The Bud Powell Jazz Studio
Made possible by a donation from Friends of the California Jazz Conservatory.

The Duke Ellington Jazz Studio
Made possible by a gift from drummer and longtime California Jazz Conservatory student and Board of Directors emeritus Danny Scher.

The Miles Davis Jazz Studio
Made possible by a gift from longtime California Jazz Conservatory benefactors John and Mary Raitt.

The Betty Carter Jazz Studio
Made possible by a gift from vocalist Hilary Perkins.

The Wayne Shorter Jazz Studio
Made possible by a gift from saxophonist Jerry Povse, longtime California Jazz Conservatory student and member of the California Jazz Conservatory Board of Directors.

The Max Roach Jazz Studio
Made possible by a gift from drummer and California Jazz Conservatory Board of Directors emeritus Bert Lubin.



Zon Guitars Creates JD5 Bass for CJC Professor Jeff Denson





Jazz Industry Leader Crafts One-of-a-Kind

Instrument to Fit Denson’s Specifications


“I’m Completely in Love with This Bass,”

Notes Denson, Acclaimed “Master of the Jazz Bass”

August 24, 2017; Berkeley, California; Zon Guitars, a music industry innovator since its inception in 1981 as a custom guitar and repair shop in Buffalo, New York, has announced Jeff Denson as the recipient of a custom crafted JD5 Bass, designed and produced by the industry leader to Denson’s specifications.

“I’m completely in love with this bass,” noted Denson. “What an amazing experience to have an expert instrument maker like Joe Zon craft an instrument to fit my hands and tonal aesthetics!”

Zon Guitars Founder, Joe Zon, welcomed Denson to the Zon family as an artist who “has balanced a full career as both an acclaimed performing musician and as a highly respected educator. We’re delighted to have this custom crafted JD5 in such talented hands as Jeff Denson’s.”

Susan Muscarella, President and Dean of the Conservatory echoed, “Jeff is the epitome of our faculty’s effectiveness. He is not only an accomplished musician, he’s an expert educator as well. Jeff deserves to have this wonderful instrument in his creative hands.”

Denson, labeled the “Master of the Jazz Bass” by jazz critic Lee Hildebrand, has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe with his own groups – including the renowned cooperative trio Minsarah – and has worked with some of jazz’s finest artists, including an ongoing relationship with the legendary alto saxophonist, Lee Konitz, since 2007. On the recording side, Denson has released over a dozen albums as leader or co-leader and is currently working on several new recording projects.

Denson, who earned his doctorate from the University of California San Diego, currently serves as a full professor at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, as well as working as the Artistic Director of Ridgeway Arts, also located in Berkeley.

In pursuit of building the ultimate instrument, Joe Zon used graphite neck material as a way to enhance the sound and stability of his basses. This new technology, coupled with years of experience in repairs, culminated in a design that was immune to neck warp and twist, ergonomic and lightweight, a design that produced a rich, full tone. Today, the bass world has come to know the name Zon as an instrument of quality craftsmanship, innovation and performance.

Denson couldn’t agree more: “This is a master instrument,” he continued. “The body vibrates with each and every note and it’s extremely responsive to the touch. It can really sing but also give a real punch, too. Zon exceeded my expectations with the JD5!”

Zon Guitars is located at 780 Second Avenue in Redwood City, California, 94063. Their website is Telephone number is 650/366-3516 and they can be reached by e-mail:

The California Jazz Conservatory is located at 2087 Addison Street, Berkeley, California, 94704. Their website is Telephone number is 510/845-5373. They can be reached via e-mail:

Photo Caption:

Jeff Denson and his custom crafted Zon JD5 Bass