The Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts (CCJA) is a unique non-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth to creatively express themselves through the language of America's art form - jazz.
Passionate about their vision of creating unique jazz program for teens, Paul and Christine Romaine founded CCJA in late 1999 as a partnership. Six students registered for the first small group session, where they met weekly during the school year and played and performed in a small jazz group under the guidance of a professional jazz musician mentor. The program continued to grow, and in March of 2003, CCJA became a Colorado non-profit, and in early 2004 was granted 501(c)(3) status. The original “Small Group Program” has expanded to several locations across the Front Range including Denver - where CCJA is headquartered - Boulder County, and Fort Collins. Today, CCJA serves over 100 students in its programs throughout the academic year and in the summer and in the 20 years since its inception, CCJA has served several thousand teenagers, many of whom have gone on to forge successful careers as jazz artists or carry a deep appreciate for jazz with them into adulthood.
Since CCJA's origins, programming expanded to include: a summer day-camp (Jazz Boot Camp), the CCJA Summer Institute, a sleep-away jazz camp in Colorado's Sangres de Cristo Mountains, vocal jazz programs, programming encouraging the participation of more young women in jazz , the CCJA Big Bands, the CCJA Street Band, outreach programs to area public schools, expanded public performances, guided public youth jam sessions, jazz workshops, a peer-mentoring program, a recording and music industry program, and an early childhood music education program, KinderBop. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, CCJA began offering free online enrichment series including "Digging Deeper" - an online topic-based masterclass series led by CCJA Faculty Members - and "CCJA Sundays," which bring our global community free interviews with the best jazz artists and industry pros in the world.
Over the past two decades, CCJA student groups have performed for tens of thousands of people with the intention of making jazz - America’s treasured art form - relentlessly relevant. All of CCJA's programming is directed by accomplished professional jazz musicians who continue to pass on their extensive knowledge, experience, and wisdom to the next generation. Whether students go on to play professionally or for enjoyment, their lives are enriched and their self-expression empowered by their participation in CCJA’s programs.
Our staff is passionate about offering the most excellent and accessible jazz educational programming and mentoring for our community. Feel free to reach out with questions, comments, or suggestions for our organization.
Chris Romaine, Executive Director
As the Executive Director of CCJA, Ms. Romaine provides executive leadership and manages its daily operations. She wears many hats in this position and relies on a passion for jazz and youth, a varied background, a love of learning, and resourcefulness to do so. Ms. Romaine participates with the Artistic Director, the Board, Program Assistants, and Faculty in planning and establishing program policies, objectives, and priorities as well as directing the development of CCJA’s strategic action and fundraising plans.
Ms. Romaine received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Public Policy from the University of Denver, where she also minored in music at the Lamont School of Music. She later received her secondary teaching certification, and taught Social Studies (and some music) in Cherry Creek public schools for five years. Chris was then bit with the entrepreneurial bug she grew up with, and started a tea shop/restaurant/mail order/catering business which she ran with her mother and sister until its sale in 1999. As soon as it was sold, she and Paul decided to give their idea for a jazz education program a try, and CCJA (the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts) was born. There seemed to be a need for CCJA in the community, and it continued to grow to the point that it made sense to change it to a non-profit organization, and bring in a board, volunteers, and more people from the community. As it turns out, Ms. Romaine finds that her personal experience of finding her voice through jazz as a teen and her teaching background, combined with the real-life lessons and experiences of owning a business, serve her well in her position as Executive Director.
Paul Romaine, Artistic Director
Paul Romaine has led, recorded, or performed with countless combinations of the Denver area’s best players and with internationally acclaimed artists such as Eddie Harris, Benny Golson, James Moody, Randy Brecker, Jimmy Heath, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Roberta Gambarini, Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Houston Person, Charlie Rouse, Eddie Gomez, Bobby Watson, Jack McDuff, Clark Terry, and the Woody Herman Orchestra. Paul plays with numerous groups including Convergence, The Ken Walker Sextet, Big Swing Trio, the Jazz Worms, and Peter Sommer Septet, where he also writes and has recorded critically acclaimed CD’s.
Paul has served on the music faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder since 2005, and also taught at MSU Denver. As a clinician he experienced the power of mentoring, and together with his wife Chris, he developed a unique vision for jazz education, and co-founded the non-profit Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts. As the Artistic Director, he has developed unique programs for students of all ages throughout Colorado who play together and study with professional musicians. Paul was honored to receive a Presidential Scholars Program Teacher Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
Camilla Vaitaitis, Program Assistant
Camilla Vaitaitis is an award winning pianist, vocalist, arranger and composer based in Denver, CO. She graduated from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies & Commercial Music and received a Master's degree in Jazz Composition in 2020, also from the Lamont School of Music.
She plays in several different groups, including her indie rock bands Specific Ocean & Barbara and The Camilla Vaitaitis Quartet. Her studio experiences include work as a sideman and background vocalist as well as recording in bands with genres ranging from jazz and funk to rock and pop. Camilla dedicates time not only to performing, teaching, and accompanying throughout Denver, but also to composing and arranging pieces for a variety of groups, including vocal jazz ensembles and big bands. Camilla is in the process of composing and recording an album of original music with her jazz quartet. Her band, Barbara, will release their debut album "Escape Artist" in September, 2022.
Camilla's role as Program Assistant with CCJA includes leading the execution of several programming and directing middle school small groups. She is the host of the weekly interview and masterclass series "CCJA Sundays"
Jonathan Zimny, Program Assistant
Jonathan Zimny is a trombonist, vocalist, composer, and educator from Sacramento, California. Raised by two band directors, he has loved and been deeply involved with music from a very young age.
He moved to Colorado in 2010 to attend the University of Northern Colorado where he received his BM in Jazz Studies. While there, Zimny studied with Dr. Nat Wickham and performed with UNC Jazz Lab Band 1 under the direction of Dana Landry. During his time with Lab 1, the band received the best graduate jazz ensemble award from Downbeat magazine. Zimny later finished his master’s degree in 2018 at the University of Colorado, Boulder with an MM in Jazz Performance and Pedagogy where he studied with Paul McKee.
Zimny has performed with a multitude of artists in Denver and California, toured China and Costa Rica, performed on cruise ships, and can be heard of the song “Faith” recorded for the popular motion picture Sing. He has also taught low brass for the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps and Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps, and is currently in the Broncos Stampede Brass Band.
Jonathan has worked for CCJA since 2018 teaching middle school combos and big bands, and helps put on programs such as Jazz Boot Camp, Jazz in the Sangres, the CCJA Street Band, and Denver Day of Jazz.
CCJA Board of Directors
Erika Enger, President, Senior Council, Devon Energy
Jason Rupe, Vice President, Principal Architect, CableLabs
JP Tremblay, Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer, ENGAGE
Jake Alvarez, Secretary, Musician & Educator, University of Denver
Joe Anderies, Musician & Educator, University of Colorado
Ann Bowar, Reiman School of Finance, University of Denver
Visda Carson, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado
Adam Chasnow, Chief Creative Officer, Fortnight Collective
Greg Kishiyama, Engineering Manager, Farnsworth Group
Matt Loran, M.D., Physician, Boulder Community Health
Patrick McDevitt, Musician & Educator, University of Denver
Na'im McKee, Associate Vice President of Growth Marketing, AboveBoard
Adisa Nickerson, Enrollment Counselor, Colorado Christian University
Sonda Wynn, Learning & Development Consultant, VP, Bank of the West
Rasam Thillairajah, CCJA Student Board Member