This renowned jazz program has proven an important incubator for world-class talent. Peter Apfelbaum, Dave Ellis, Rodney Franklin, Benny Green, Craig Handy, David Murray, Josh Redman, and Michael Wolff, among others, are a testament to the success of pioneering jazz-studies programs initiated by Dr. Herb Wong in 1966 and by musician and educator Phil Hardymon, who started the orchestra at Berkeley High in 1975. Under Hardymon's direction, the district's jazz-studies program groomed budding musicians from elementary through high school and grew into a national model for instrumental instruction. In 1981, Charles Hamilton took over the program and has continued on the same path of musical excellence. But new obstacles appeared when the deficit- ridden school district voted to get rid of elementary music instruction in 1994. Parents came to the rescue, organizing themselves as the Parent Support Committee and now the backbone of the Berkeley High Arts Programs, which oversees the jazz band and combos. The BHS Jazz Ensemble has performed in recent years at the Montreux and North Sea Jazz festivals in Europe and recorded its latest CD at Fantasy Studios. Check them Sunday, May 15, at the Jazz on Fourth Street Festival in Berkeley; combos at 11:15 a.m., ensemble at 4:00 p.m.
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