Jazzschool gears up for summer concerts

By Joe Jakovac Special to the Daily Planet
Friday June 15, 2001

Jazzschool founder and director Susan Muscarella couldn’t be more pleased as the private music school enters its fourth year of operation. 

A former director of the UC Berkeley jazz program with a reputation as a highly-regarded performing jazz pianist and educator, Muscarella says the school offers students of all ages and skill levels one of the most comprehensive programs devoted to jazz study and performance in the country. Today, the school is a thriving learning and performance community, enrolling an average of 500 students quarterly.  

The school offers courses in all jazz styles and many related idioms, including a new workshop that teaches the ancient oral (no written notation) traditions of the people of Bali through orchestral singing, interlocking rhythms, and an array of exotic percussion instruments.  

In addition, the school offers a limited number of courses for academic credit through a partnership with UC Berkeley Extension. 

Muscarella’s recruiting strategy finds its strength in the professional relationships and friendships she has forged over the years: “The faculty are people I have played with or have known about for many years, and all possess a high level of musicianship,” says Muscarella. “I haven’t had to twist anybody’s arm.”  

Vocal music arranger Greg Murai leads the Vocal Jazz Ensemble, a small group selected by audition to study and perform jazz harmony.  

Popular local diva Brenda Boykin, teaches the Blues Funshop, a wide-open romp through the many incarnations of the blues, from its early gospel roots to its influence on rock music.  

The Jazzschool offers instruction for a multitude of string, woodwind, and percussion instruments in small ensembles and big band settings. Brazilian pianist and composer Marcos Silva will teach five sections of a six-piece ensemble this summer quarter, featuring works by internationally renowned Brazilian artists Ivan Lins, Dori Caymi and Antonio Carlos Jobim. The school employs over 90 faculty members teaching nearly 70 courses. 

Throughout the academic year, Muscarella hosts Sunday afternoon concerts for faculty and other local and visiting musicians.  

Each quarter culminates with a week-long student recital series, an opportunity for students to take what they have learned and craft a performance before a live audience.  

The Jazzschool Students’ Summer Concert Series allows students to showcase their musicianship in a professional context, performing full sets that may include “fresh takes” on standard melodies and original compositions. The monthlong event is scheduled to begin July 15.  

Recently, the Jazzschool sponsored a benefit concert for the prestigious Berkeley High School jazz program, featuring the BHS jazz band.  

The fund-raiser netted $575 to support jazz education and performance development.  

“I was really happy for the opportunity to have them perform at this concert and hope for more in the future,” Muscarella said, adding that Berkeley High’s jazz director, Charles Hamilton, is a member of the Jazzschool Advisory Board.  

The Jazzschool offers scholarships through the East Bay Community Foundation, making private instruction affordable for many BHS students and other low-income music students. 

Due to burgeoning enrollment, faculty and curriculum growth, the Jazzschool will officially open on Sept. 23 at a new location: the S. H. Kress Building at 2087 Addison St., in the heart of Berkeley’s new downtown arts district. The basement milieu occupies 7,500 square feet, over three times the floor space of the school’s present facility, a quaint two-story Victorian at 2375 Shattuck Ave.  

The new digs will contain soundproof classrooms, practice rooms, a music library and a 120-seat auditorium and performance space for students, faculty and visiting artists.  

Muscarella plans to open the performance space – which will be dedicated to the memory of Phil Hardymon, creator of Berkeley High’s jazz program – to students for regularly scheduled evening concerts on Fridays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Other amenities and resources include a café, a bookstore for educational material, and teaching aids such as music CDs and videos.  

Jazz diva and educator Madeline Eastman will kick off the new school’s opening with a concert followed by a public reception.  

For tuition and enrollment information call the Jazzschool at 845-5373 or visit its Web site at www.jazzschool.com.