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
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 has been working for CCJA as a Program Assistant since 2014. In the years since, she has become a member of the Faculty, directing both middle school and high school small groups, leading ensembles and classes through the Summer Institute, and teaching at the Jazz in The Sangres Camp. She has developed and leads the CCJA SheBop Young Women in Jazz Workshop, created in 2017.
As a high schooler growing up in the norther suburbs of Denver, Annie participated in CCJA's small groups and summer camps in the mid-2000s and it was absolutely transformational for her in sparking and cultivating her passion and curiosity for jazz and in connecting her to a network of like-minded peers and supportive mentors.
Nowadays, she is a versatile and award-winning composer, arranger, and pianist. She composes for and performs in several projects she leads including the Annie Booth Trio, Sextet, and Big Band. Annie has received national recognition for her work from ASCAP (Young Jazz Composer Award, Phoebe Jacobs Prize), Downbeat Magazine, the Jazz Education Network (Young Composer Award), and Chamber Music America, among others.
Annie Booth holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Music from the Thompson Jazz Studies Program at the University of Colorado. In addition to the meaningful work she does with Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts (CCJA), she maintains an active schedule as a guest clinician, artist, and adjudicator at jazz festivals and high school and university programs across the U.S. and Canada. She is currently on adjunct faculty at the University of Northern Colorado, teaching jazz piano and jazz arranging.
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 recently 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 band Specific Ocean and The Camilla Vaitaitis Big Band. 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. 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. Camilla is in the process of composing and recording an album of original big band music and just released a brand new single and music video with her band Specific Ocean.
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"
CCJA Board of Directors
Visda Carson, President, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado
Ann Bowar, Vice President, Reiman School of Finance, University of Denver
JP Tremblay, Treasurer, Reiman School of Finance, University of Denver
Jason Rupe, Secretary, Engineer
Joe Anderies, Musician & Educator
Adam Chasnow, Executive Creative Director, CP&B Group
Erika Enger, Attorney
Matt Loran, M.D., Physician, Boulder Community Health
Greg Kishiyama, Engineering Manager, Farnsworth Group
Liam Gallagher, CCJA Student Board Member
Samantha Reising, CCJA Student Board Member
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.