Education & Outreach Program


The Educational/ Community Outreach component has been designed to coordinate with the Outreach Program of the California Jazz Conservatory (CJC) under the direction of Dr. Jeff Denson in his position of Director of Outreach and full-time professor. The program has a triple purpose of 1) exposing primary and secondary students to the profound legacy of jazz; 2) providing opportunities for young musicians to learn from and perform with top professionals of both local and national renown; and 3) fortifying the Bay Area scene to make it attractive to graduating students to remain in the area to make their professional contributions to the jazz legacy.

Jeff’s educational credentials are impeccable, combining the classic jazz tradition of bandstand experience with the finest in formal education. Along with his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Contemporary Music Performance with an Emphasis in Composition from the University of California San Diego, Jeff holds two degrees in Jazz: a B.M. in Performance from Berklee College of Music and a M.M. in Jazz Studies from Florida State University. Currently with 12 years of collegiate teaching experience under his belt (two at FSU, five at UCSD and the last five as a full professor at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, CA) along with years of experience giving master classes at conservatories and colleges in the US and Europe, Dr. Denson has a wide educational vantage point from to teach students from divergent musical backgrounds.

Jeff’s bandstand experience began on the Washington D.C. scene under the personal mentorship of important DC Area jazz elders, Pepe Gonzalez, Herb Smith and the world-renowned bass great, Butch Warren. Over the past 15 years has performed all over the world as leader and sideman with many of the music’s leading figures, while also recording 10 albums as leader/co-leader and more than a dozen more as a featured sideman. To this day, he has successfully balanced his careers as both highly committed educator and outstanding leader. This combination of highest education and in-the-trenches knowledge of the professional side of jazz makes him uniquely qualified to usher young and committed students into the challenging world of jazz artistry and professionalism.

From his position as Outreach Director for the CJC, Jeff is nurturing young musicians into the world of professional performance, promoting partnerships and relationships among various elements of the Bay Area scene. A key part of his mission is to provide that special growth experience of allowing young musicians to share the bandstand side by side with the professionals with whom they will become colleagues in the future. His ultimate goal is to not only foster this emerging talent, but also to create an atmosphere of activity and productivity that is intended to make the local scene a viable professional option for young musicians. It’s his hope that this will keep this young talent in the area rather than departing for other cities in search of career success.

Much of the activity from this program will be integrated into the Ridgeway Presents program and hopefully down the line into Ridgeway’s other programs, including Ridgeway Records, where a project dedicated to assisting high quality student musicians in recording and releasing their initial albums is in the planning.

“As an educator I want to pass on my passion for music to the next generation and to help foster a community that contributes works of depth and meaning to a world that so desperately needs it.”

– Dr. Jeff Denson

For more information about Jeff Denson as both artist and educator, visit and

Ridgeway Arts is dedicated to developing the Bay Area educational and performance scene. Your support enables us to sustain a variety of programs and meet administrative and operational objectives. Basically, your contributions keep us moving forward in our mission to further the preservation and growth of jazz and related styles of music.

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