UC Jazz Ensembles is dedicated to fostering a community for the performance, study, and promotion of jazz at UC Berkeley.
About UC Jazz Ensembles
UC Jazz Ensembles is an on-campus music performance program dedicated to the performance, study, and promotion of jazz at the University of California, Berkeley. Each year, UC Jazz consists of roughly ten to twelve small combos filled with undergraduate students/graduate students of ANY major or field and friends from the community. Each combo rehearses for two hours a week, and musicians frequently get together to practice or jam in their free time. We perform a wide range of styles, from latin to contemporary.
We host and perform at a wealth of exciting on- or near-campus events each semester, including Thursday noon shows in the MLK Student Union, the “Jazz in the Basement” evening concert series, and the bi-annual showcase at the luxurious Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley. Members of UC Jazz also perform at various departmental events around campus.
The first UC Jazz concert took place in 1968, and the 2017-2018 academic year marks the 50th anniversary of UC Jazz! We are proud to be part of an ongoing musical and creative tradition.
UC Jazz is directed by drummer, percussionist, composer/arranger, and jazz educator Ted Moore, and combos are instructed by a faculty consisting of some of the best pro jazz musicians and jazz educators from around the Bay Area: saxophonist Dann Zinn, pianist Frank Martin, bassist Glenn Richman, and trombonist Marty Wehner. A team of UC Jazz members called the Officers are responsible for helping to direct the organization and promote our events.
UC Jazz is a member of Student Musical Activities, the parent organization of the University of California Marching Band (Cal Band) and the UC Choral Ensembles. While we aren’t associated with the Music Department, we collaborate with them once a year, and music majors can receive credit for participating in a UC Jazz ensemble. Our rehearsal studios are located in the basement of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, at the end of the long hallway. Auditions for UC Jazz are held at the beginning of every fall semester, but it is sometimes possible to arrange an audition at the beginning of the spring semester by contacting our director, Ted Moore, via our website.
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.
Though I didn't always anticipate it, UC Jazz was the core of my Berkeley experience and made a enormous positive impact on my life, both while I was on campus and after I graduated. UCJ is such a rare institution- a dedicated jazz program that is open to non-music majors- and the program's ability to bring together talented and well-rounded students from across a large research university was such an joyful gift that I did not take for granted.
Musically, the incredible teachers and fellow musicians at UC Jazz challenged me in a serious but supportive way. They encouraged me to delve deeper into the language of the jazz tradition while also supporting the development of my own individual voice, a balance that can be tough to achieve! Years later, I'm still working on putting lessons learned at UC Jazz into action. UCJ provided me with space, support, and a network of fellow musicians that helped me launch my career as a professional musician.
Participating in UC Jazz gave me an instant community, a community that comforted me with the awareness that it's possible to take a career in music seriously but also have an interest in, say, environmental science (or political science, or neurology, etc). This non-binary way of thinking: 'we don't have to be just one thing or the other' continues to inspire my career choices to this day.
I met some of my best friends at UC Jazz, and the small, tight-knit community fostered by the ensembles helped make the giant university feel warm, safe, and welcoming. UC Jazz felt like a home-away-from-home while on campus.
I am extraordinarily grateful for UC Jazz, the people who make it what it is, and the program's commitment to bring out the artful side of anyone who walks through its doors. For anyone who is considering supporting UC Jazz or participating, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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.