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 Chris 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 corporation, and in early 2004 was granted 501(c)(3) status. The original “Small Group Program” has expanded to five locations across the Front Range - Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Highlands Ranch - and today, CCJA has over 100 students in its programs. Over the past 20 years since its inception, CCJA has served over 2000 teenagers, many of whom have forged successful careers as jazz artists.
Along the way, new programming expanded to include: a summer instructional jazz camp, the CCJA Summer Institute, a sleep-away jazz camp in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, vocal jazz programs, young women's programming, 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.
Over the past two decades, CCJA groups have performed for tens of thousands of people with the intention of making jazz - America’s treasured art form - relentlessly relevant. All 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.
CCJA Staff & Board
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
Throughout his childhood, Paul felt magnetized to music from the depth of his being. He began playing drums professionally at age 14 and in 1976 performed with an all-star high school big band at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Paul 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, Larry Coryell, Gunther Schuller, Charlie Rouse, Eddie Gomez, Bobby Watson, Anita O’Day, Jack McDuff, Marlena Shaw, Rufus Reid, Clark Terry, Dave Grusin, and Robin Eubanks. Paul is also a member of the sextet Convergence, where he writes originals for the group, has recorded four critically acclaimed CD’s, and has performed at venues such as The Blue Note, The Knitting Factory, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and the 2004 IAJE Conference in New York. He is featured on the Ken Walker Sextet CD Terra Firma, which landed at #56 on JazzWeek’s Top 100 Jazz CDs of 2005. During his association with the Woody Herman Orchestra, Paul toured North America performing concerts and clinics. In between gigs, he studied jazz composition at the Lamont School of Music and, in 1991 received a degree in recording engineering from the University of Colorado. He has served as a mentor musician/clinician in several Denver area school districts, as well as in the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Education Program. While mentoring, he saw the need for a jazz education program for students who are serious about the music, and he founded the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts. As the Artistic Director, he has developed unique programs for middle school and high school students from all over the Denver area to play together and study with professional musicians. Paul also serves on the music faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In the Spring of 2005, Paul was honored to travel to Washington D.C. to receive a Presidential Scholars Program Teacher Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
ANNIE BOOTH,Program Assistant
Annie Booth is an award-winning pianist, composer, arranger, and educator based in Denver, CO. Growing up in a musical family in Westminster, CO, she began the piano at a young age and started playing jazz in high school. Her passion for the art form took off when she began participating in the CCJA Small Group Program, CCJA Boot Camp, and Jazz In The Sangres Camp beginning in 2005. She went on to study music at the collegiate level, earning a BM in Jazz Piano Performance and a minor in French Language with honors at the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2011. Annie is an active performer, composer, and bandleader, leading the Annie Booth Trio and performing across the nation and internationally. She is a two-time recipient of the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, Publishers) Young Jazz Composers Award and won the 2017 ASCAP Phoebe Jacobs Prize, awarded to one promising young female jazz composer each year. Locally, she has been recognized by Westword Magazine (Best in Denver for 2015, 2016, and 2017) and Jazz 89.3 KUVO in their 30 Under 30 highlight. Annie is passionate about passing the art form of jazz to the next generation and in particular, making sure more young women feel invited and comfortable expressing themselves through jazz. In 2017, Annie led and helped CCJA create the first ever jazz camp for young women in Colorado, the SheBop Workshop. In addition to serving as part of CCJA's renowned faculty throughout the academic year and teaching at the summer camps, Annie takes care of CCJA administrative work behind the scenes, including all graphics and web design and producing the Big Band Boogie Bash every February. Because Annie Booth considers herself a product of CCJA’s profound educational and personal impact, she is incredibly proud of work CCJA does and proud to be a part of the organization.
JONATHAN ZIMNY,Program Assistant
Jonathan Zimny is a trombonist, vocalist, composer, and educator from Sacramento, California. 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. He also sang in UNC’s top vocal jazz group, the Northern Colorado Voices under the direction of Kerry Marsh and played euphonium in UNC’s Wind Ensemble. During his time with Lab 1, the band received the best graduate jazz ensemble award from Downbeat magazine. Zimny has performed with other Downbeat award-winning jazz ensembles as well, including the Folsom High School “A” Jazz Band, Folsom High School “A” Jazz Choir, and the Folsom Middle School Jazz Band.
Zimny recently finished his graduate studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder with an MM in Jazz Performance and Pedagogy where he studied with Paul McKee, Dr. John Gunther, Brad Goode, and Jeff Jenkins. Zimny’s fascination with CCJA began when he first arrived in Colorado and it has only grown as he learns more and more about the organization. He has become involved with the non-profit in a number of ways including Near Peer Mentoring, joining CCJA’s professional vocal jazz group, The Sharp 5, and even writing his master’s thesis about them in early 2018. Jonathan is excited and honored to be the newest member of the CCJA team.
CAMILLA VAITAITIS, Program Assistant,
Vocal Jazz Lead
Camilla Vaitaitis is an award winning pianist, vocalist, arranger and composer based in Denver, CO. Growing up in Littleton, CO, she participated in the CCJA Boot Camp and Small Group Program in high school, which ignited her love for jazz. 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 is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Jazz Composition also from Lamont.
She plays in several different groups, including The Sharp Five – a five-part vocal jazz group working with the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts (CCJA), her independent rock band Specific Ocean, and her own trio. Camilla's 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. She has had the honor of playing piano for members of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Prince Harry. In 2016 & 2017, her group “The Vocal Jazz Messengers” received consecutive Downbeat awards for outstanding small vocal jazz ensemble. She was also selected as a featured musician in KUVO's 30 Under 30. In addition to actively performing around Denver, Camilla teaches piano, composition, voice, and guitar. She is thrilled to be working with CCJA and hopes to help instill the same passion and joy for jazz in others that CCJA instilled in her.
CCJA Board Of Directors
VISDA CARSON,(CU Leeds School of Business) President
ANN BOWAR (University of Denver) Vice President
JP TREMBLAY (University of Denver) Treasurer
JASON RUPE (Engineer) Secretary
VIVIENNE ALVAREZ (City Of Denver)
JOE ANDERIES (Musician/Educator)
ADAM CHASNOW (Executive Creative Director, CP&B Group)
ERIKA ENGER (Attorney)
MATT LORAN (Doctor, Boulder Community Health)
LIAM GALLAGHER (CCJA Student Board Member)
SAMANTHA REISING (CCJA Student Board Member)
CCJA Faculty Members
CCJA's Faculty Members are world-class jazz performers, composers, and improvisors! We've included links to their personal websites to learn more about them and hear their wonderful music!
BOOTH (piano/comp), DAWN CLEMENT (piano), MARK DIAMOND (bass), SHANE ENDSLEY (trumpet), TOM GERSHWIN (trumpet), GREG GISBERT (trumpet), BRAD GOODE (trumpet/bass) , DARYL GOTT (sax), ERIC GUNNISON (piano), JOHN GUNTHER (sax), GREG HARRIS (piano/vibes), JOEL HARRIS (sax), JEFF JENKINS (piano), STEVE KOVALCHECK (guitar), MIKE MARLIER (drums), GABE MERVINE (trumpet), BOB REBHOLZ (sax), MARK SIMON (bass), PETER SOMMER (sax), ERIC TRUJILLO (sax), CAMILLA VAITATIS (piano/vox), KEN WALKER (bass), KHABU YOUNG (guitar), JONATHAN ZIMNY (trombone)