Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, thanks for the music!


By Jim Nadel, Artistic Director and Founder, Stanford Jazz Workshop

Downbeat has its 5 stars, Rotten Tomatoes has its percentages, but my favorite rating system is the SF Chronicle’s Little Man who can be seen in any one of five stages of attention and engagement: from jumping out of his seat while applauding, to the empty chair – presumably because the Little Man has walked out.

Over the decades at Stanford Jazz Festival, I’ve seen it all. Because of the nature of our interactive community where resident artists might hang out for a week and perform in fresh and inspiring combinations, we get more than our fair share of peak performances with the accompanying audience jaw dropping, exhilarated or even ecstatic states. Only once however, do I recall seeing people literally jumping out of their seats in amazement.

Over the course of twenty years at SJW, Ndugu Chancler’s virtuosity was ever present but only ever displayed when in service of the music. When he played with Ruth Davies at SJW’s annual Blues Night, he always gave exactly what the groove needed to feel great, move forward, and inspire the other musicians and the audience. When he performed with Victor Wooten and Geoff Keezer, or Patrice Rushen and Alphonso Johnson, the music grew more open and interactive, and Ndugu played brilliantly in the context of those ever-changing musical conversations.

At the same time, in SJW classrooms or when hanging out at the Coffee House, he was a beloved and inspiring teacher and over the years had a hugely positive influence on hundreds of SJW drummers and thousands of young musicians. Ndugu was from the tough-love school of teaching, and it worked so well for him because it was clear that the underlying love was always there. His honesty and direct, straightforward, no-nonsense nature resonated with young drummers. Combined with his deep musical knowledge, rhythmic wisdom, and excellent communication skills, he was able during his life to give a tremendous amount to a great many people.

Ndugu first came to SJW in the summer of 1997, a year in which we also featured Joe Williams and Louis Bellson, the Ray Brown Trio, Lou Levy, and many other artists. I remember that Charles Brown was the Blues Night guest that year.

A couple of moments from that early time that say it all.

Ndugu was playing drums in a faculty concert for students and community members. While trading fours, he first gave the audience a glimpse of his creative energy and advanced musical consciousness. When he opened up a little, even for just four bars, the music immediately felt elevated.

Later, during a solo drum feature, Ndugu started out simply and wove an engaging musical story that quickly drew people in and then kept them on the edge of their seats. The rhythm grew progressively more thrilling until everyone in the room was lost in the delight of the moment. And at that already joyful moment, it was as if a psychic booster fired and something truly miraculous happened as Ndugu took the entire room to a higher level of ecstacy. It may have been an added layer of polyrhythm coupled with virtuosic control of dynamics, tension, and release, but regardless, the room erupted in amazement with a physical response. Everyone felt it and several people around me involuntarily jumped out of their chairs!

The next day there was a lot of talk about this wonderful performance, and word got out that Ndugu had been invited to sit in at the Latin jazz concert scheduled for that evening on hand percussion, not on drum kit. There was a lot of interest in hearing this master of the drum set play hand percussion, and most of the student body showed up that night to check it out.

As the first song began, eyes were on Ndugu even though this night he’d have a more peripheral role. He picked up a cowbell, and I know a lot of people were thinking, “Get ready, because we’re about to hear some incredible cowbell playing like nobody’s ever heard!” As the song got going, Ndugu stood there listening, bell and drum stick ready in hand. He continued listening as the bars went by and the arrangement revealed itself a bit. Finally after about 32 bars, he played one single eighth-note on an upbeat, and that was it. Eight bars later he played it again, another single note. He was adding something to the rhythmic mix, but no more than what he felt would help.

Every note Ndugu ever played was in service of the music. He astonished us regularly with his musicianship, though he never let ego or technique for technique’s sake get in the way. This was who he was, in terms of music education. Observing his musicianship always provided a great lesson for everyone, whether in the classroom or in concert, regardless of whether he was taking the lead or adding subtle support.

Ndugu was an extraordinary man with a great spirit, and he made an immeasurable contribution to SJW. We and the world of music miss him.

Ndugu, thanks for the music!


Esperanza Spalding to perform at Stanford Jazz Festival

Which SJW program is best for me?

From Giant Steps Day Camp to the Jazz Institute, SJW offers a wide range of summer jazz immersion experiences. You’ll have a great time and you’ll learn tons no matter program you sign up for, but we want to make sure you’ve chosen the program that you think is best for you. You can compare all of our one-week and two-week programs here in this comparison chart: Just match the color of the program name with the color of the program dates on the calendar to see when programs occur and when they overlap. If you still have questions after going over these handy charts, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 650-736-0324, and we’ll get you set up.




Lifetime Achievement award presented to Remo Belli at Stanford Jazz Festival

The Stanford Jazz Festival and Stanford Jazz Workshop were honored to be part of a special presentation by SJW Festival artist, faculty member, and percussionist Tupac Mantilla. Tupac is beloved by Festival patrons and SJW students alike, with his boundless energy, creativity, and virtuosity. Just prior to the August 1 performance of percussionist John Santos at the Stanford Jazz Festival, Remo Belli, Founder and CEO of Remo, Inc., a world-renowned manufacturer of percussion instruments and products, received Percuaction’s annual Lifetime Achievement Industry Award, presented by Tupac Mantilla, who is himself Artistic Director and CEO of the organization. Having the ceremony at the John Santos performance was not coincidental, as Santos has been a Remo artist for many years.

Please download the attached press release for full details and photos. SJW_Remo_award_2015_final

Jazz Camp Week 2 Showcase schedule and other info

Tonight’s the night! The Jazz Camp Week 3 Showcase will feature nearly 200 rising stars of jazz performing on four stages. How do you find out who is performing on which stage at which time? Download the Jazz Camp Showcase schedule here, then read below to find out how to interpret the schedule.
Here’s how the schedule is organized:
  • Jazz Camp participants are listed alphabetically by last name
  • The center column indicates combos that rehearse in the early afternoon, which are known as “early combos”
  • The right column indicates combos that rehearse in the late afternoon, which are known as “late combos”
  • Vocalists will perform in Braun Rehearsal Hall, Room 110, and their performance order is indicated in the center column
The numbers indicate the order in which the combos perform on a particular stage:
  • If your combo or vocalist is indicated as “05”, that means they will be the fifth to perform.
  • Performances begin at 7 p.m. on Dinkelspiel, Campbell, and Braun Rehearsal Hall; performances on the Outdoor Stage begin at 6 p.m.
  • Each performance takes approximately 12 – 15 minutes, so a combo slated to perform fifth on the Dinkelspiel stage would begin at between 8 and 8:15 p.m.
  • A combo slated to perform eighth (08) on the Outdoor stage would begin at between 7: 30 and 7:45  p.m.
  • Vocal performances take approximately 5 minutes, so a vocalist slated to perform fourth in Braun Rehearsal Hall, Room 110, would begin at approximately 7:15.
Friends and Family Dinner
If you’re purchased tickets for the Friends and Family Dinner, you can pick them up in front of Tresidder Union, directly across from Dinkelspiel Auditorium, at 5:30 p.m.
New this year: Combo photos
Following each combo’s performance, the performers will proceed to our new Photo Station next to Dinkelspiel Auditorium to have a band portrait taken. Photo prints and downloads will be available for sale online following the Showcase.

Master percussionist Tupac Mantilla launches new World Percussion program at Jazz Institute

World percussionist Tupac Mantilla returns to the 2014 SJW Jazz Institute to launch the new World Percussion @ SJW program, an intensive week of percussion study for all musicians interested in making music with drums, hand percussion, mallet instruments, body percussion, and found instruments. In collaboration with Tupac’s percussion organization Percuaction, we’re excited to present a program of world percussion study from the Global Rhythm Institute, which draws on rhythmic traditions from music cultures around the world. Tupac’s curriculum includes classes such as “The African Connection,” “Introduction to Body Percussion,” “A Western Approach to Indian Rhythmic Concepts,” “Latin Percussion,” and “A Choreographic Approach to Rhythm,” among many other topics. In addition to participating in hands-on classes focused on particular styles, you’ll get instruction on a wide variety of instruments, including cajon, djembe, shekere, bongos, congas, bells, shakers, and more. Increase your rhythmic vocabulary and ensemble skills in daily percussion ensemble rehearsals, and show the world your new cross-cultural percussive styles on the main stage at the Jazz Institute Showcase.

Tupac Mantilla has dedicated his life to exploring global rhythms, and he performs with top artists around the world, including Bobby McFerrin, Zakir Hussain, Danilo Perez, Kenny Werner, John Pattitucci, Savion Glover, Steve Smith, John Medeski, Cecil McBee, Jamey Haddad, Julian Lage, and many others. He is the founder and director of the global percussion network Percuaction and has developed with a global team of percussionists the curriculum for Percuaction’s Global Rhythm Institute. Click here to view Tupac’s faculty profile.

No audition is necessary to enroll in World Percussion @ SJW; the program is open to all musicians age 18 or older who have had at least one year of musical instruction. Musicians aged 17 and under may apply but must submit a brief essay describing their musical background and why they want to participate in the World Percussion program.

To enroll, just select “percussion” as your instrument on the registration page of the SJW Jazz Institute.

2014 – 2015 SJW Jazz Mentors Announced

We are thrilled to announce our new SJW Jazz Mentors for the 2014 – 2015 seasons:

This group represents some of the best and brightest emerging artists and jazz educators. Selected from a highly competitive pool of nearly 200 applicants, our SJW Mentors join the Jazz Camp faculty for two years, receiving invaluable teacher training and performance opportunities. Click here to learn more about the SJW Jazz Mentor program.

Congratulations to our new Jazz Mentors!

Jazz strings this summer at SJW

This summer at the Stanford Jazz Workshop we’re pleased to offer a fantastic opportunity for string players of all ages to study jazz in a friendly and stimulating environment on the Stanford University campus. SJW specializes in helping classically-trained musicians learn the creative art of improvisation through small ensemble performance, jazz theory instruction, master classes, and more.

Financial aid is available for students aged 17 and under. Please have your students apply soon, though, as the deadline for financial aid applications is March 24, 2014. For more information on financial aid, click here.

For middle school students, our Jazz Day Camp begins on Monday, July 14, runs through Friday, July 18, and features Grammy-winning jazz violinist Mads Tolling as our string program director.  This program has no on-campus overnight accommodations; it’s a day camp only. Click here for more information.

High school students and advanced middle schoolers can attend either or both weeks of Jazz Camp (July 20-25 and July 27 – August 1), where acclaimed performer and educator Victor Lin directs the string program in a fun, supportive environment. Students reside in convenient Stanford University dorm housing and attend the nightly performances at the Stanford Jazz Festival.  Click here for more information.

For college students, music educators, adult amateurs, and professionals, the Jazz Institute (August 3 – August 8) provides an immersive experience in which string players can learn from both Mads Tolling and Victor Lin, while also studying with other great artists such as Larry Grenadier, Fred Hersch, George Cables, Chick Corea, Mark Turner, Jeff Ballard, and many more. This program is open to advanced high school musicians aged 17 or under by audition only.  Click here for more information.

New after-school program for middle schoolers in Belmont

We’re very excited to announce the launch of a new after-school program for middle school musicians: the SJW Giant Steps Middle School Band.

Directed by Dave Gregoric, and assisted by Steven Lugerner, David Hart, and Joshua Thurston-Milgrom, this fun big band focuses on developing improvisational skills, mastering jazz styles and articulations, and instilling good practice discipline.

Enrollment is open by audition only to any middle school musician currently enrolled in the music program at their school, within driving distance of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Click here for the details of the program.