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Jazzschool arrives on a sweet note

By John Geluardi, Daily Planet staff
Monday January 21, 2002

Before a standing room-only crowd, Madeline Eastman and a three piece ensemble christened the Jazzschool’s Hardymon Hall with the velvety smooth tones that she is known for around the world. 

Eastman performed seven numbers accompanied by pianist Frank Martin, bassist Peter Barshay and drummer Vince Lateano. The numbers celebrated the grand opening of the Jazzschool, which has moved form it’s former location at 2375 Shattuck to 2087 Addison St. right in the middle of the Downtown Berkeley Arts District. 

“In our search for a new home for the Jazzschool, there were two things that were more important than anything else, it had to be in Berkeley and it had to be in the Arts District.” said Founder and Director Susan Muscarella. “And this is more beautiful than I ever expected.” 

Mayor Shirley Dean and Councilmember Polly Armstrong joined the nearly 150 people inside the performance hall while another 150 outside waited patently in a cold wind to come in for a tour of the basement school and catered celebration after the performance.  

“This will add some hip hop to the district,” Armstrong said. “Now people can get great food, great music and great theater all right downtown.” 

The 7,500-square-foot Jazzschool will operate in the basement of the Kress Building at 2087 Addison St. The school, which was founded by Muscarella in 1997, now boasts a 120-seat performance space, seven classrooms and seven practice rooms.  

“When the school opened four years ago there were 200 students,” Jazzschool publicist Merrilee Trost said. “Now we have over 600. We had outgrown our old location two years ago.” 

The $650,000 basement seismic upgrade and renovation, which was designed by Berkeley Rep architect Donn Logan, includes art deco ambiance with hard wood floors and walls containing acoustic materials to keep the classes and practice rooms soundproof. The school will also run a book and CD store as well as a coffee shop. 

Funding for the renovation came in part from a City of Berkeley low-interest loan and part from donations. 

Muscarella named the performance space after the late Phil Hardymon, a jazz instructor who created Berkeley High School’s award winning Berkeley Jazz Project in 1975. According to Trost, the high school program has spawned well-known jazz musicians such as Peter Apfelbaum, Ben Ball, Will Bernard, Dave Ellis, Rodney Franklin, Kito Gamble, Benny Green, Craig Handy, Miles Perkins, Lenny Pickett, Josh Redman and Michael Wolf. 

“Phil had a huge impact on young musicians and he was very important to Susan, so much so she wanted to name the performance space after him,” Trost said. 

Trost said the Jazzschool is expected fit in well in the Downtown Arts District which has recently seen the opening of the Berkeley Repertory Theater, The Aurora Theater and the Capoeira Arts school and café. The Freight and Salvage Coffee House is expected to open in the district sometime this year. 

The Jazzschool offers up to 125 classes a week for students who take classes on a quarterly basis. “Our students are predominately middle and high school aged but we attract all ages,” Trost said. “Our youngest student is 9 and our oldest is in her 80s.” 

In addition to music classes, four of which are accredited by UC extension, there are two non-music courses, Jazz History and Jazz Appreciation. 

“Susan believes that music education should include performing,” Trust said. “So every Friday there will be an informal student performance from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.” 

The Jazzschool provides scholarships for deserving students through the Educational Scholarship Fund, which is administered by the East Bay Community Foundation.  

For more information call (510) 845-5373 or visit the school’s Web site at