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.
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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
A message from Founder and President Susan Muscarella
Welcome to California Jazz Conservatory!
If you’ve arrived at this site expecting to see the former Jazzschool masthead, you may be surprised by our new name and logo. I am delighted to share with you the exciting news that has initiated this change.
Over the past four years, the Jazzschool Institute (our degree-granting program) has undergone a rigorous accreditation process administered by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Founded in 1924, NASM is the accrediting agency for educational institutions providing training in music and music-related disciplines. The organization establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees and other credentials, and represents some 647 accredited schools, conservatories, colleges and universities.
Accreditation signifies that the institution has met the high artistic, pedagogical, academic and administrative standards set by NASM. Having successfully met these criteria, our four-year Bachelor of Music Degree in Jazz Studies program takes its place among the nation’s leading music academies; and, as a qualified institution of higher learning, California Jazz Conservatory becomes the only accredited free-standing music conservatory devoted to the study and performance of jazz and related styles of music in the United States.
In addition to offering a comprehensive education in jazz, the Conservatory will now qualify for U.S. Government student loan programs and be eligible to admit students from abroad – two measures of advancement that contribute to growing a rich and diverse artistic community long into the future.
As we approached this important milestone, our Board of Directors felt that the school merited an identity that aligns with the standards of excellence manifested by NASM accreditation, and one that is consistent with our mission. California Jazz Conservatory clearly articulates the seriousness and purpose of our objectives, and therefore, this month the institution transitions to the new name.
The California Jazz Conservatory will continue to be home to the Jazzschool Community Music School (JCMS), where a distinguished faculty of professional musicians and music educators teach dozens of instrumental, vocal, ensemble, composition, theory and improvisation courses in the non-degree-granting program each quarter. Enrollment in the JCMS is now close to capacity. As the heart of the Bay Area jazz community’s continuing education scene, the JCMS provides a forum for creatively minded practitioners as well as the enthusiastic audience member. Short-term workshops and concerts will continue to complement the coursework at the California Jazz Conservatory, as well.
I want to thank the faculty, staff, students and board members of the California Jazz Conservatory who contributed their time and talent through the accreditation process. We had set a high and worthy goal for ourselves and reached it through our collective passion for the music.
I welcome you to share in the extraordinary music-making that has become a hallmark of California Jazz Conservatory and look forward to seeing you in our classes and workshops, and at our concerts!
By Zoe Young Oakland Tribune Correspondent
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.
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Published 2:22 pm, Wednesday, February 26, 2014
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.”
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