Dr. David W. Tucker conducting the big band at a cafeteria concert.

About UC Jazz

Mission Statement

UC Jazz Ensembles is dedicated to fostering a community for the performance, study, and promotion of jazz at UC Berkeley.

About UC Jazz

UC Jazz is one of three groups, including the Cal Band and UC Choral Ensembles that comprise Student Musical Activities (SMA), a department within Cal Performances.

UC Jazz provides rehearsal space and instruction for eight to ten ensembles each year, composed primarily of UC Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students from every academic discipline.

Currently UC Jazz consists of nine small combos and one big band. The small combos range in experience from beginning to advanced, and includes a vocal ensemble. UC Jazz also holds monthly master classes taught by our faculty, and occasionally hosts guest artists from the jazz world for clinics.

In the past, groups from UC Jazz have given free performances and clinics, bringing live music to public schools in districts such as Oakland, which have experienced deep cutbacks in arts spending. We are currently producing a jazz recording to increase our exposure and promote entry into festivals and concert settings. Our goal is to continue to act as musical ambassadors while enhancing our ability to travel to new locations.

Student testimonials

«The importance of UC Jazz on the UC Berkeley campus is vital. I would have never chosen to attend UC Berkeley if UC Jazz did not exist. Our organization exists as the only jazz outlet on campus for students like me who necessitate a jazz community in conjunction with their studies.»
«But through all the challenges college has had to offer, I have found a home and a family with UC Jazz. Oftentimes I would arrive to a rehearsal stressed and stretched to my limit after a grueling day of classes, but as soon as I'd hear the rhythm section going and put my trumpet to my lips, I'd be rejuvenated.»
«UC Jazz was the one place where I had found a community at Cal that I felt I completely fit in. And so, ironically because I was going to transfer to a music school, it was UC Jazz that convinced me to stay at Berkeley. I stayed at Cal because of UC Jazz, and thanks to the friends, experiences, and music here, I have never regretted the decision a single bit.»
«What many people don't realize about UC Jazz is our unique ability to bring students together. Music-making is a powerful tool to unite people, and our musicians become good friends in very short order. It's wonderful to have a place to come and make music with your friends. Before long, UC Jazz starts to feel like home.»
«In my last two years at UC Berkeley, UC Jazz has been an invaluable counterpart to my academic work, both socially and intellectually. When I leave Cal, I will retain memories of these moments among mentors and friends as some of the most challenging and rewarding I have encountered.»
«UC Jazz is virtually my only option for playing the music I love on campus. All the equipment I need is available to me. I am able to practice my skill and learn from other professionals. I perform in concert on a regular basis and I have made so many close friends who share my passion for jazz.»

A Brief History of UC Jazz

In 1966, trumpet player and astronomy grad student Les Golden placed an advertisement in the campus paper calling for student musicians interested in big band jazz and got a lopsided response: 10 of 20 musicians who answered the ad were guitarists. So much for a big band. The following year, Bob Docken, a history major, concert band trombonist, and one of the original respondents to the ad, collaborated with Rick Penner from Thousand Oaks to form the Cal Stage Band. He placed another advertisement in the fall of 1967, and the group began rehearsals in the band room with the permission of Cal Band director Dr. James Berdahl. If Golden provided the impetus for the Jazz Ensembles, Docken was its founder. The first concert took place in the spring of 1968, and Golden wrote an article about it for the Daily Cal.

The organization flourished under the guidance of Dr. David W. Tucker, the arranger of the Golden Bear Marching Band. Although Dr. Tucker found few evening hours to direct the struggling stage band, his rare synthesis of the diplomatic and understanding administrator, the talented and perceptive musical director, and the accomplished jazz arranger and musician, provided an ideal environment for the ambitions, enthusiasm and talent of the student musicians.

UC Jazz Ensembles became an official student organization in 1971 with Dr. Tucker as its first director. The program grew and Susan Muscarella was appointed to the position of Associate Director in 1974. The Ensembles began performing on campus and for the community.

Two major events signified the band's coming of age before the first international tour. In 1972, the big band went to the first jazz festival in Reno. In 1974, after the ensembles began hosting the Pacific Coast Collegiate Jazz Festival, the big band won 3rd place, placing them among the elite bands that included the studio-ringer bands of the Los Angeles area.

Finally, with the summer of 1979 came the first of three major tours. The top big band enjoyed a four-week tour of Europe, playing several major jazz festivals in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Poland. In the summer of 1981 the big band went to the Far East, touring Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka. In 1984 UC Jazz Ensembles was invited to tour again in Japan and forged a name for itself in countries around the world.

In 1984 Dr. Tucker took a sabbatical, announcing his retirement in 1985, and Susan became the Director, appointing saxaphonist Dave LeFebvre Associate Director. From 1985-1989 Susan and Dave focused on recruitment of underrepresented students and designed a curriculum attractive to a more diverse student population. Women played a greater role in both musical and administrative directions of the program. Big bands and combo programs flourished, winning awards at prestigious festivals throughout the state.

Under Dr. Tucker the University of California Jazz Ensembles created a haven where students and community musicians grew musically, and shared their talents with the campus and Berkeley community. Under the guidance of Bevan Manson, who was the Director of UC Jazz from 1998 to 2003, the department grew to include seven part-time instructors. This remains the structure of UC Jazz today, where each instructor coaches one of the combos or big band, and conducts master classes, thereby expanding the depth of jazz instruction available to the UC Jazz students. UC Jazz is currently directed by well-known drummer Ted Moore, who remains faithful to the goals of Dr. Tucker while fostering a love of jazz and a desire to learn this art form in musicians and singers of many different skill levels and musical backgrounds.

UC Jazz: The First Decade

You can learn more about UC Jazz's rich history by visiting UC Jazz: The First Decade. Les Golden developed this web site to commemorate Dr. Tucker. There are some great photos of the Pacific Coast Collegiate Jazz Festival with headliners like Freddie Hubbard and Sonny Rollins!