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Jazzschool presents summer music series

By Dan Greenman Daily Planet Staff
Saturday July 08, 2000

In the next two months, jazz fans will be in for a treat, complements of Berkeley’s Jazzschool, which will be offering free concerts twice a week throughout July and August. 

Housed in a cramped 125-year-old Victorian building at 2375 Shattuck Ave., the Jazzschool has offered a wide array of classes to Bay Area residents of all ages and occupations for the last three years, and concerts have always been an integral part of the program. 

“Right now it’s just this funky little place,” says Jazzschool publicist Merrilee Frost. “It’s very Berkeley.” 

Susan Muscarella, a well-known pianist in the Bay Area jazz scene, started the Jazzschool in 1997. It was, and still is, the only place of its kind. While other organizations offer brief workshops throughout the year, no other school on the West Coast offers teaching and performance of jazz year-round. 

“I thought it was really important to combine the study and performance under one roof and for students to be able to perform what they are studying,” Muscarella said. 

Concerts begin July 16 and run Thursdays and Sundays through Aug. 24. Almost all of the concerts feature two or three different groups or performers, all of which are comprised of Jazzschool students. 

The Jazzschool has grown from about 150 students when it started to over 450 students of all ages and talents. Some students are in grade school, others are in their 70s. Most students are in high school or adults, and they hail from all over the Bay Area. 

The Jazzschool offers over 40 instrumental and vocal classes in four sessions over the course of the year. All classes are taught by high level professional musicians and local jazz historians. Adult classes cover everything from “Jazz Ensemble” to “A Blues Survey” to “Vocal Technique.” The school also offers four different children’s classes. 

“If you had a special issue, I could design a class for you,” Muscarella said. 

It shares the building with Restaurant La Note, which becomes a classroom after hours and houses all of the Jazzschool’s performances. 

Professional musicians traditionally held performances on Sunday afternoons in association with the Jazzschool. At the end of each quarter, the students would have recitals, showcasing what they learned. This summer, for the first time, Jazzschool students will be performing in La Note every week. 

Because the Jazzschool has gotten so popular, 26 groups will take the stage this summer instead of the usual eight. The Instrumentalists’ Series is every Sunday at 4:30 p.m. from July 16 to Aug. 20. The Vocalists’ Series is Thursdays at 7 p.m. from July 20 to Aug. 24. 

The John Papini Trio and the Brad Niven Trio kick off the summer concert series on July 16. The John Papini Trio plays standards by jazz composers, such as Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock. The Brad Niven Trio plays music by Chick Corea, Lyle Mays, Miles Davis, and others. 

The first vocalists’ concert on July 20 features Samaya, Albert Conway, Jr. and Jayne Ash. 

“I’m giving them the opportunity to put these performances together,” Muscarella said. “I don’t base it by skill level, but there are some really high-level performances.” 

Admission is free but seating is limited to 60, so reservations are suggested. To make a reservation, call 510-845-5373 or email