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


In partnership with the San Francisco Examiner

As the world pauses each April to show its appreciation for 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 track record of 25 years of leadership and success in jazz.

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

The CJC has become the nation’s only independent, accredited music conservatory devoted solely to the study and performance of the Afro-American-derived art form, jazz, and related music styles.

Susan Muscarella, Founding President, California Jazz Conservatory

While the Jazzschool continues to serve as a community music school (offering classes, short-term workshops, and year-round concerts), the CJC has expanded its educational mission and vision, now awarding a bachelor’s degree in Music in Jazz Studies and an Associate of Arts in Jazz Studies Degrees; and, launching this year, a Masters in Jazz Studies designed for the 21st century singer-songwriter. For more information about CJC, please scan the QR code below or visit

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25 Years of Jazz Appreciation – A Timeline

The Jazzschool opened 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 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 house became Restaurant La Note, an authentic Provençal restaurant (founded by Muscarella’s neighbor and dog-walking companion, Dorothee Mitrani-Bell), which also served as classroom at the end of the afternoon and on weekday evenings. , and as a jazz club on Sunday afternoons. The second floor of the building has been transformed into four small classrooms and an (even smaller) office space. Within two years, the number of students enrolled at Jazzschool had grown to 481 students in 595 classes and workshops, leading to a search for larger quarters.

2000: A wandering jazz club
In 2000, the 7,500 square foot basement of the Kress building became available. Located in the heart of Downtown Berkeley’s Arts District, the basement space was unattractive to most organizations; but for the Jazzschool, its resemblance to a New York jazz club was like hitting the jackpot!

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

2014: The campus doubled in size
With the advent of its curriculum and continued growth, CJC expanded once again in 2014, leasing space across from its 2087 location, at 2040 Addison. “Fiddler Annex” is home to 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 best places in the countries to discover jazz music. Jim Harrington/San Jose Mercury News).

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

2022: “JAMBAR presents the CJC” and more
After overcoming multiple obstacles and some unforeseen infrastructure challenges, CJC is celebrating its silver anniversary this year by launching a new series of concerts and workshops in partnership with JAMBAR Organic Artisan Energy Bars. The ‘JAMBAR Presents CJC’ series launched in early March with a standout performance and workshop by Joe Lovano, who was joined in his concert at Rendon Hall by surprise guest, Joshua Redman.

Why a jazz school?
When asked many times over the years why she opened a jazz school, Muscarella’s answer is always the same: “Since the opening of the jazz school in 1997, people often ask me why I opened a jazz school. The simple explanation is that there was – and still is – no other jazz school for students of all ages and skill levels like this in the Bay Area; thus, he simply filled, and continues to fill, a void. But there was really more than that. I felt the need to create a “real” school of jazz – a school that wholeheartedly and comprehensively honors America’s cherished art form of jazz; one who gives this music, and all who promote it, the respect it, and they, deserve; and which also inspires the creation of new works.

“In 1995, I began to build the school of jazz that I had envisioned for so many years. Looking back, it was emotion rather than logic that mattered most in the final decision. Even I – although I loved jazz – knew that opening a school dedicated to the study and performance of jazz was not the most prudent endeavour! , I just wanted to share with others opportunities to listen, learn, and play jazz – opportunities that have brought me so much joy throughout my life. That was probably the real Holy Grail. What could be more rewarding, both personally and professionally?

For 25 years, Muscarella has been sharing this holy grail with thousands of people who appreciate jazz, giving them the opportunity to listen, learn and play jazz – and also bringing them joy, a rewarding way for us all to appreciate jazz. .

Connect with the CJC
Instagram: @californiajazzconservatory
Twitter: @CJCBerk


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