Our panel of outstanding musicians/mentors have been chosen for their lifelong commitment to the art form as performers and teachers.
Bob Athayde • Terrence Brewer • Clairdee • Mary Fettig • Kellye Gray • Erik Jekabson • Darren Johnston • Lisa Mezzacappa • Ami Molinelli • John Santos • Marcus Shelby • Akira Tana
Bob Athayde is the Music Director at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette. He’s been teaching for 31 years. He loves music, and he loves teaching. Stanley Middle School has six bands and three jazz ensembles – nine instrumental musical groups in all. Three hundred of Stanley’s students – fully one-quarter of the student body – are involved in a band of one sort or another.
Bob is all about high standards and high expectations. He says, “If a kid can be sparked, then I’m going to find a way to spark him.” He pushes the kids to achieve their potential. And they do. His students have won national awards from DownBeat magazine and the Monterey Jazz Festival/NeXT Generation Festival. A number have become professional musicians. He brings professional musicians on campus frequently to talk with and play with the students. He founded the Lafayette Summer Music Workshop, a summer jazz camp. He brings his students all over town to perform in different venues.
Bob uses music as a vehicle to help his students mature emotionally, socially and intellectually, and builds teamwork. Right up on the front of the board is his motto: “We all play together.” It permeates everything that happens in his classes. Bob has received a number of awards, including “Outstanding California Band Teacher” from the California Music Educators Association in 2007, and the KDFC Outstanding Music Educator Award. Click here for more information on Bob Athayde.
Saxophonist/flutist Mary Fettig has recorded and toured with such greats as Stan Kenton, Marian McPartland, Tito Puente, Flora Purim and Airto, playing jazz festivals throughout the world, including Concord, Monterey, Playboy, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Mary Lou Williams at Kennedy Center, Montreaux, Borneo and North Sea.
She has many studio credits in film, television, video games and radio. In San Francisco she played 25 different Broadway shows in the pit orchestras as a woodwind doubler and regularly performs with the San Francisco Symphony. She is on the San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty. Mary’s own recordings include “In Good Company”, “Relativity”, and her newest release, “Brazilian Footprints”. Click here for more information on Mary Fettig.
With her stunning musicality and warm, enveloping voice, Texas native Kellye Gray is one of the most accomplished jazz vocalists on the national scene. Over her twenty-year career, Grayʼs profile has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, recording a half-dozen albums as a leader and logging performances nationally and internationally at world-class venues and festivals including Lincoln Center, the Spoleto Festival, Yoshiʼs and SFJAZZ. She has been onstage with legends Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Etta James and Arnett Cobb. Her debut, Standards In Gray broke the top of the charts and carried her into the mainstream.
Her ʻvoice as instrumentʼ brand evolved over years of live performance and taking chances. Time spent as an improvisational comic actor and stand-up comic (alongside fellow comics Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks) laid the creative groundwork for scat singing and instrument simulation. Hyped up on sugar and stress during her tumultuous teenage years, she turned to her dadʼs jazz vinyl collection to calm her spirits in the middle of the night. In her late 20ʼs that musical imprint resurfaced and her destiny of becoming a jazz singer was realized. A child of the 60’s, television and radio became her gods and her classroom. The years of constant exposure to world class musicians, comics, singers, dancers and entertainers coupled with her southern exposure to gospel, cajun, r&b, blues and soul music shows up in every note she sings.
The new release, “And, They Call Us Cowboys” (the Texas Music Project (grr8 Records)), re-imagines the timeless and diverse music of the Lone Star State through the filter of Grayʼs jazz sensibility. Jazztimes says, “think of a layer cake with a dense Carmen McRae center, iced with swoops, dollops and occasionally wide swatches of Nancy Wilson and Billie Holiday, then dotted with Etta James bluesiness and Tina Turner wail. Grayʼs is an impressive, indeed frighteningly vast talent.” Click here for more information on Kellye Gray.
Erik Jekabson is a Bay Area musician, currently living in El Cerrito. He graduated in May 2006 from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a master’s degree in composition and is now working as a freelance composer, arranger and trumpeter, leading his own bands as well as playing with bands like the Realistic Orchestra, Mitch Marcus Quintet +13 and the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra. Erik also teaches at The Jazzschool, Berkeley City College, Los Medanos Junior College, Chabot College, Cal-State East Bay and the Waldorf Middle School in San Francisco, and has given clinics at Santa Rosa Junior College and Loyola College of New Orleans. His most recent CD, “Crescent Boulevard” was released in 2010 on his own Jekab’s Music label. Click here for more information about Erik Jekabson.
Since settling in San Francisco in 1997, Canada-born trumpeter, composer and songwriter Darren Johnston has collaborated and recorded with an extremely diverse cross-section of artists, yet always finds ways to be true to his own unique voice in each context: from straight-ahead jazz luminaries such as bassist/composer Marcus Shelby, to experimental icons like ROVA, Fred Frith and Myra Melford, rising star in the singer/songwriter world like Meklit Hadero, or traditional Balkan brass band giants Brass Menazeri. As a bandleader he has made his mark with the award winning The Nice Guy Trio, The Darren Johnston Quintet, the category defying Broken Shadows, and more.
He has received commissions for dance companies such as Kunst-Stoff, and Robert Moses’ Kin, and AXIS Dance, presenting organizations such as Intersection for the Arts, the De Young Museum, and the Yerbas Buena Garden Festival, and his music has been used in a few independent films. His original works have been supported by the Zellerbach Family Fund, Meet the Composer, and SF Friends of Chamber Music. In June of 2013, he premiered a commission from the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, “Letters From Home,” developed in collaboration with choreographer Erika Chong Shuch, for which he is forming a multi-generational chorus with over eighty participants, the Trans-Global People’s Chorus.
As an educator, Johnston currently teaches privately, at the Community Music Center in San Francisco’s Mission district, the Oakland School for the Arts, and as adjunct faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. Johnston has a BA from the Cincinnati Conservatory of music, and an MFA in composition from Mills College. Click here for more information on Darren Johnston.
John Santos is a Bay Area jazz institution all by himself and has worked with enough musical legends to fill a hall of fame, from Dizzy Gillespie to Max Roach, Tito Puente to Tootie Heath. His Machete Ensemble occupied the pinnacle of Latin jazz in the Bay Area for more than twenty years. He currently leads the John Santos Sextet, whose performances demonstrate the historical and cultural significance of Latin Jazz as well as the aesthetic characteristics of instrumentation, rhythm, interpretation and improvisation
Marcus Shelby is a bandleader, composer, arranger, bassist, educator, and activist, who has been a supporter of Jazz in the Neighborhood since its inception. Over the past 25 years his work and music has focused on sharing the history, present, and future of African American lives; on social movements in the United States of America; and on early childhood music education. Shelby has been mentoring young musicians at the SF Community Music Center, who will be performing at this event as well.
Shelby is currently a member of the San Francisco Arts Commission. His recent work includes “Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio,” an original composition for big band orchestra commissioned by the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, which premiered in 2015.
Akira Tana was born in San Jose, California. He received degrees in East Asian Studies from Harvard University in 1974, and in percussion from the New England Conservatory in 1979. Tana has worked and recorded with jazz greats such as Paquito D’Rivera, Art Farmer, Jim Hall, Lena Horne, Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Hubert Laws, The Manhattan Transfer, James Moody, Sonny Rollins, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, and The Paul Winter Consort. As a jazz educator he has given workshops and clinics at many U. S. colleges and universities, including the Berklee College of Music, and the University of Miami. Akira Tana plays Yamaha Drums, Vic Firth Sticks, and Bosphorus Cymbals exclusively. Click here for more information about Akira Tana.