Susan Muscarella to receive Benjamin Ide Wheeler medal


Aug 2018


The Berkeley Community Fund (BCF) has announced its 2018 Benjamin Ide Wheeler Award, honoring Susan Muscarella, a longtime champion of music and jazz in Berkeley and beyond.

Muscarella—Founder, President and Dean of Instruction at the California Jazz Conservatory—will be recognized as “Berkeley’s Most Useful Citizen” during BCF’s annual gala and benefit dinner, scheduled for October 6th at U. C. Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom.

The evening’s theme of “Connections” is an appropriate reflection of Muscarella’s longtime connection with the Berkeley arts community, and her commitment to “a lifetime of connecting people to music,” as noted in the Wheeler Award announcement.

“Susan Muscarella reflects the best of our community,” commented Joleen Ruffin, BCF’s Executive Director. “Her success in establishing the Jazzschool and the California Jazz Conservatory from nothing shows what passion, vision, commitment, and persistence can achieve.”

Muscarella’s many connections across Berkeley are well ensconced and long established. Susan graduated from UC Berkeley where she also taught in and directed their Jazz Ensembles Program. In 1997, after a stint as a touring professional musician, Muscarella opened the Jazzschool on Shattuck Avenue, offering classes to students of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. The school has grown from 150 students per quarter at its inception to 500 students per quarter today.

The institution added a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies in 2009. Earning accreditation for the institution in 2013, the Jazzschool was brought under the umbrella of the newly named parent institution, The California Jazz Conservatory (CJC).

The award comes at a significant time in the Conservatory’s history: 2017–2018 saw the opening of CJC’s new Fiddler Annex located at 2040 Addison. The year also witnessed the addition of an Associate of Arts degree, a new degree concentration in North American Roots Music, and a celebration of the Jazzschool’s 20th anniversary.

The Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal was established in 1929 by the Service Club Council of Berkeley to recognize an outstanding member of the community who has provided years of distinguished service, in any field of activity, which has benefitted the quality of life for a significant number of people in Berkeley. It is named after the University of California president who was best known for transforming the school from a small land grant college into a world-renowned university. No matter what issue he tackled, Dr. Wheeler always thought in terms of value to human life and human relationships. He followed politics at all levels and recognized that the fundamental basis for democracy is drawn from healthy local communities.

Like Dr. Wheeler, Susan Muscarella transformed a small school into a renowned educational institution. In receiving the award, she joins the many notable Wheeler medalists who have had a positive impact on the Berkeley community, including August Vollmer (1931), E.O Lawrence (1945), Sylvia McLaughlin (1977), David Brower (1998), the Honorable Thelton Henderson (2000), and Vicki Alexander, MD (2017). Dr. Alexander will present the 2018 award.

The Berkeley Community Fund (BCF) is a charitable nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to narrow inequities in the Berkeley community. It works toward that same goal today by providing motivated Berkeley youth with needs-based scholarships, mentoring, and other supports instrumental to success in college and beyond.  For more information about the BCF and the October 6th event, visit

The California Jazz Conservatory is the only independent, accredited music school in the country completely devoted to the study and performance of jazz. CJC offers a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies and an Associate of Arts degree in Jazz Studies; the non degree-granting Jazzschool offers over 100 classes and workshops on a quarterly basis; CJC Concert Series presents concerts in two intimate venues featuring visiting artists, students and faculty. For more information about CJC, visit

For Immediate Release

BCF Contact: Colleen Sparks / 510.486.8413 /
CJC Contact: Paul S. Fingerote / 510.845.5373 /

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