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The California Jazz Conservatory: 25 Years at the Forefront of Jazz Appreciation, Education and Performance

The CJC has grown to become the only independent, accredited music conservatory in the country devoted solely to the study and performance of the African American-originated art form, jazz, and related styles of music

In partnership with Nob Hill Gazette

While the world pauses every April to show its appreciation of jazz, the California Jazz Conservatory (CJC) appreciates and celebrates jazz every day of the year. For a quarter of a century, the CJC has been at the forefront of jazz education and performance in Berkeley, the Bay Area, and beyond, establishing a 25-year track record of leadership and success in jazz.

Originally established as the “Jazzschool” in 1997, the California Jazz Conservatory was founded by Bay Area jazz pianist, artist-educator and arts administrator Susan Muscarella, as a non-degree-granting, community music school, specializing in the teaching and performance of jazz.

The CJC has grown to become the only independent, accredited music conservatory in the country devoted solely to the study and performance of the African American-originated art form, jazz, and related styles of music.

Susan Muscarella, Founding President, California Jazz Conservatory

While the Jazzschool continues to serve as a community music school (offering classes, short-term workshops, and concerts throughout the year), the CJC has expanded its educational mission and vision, now awarding Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies and Associate of Arts in Jazz Studies degrees; and, launching this year, a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies designed for the 21st century composer-performer. For more information about the CJC, please scan the QR code below or visit
cjc.edu.

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25-Years of Jazz Appreciation – A Timeline

The Jazzschool opened its doors to the public on Sunday, September 15, 1997, in the Wallace W. Clark Building (“The Yellow House”) at 2375 Shattuck Avenue.


1997: The Wallace W. Clark Building 

The Jazzschool opened its doors to the public on Sunday, September 15, 1997, in the Wallace W. Clark Building (“The Yellow House”) at 2375 Shattuck Avenue. The 1,680 square-foot first floor of the school’s first home became La Note Restaurant, an authentic Provençal restaurant (founded by Muscarella’s neighbor and dog-walking companion, Dorothee Mitrani-Bell), which doubled as a classroom in the late afternoons and on weeknights, and as a jazz club on Sunday afternoons. The building’s second floor was turned into four small classrooms and one (even smaller) office space. Within two years, the Jazzschool’s student enrollment had grown to 481 students in 595 classes and workshops, leading to a search for larger quarters.

2000: A Walkdown Jazz Club
In 2000, the 7,500 square-foot basement of the Kress Building became available. Located in the heart of the Downtown Berkeley Arts District, the basement space was unattractive to most organizations; but for the Jazzschool, its likeness to a New York City walkdown jazz club was like hitting the jackpot!

Renowned Berkeley architect Donn Logan turned the dark and dreary 7,500-square-foot shoebox into a well-lit, hip-looking “jazz city” of secondary color-coordinated classrooms, practice rooms, office spaces, a jazz bookstore (The Bassment), and concert space (Hardymon Hall, named after pioneering Berkeley jazz educator, Phil Hardymon). For the visiting public, space was allocated for what was to become The Jazzcaffè, a popular spot for locals and visitors taking advantage of the arts district’s many entertainment and dining offerings.

2014: The Campus Doubles in Size
With the advent of its degree programs and continued growth, the CJC expanded once more in 2014, leasing space across the street from its 2087 location, at 2040 Addison. “Fiddler Annex” houses state-of-the-art classrooms, practice rooms, a student lounge, a listening and reading library, a new location for The Jazzcaffè, and Rendon Hall (“…ranks among the very best places in the nation to experience jazz music.” Jim Harrington / San Jose Mercury News).

Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Joe Lovano is joined by surprise guest, DownBeat Critics Poll winner, Joshua Redman, in the launch of CJC’s “JAMBAR Presents…” series.


2022: “JAMBAR Presents the CJC” and More
After overcoming multiple obstacles and some unforeseen infrastructure challenges, the CJC is celebrating its Silver Anniversary this year by launching a new concert and workshop series in partnership with JAMBAR Organic Artisan Energy Bars. The “JAMBAR Presents the CJC” series launched in early March with an off-the-charts performance and workshop by Joe Lovano, who was joined in his Rendon Hall concert by surprise guest, Joshua Redman.

Why a Jazz School?
Asked many times over the years why she started a jazz school, Muscarella’s answer is always the same: “Ever since the Jazzschool opened in 1997, I am often asked why I started a jazz school. The simple explanation is that there was – and still is – no other jazz school for students of all ages and levels like it in the Bay Area; so, it simply filled, and continues to fill, a void. But there was really more to it than that. I felt the need to start a “real” jazz school – one that wholeheartedly and comprehensively honors America’s treasured jazz art form; one that gives this music and all who promote it, the respect it, and they, deserve; and one that also inspires the creation of new work.

“In 1995, I began building the jazz school I had envisioned for so many years. Looking back, it was emotion rather than logic that factored most heavily into the ultimate decision. Even I – as much as I loved jazz – knew that opening a school devoted to the study and performance of jazz was not the most prudent undertaking! A jazz pianist myself, I simply wanted to share with others opportunities to listen to, learn about and play jazz – opportunities that had brought me such joy throughout my own life. That was probably the real Holy Grail. What could be more rewarding, both personally and professionally?”

For 25 years, Muscarella has shared that Holy Grail with thousands of people who appreciate jazz, giving them the opportunity to listen to, learn about and play jazz – and bringing joy to them as well, a rewarding way for all of us to appreciate jazz.

Connect with The CJC
Facebook: facebook.com/CaliforniaJazzConservatory
Instagram: @californiajazzconservatory
Twitter: @CJCBerk Website: cjc.edu

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