California Jazz Conservatory Salutes 25 Years of Accomplishments by CJC Grads and Jazzschool Alums; Small Classes, Individual Attention, Focus on Jazz, Credited for Success

BERKELEY, Calif., Nov. 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The California Jazz Conservatory (CJC) is celebrating its silver anniversary in 2022 with a salute to the many accomplishments achieved by CJC degree program graduates and by alumni of the Jazzschool – CJC’s community music program – over the past 25 years.

With performance at the center of the CJC curriculum, alumni continue to advance their careers on the stage and in the recording studio. Significant achievements include Jazzschool alum Elena Pinderhughes appearing on Herbie Hancock’s upcoming album; CJC grad Ruthie Dineen – who serves as Executive Director, East Bay Center for the Performing Arts – is the founder and co-leader of Negative Press Project; and CJC grad Casey Mattson, whose “Alien Boy,” in collaboration with his fellow Santa Cruz musician, Oliver Tree, went Platinum.

One outstanding success story in point is Venezuelan music specialist, Jackie Rago, a longtime teacher and student at the Jazzschool, who recently appeared with John Batiste, performing his “American Symphony,” in Carnegie Hall. Jackie’s list of accolades include recognition by The Rockefeller Foundation, California Arts Council, The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Foundation, among many others.

Additional achievements by CJC students and Jazzschool alumni include:

  • Command performances at the White House and United Nations (Zach Ostroff, Jazzschool alum)

  • Participant, Latin Grammy Award-winning Yo Me Llamo Cumbia; MFA degree from California Institute of Arts (Susana Pineda, CJC Class of 2017)

  • Multiple composition awards from DownBeat Magazine; ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award (Michael Orenstein, Jazzschool alum)

  • Recognition by multiple international jazz festivals and music competitions (Shimpei Ogawa, CJC Class of 2020)

  • Featured on Piano Jazz with Marianne McPartland (Julian Pollack, Jazzschool alum)

  • Performed on NBC Today Show; First Place, Jazz Search West (Dan Neville, CJC Class of 2021)

  • Awarded Dick Hindman Piano Prize; finalist, Jazz Search West; winning combo, Reno Jazz Festival (Michael Echaniz, CJC Class of 2018)

  • Earned Bachelor of Music from CJC at 17 years of age; member, CJC honor combo, Blue Ensemble, (Isaiah Harwood, CJC Class of 2021)

  • Recipient, George Peabody Gardner Fellowship from Harvard (Kazemde George, Jazzschool Alum)

  • Recipient, Make Jazz Fellowship; Rising Star, Voyage Houston (Malachi Whitson, Jazzschool Alum)

CJC grads and Jazzschool alumni have played with the likes of Kenny Barron, Brian Blade, Terrence Blanchard, Common, Taylor Eigsti, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Harland, Tootie Heath, Eddie Henderson, Angelique Kidjo, Hubert Laws, Joe Lovano, Wynton Marsalis, John Pizzarelli, Joshua Redman, David Sanborn, Carlos Santana; and with CJC faculty, Gerald Cleaver, Jeff Denson, John Santos, and Dann Zinn.

CJC Founding President Susan Muscarella saluted the alumni, saying “It is so gratifying to have played a part in the success of so many of our students by offering them individual attention from talented artist educators, with a singular focus on jazz. We salute our CJC grads and Jazzschool alums for their accomplishments.”

For more information about the CJC, please contact Paul Fingernote at 831-373-3343 or

SOURCE California Jazz Conservatory