Transforming Lives through Music

Living Jazz believes that music transforms lives and has remained committed to this belief since it’s inception in 1984. The programs of Living Jazz are known not only for their artistic quality, but also for their commitment to build community based on diversity, inclusion and accessibility; the distinctive way in which they encourage and support artists of all skill levels; and the artistic and personal growth they foster in participants of all ages. Living Jazz has developed a reputation for designing and launching programs that go on to become Bay Area treasures, as well as for incubating programs to the point of maturity at which time they successfully spin off to stand on their own, and continue to develop and grow independently.


Living Jazz was originally established in 1984 to save a faltering small summer music camp for teens and adults held in Cazadero, California. Jazz Camp Westnow held in La Honda, No. CA, is an 8-day jazz music, dance and vocal program for adults and teens of all skill levels and backgrounds. The program is now one of the world’s leading jazz immersion programs, with 48 all-star jazz faculty and over 250 participants. Faculty have included such notable artists as Albert “Tootie” Heath, Rufus Reid, Benny Green, Bobby McFerrin, Matt Wilson, Sheila Jordan, Mark Murphy, and Buddy Montgomery.

LJ created the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (OIGC), in 1986 whose concept came from the popular all-camp gospel choir at Jazz Camp. OIGC became its own independent corporation in 1991 and is a thriving touring and recording group of 55 vocalists under the musical direction of Terrance Kelly. 

The Fall and Spring Music Series was created in 1990, the first accessible educational opportunity that Bay Area residents of all skill levels had to leading jazz artists in the local community.  This program evolved into an intensive weekend event entitled RhythmVoice, and then later known as Jazz Camp Weekend, providing access to over 30 all-star jazz artists and a multitude of classes, workshops, and performances held at Mills College in Oakland for 11 years. With the advent of the California Jazz Conservatory, which provides year round exposure to jazz education in a group format, Stacey Hoffman joined the advisory board and continues to support this outstanding work.

LJ created the Oakland Jazz Choir (OJC) in 1992 as a way to provide training and performance opportunities to Bay Area jazz vocalists. OJC became an independent corporation in 2005 and is now a 15-member group bringing the love of choral jazz to Bay Area venues under the musical direction of Ben Flint.

In 2002, LJ created In the Name of Love, The Annual Musical Tribute Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The MLK Tribute is an extensive cultural event that brings our diverse community together to honor, through music, the teachings and memory of Dr. King. “In the Name of Love’ showcases the culmination of the LJ free music programs in the Oakland public schools alongside outstanding local and international talent. 

In 2005, in an effort to help fill the gap in music education in the Oakland public school system, LJ established the Living Jazz Children’s Project (LJCP), a free music education program for Title One Oakland public elementary Schools, now serving over 300 2nd-3rd graders. The Living Jazz Children’s Project was created originally as a choral program but was expanded in 2014 to include an adjunct rhythm component to further prepare students for band/orchestra starting in 4th grade. The choral component focuses on music fundamentals, ensemble singing, music as a tool for cultural empowerment and social change and a culminating performance at Oakland's only non-denominational musical tribute to Dr. King on the Sunday of the MLK weekend each year entitled In the Name of Love. The complementary rhythm component teaches students complex poly-rhythms from the African Diaspora in the context of cultural awareness and pride through the use of Hambone (body percussion), and instruments such as conga drums, maracas, sticks and agogo bells. LJCP provides a strong rhythmic foundation along with the awareness of how music is a vehicle for social and cultural change and promotes respect and pride for diverse cultural traditions.

In 2008, LJ launched Jam Camp West, a 7-day music, dance and vocal program designed specifically for 10-15 year olds of diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. Jam Camp is an alternative to traditional band/orchestra camps providing a contemporary curriculum for beginning through experienced campers in the stunning redwoods of Loma Mar, No CA.

In 2010, LJ launched Jazz Search West, the Bay Area’s Annual Jazz Talent Search to provide recognition and exposure to pre-professional vocalists and instrumentalists, and to inspire and motivate emerging artists. Jazz Search holds weekly competitions for instrumentalists and vocalists in front of a live audience and a panel of prestigious judges. A Semi-Final and Grand Finale ultimately determine 4 winners that receive prizes designed to enhance their careers.

In 2015, Living Jazz produced its first Fundraising Spectacular, Jazz at the Mansion. This exclusive annual gala raises funds for Living Jazz programs, while providing a unique opportunity to witness legendary Bay Area artists in an intimate and unique setting.

In 2017, Living Jazz launched the (Not So) Tiny House Concert Series, a quarterly  series showcasing outstanding local artists in private homes throughout the Bay Area. The house concert series exposes exceptional talent to new audiences while providing visibility to the work of Living Jazz.  All proceeds support the Living Jazz Children's Project.

Living Jazz believes that exposure to music and music education, no matter what age or background, is a unifier and equalizer among people, and a profound vehicle for personal and creative growth.

Join Us in Our Effort to Transform Lives!