CCC Vocal & Piano

(510) 447-4008

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About Us

The Contra Costa College Vocal & Piano programs are proud to be sponsored by the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation, offering showcases on the CCC campus and bringing live performances to elementary schools across West County. This past year, these two programs joined with Washington Elementary PTA to offer the groundbreaking "Music and the Brain" curriculum to K-3 grades.

Each year, CCC music majors complete the course of musical study and transfer with scholarships to universities around the nation. Today, the vocal program offers six levels of training, as well as jazz voice and many ensembles. The piano program offers six levels of training, as well as Jazz Piano. Vocal ensembles include:

  • Contra Costa Singers
  • JazzaNova
  • Jazz Singers
  • College Chorus
  • JAZZ-ology
  • Schola

Ensembles & Performance Opportunities

The choirs and vocal ensembles have been acclaimed for their beautiful and exciting performances. National judges and university faculty have rated them among the finest ensembles in the state and nation. JAZZ-ology was awarded "Winner" or "Outstanding Performance" four times from the DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards. The group was also named National Top Six from the Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Competition three times, and has been a Category Award Winner at the Reno Jazz Festival. JazzaNova has been awarded "Outstanding Performance" twice from the DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards, was named National Top Six for the Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Competition twice, and has been a Category Award Winner at the Reno Jazz Festival.

In 2010, JazzaNova released their first CD, "JAZZANOVA," and in 2013, JAZZ-ology and JazzaNova released their first joint CD, "Starting Here, Starting Now," available on CD Baby. Since then, they have released two more CDs, "On a Clear Day" (2015) and "Get Out of Town" (2017), available on CD Baby.

This past April, the Contra Costa Singers and Cantabile joined forces as one of three choirs invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York at the Gotham Sings Festival, receiving a standing ovation. The next evening, JAZZ-ology performed to a full house at Club Bonafide in New York, also receiving a standing ovation.

The Contra Costa Singers perform extensively and host the President's Office Invitational Choral Festival each fall. Schola performs throughout the area at church services, weddings, and festivals.

Piano students participate in master classes and recitals on campus and throughout California. Program participants have received "Superior" and "Excellent" ratings from the National Guild of Piano Teachers and been convention winners at the Music Teachers' Association of California's adult performance program since 2014.

For more information on how you can be involved in this program, email Dr. Stephanie Austin Letson, Director of Choral & Vocal Activities.

Dr. Stephanie Austin Letson

Dr. Stephanie Austin Letson

Stephanie Austin Letson, Ed.D, is Professor of Music at Contra Costa College, where she is the Director of Choral Activities, Performance Program Director, and coordinator of Vocal and Piano Education. She has been the Artistic Director of the Oakland Jazz Choir, Director of Choral Activities at Gavilan College, and the Conductor of the De Anza College Chorale. Austin Letson holds an Ed. D. from Columbia University, Teachers College, a M.M. from the Eastman School of Music, and a B.M. from Loyola University.

Austin Letson's ensembles have won seven Student Music Awards from DownBeat Magazine, been named five times as top-six national finalist for the Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Competition, and twice been a Category Award Winner at the Reno Jazz Festival. Her jazz vocal ensembles JAZZ-ology and JazzaNova have released five CD's, Feelin' Good (2019), Get Out of Town (2017), On a Clear Day (2015), Starting Here, Starting Now (2013), and JAZZANOVA (2010). Austin Letson has conducted performances with the Kensington Symphony, the West County Winds, De Anza College Orchestra, and Massed Choir, and has performed nationally as chamber pianist and accompanist. As a jazz vocalist, she performs in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. She has founded two professional jazz vocal quartets, InFusion, and LesQuatre.

Austin Letson has made performance- and research-based presentations nationally and internationally including the International Association of Jazz Educators' national convention, the College Music Society's international convention, the Music Association of Community Colleges of California, the California Community College League, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Oakland's Art and Soul Festival, and Google's National Conference. Published articles include: "Jazz Singing Goes to Class: Inspiration from a Master Teacher," JAZZed (JEN), Choral Director: The Choral Director's Management Magazine and "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing): Jazzing Up Community Choirs!," ChorTeach (ACDA).

Austin Letson has created two community music series: The Hillsdale Music Series and Contra Costa College’s The Music Project. Her present research is sponsored by the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation and seeks to understand the impact of musical performance experiences from two perspectives: the child participant observer and the college student participant performer. Past research focused on educational programs created within the dynamic system of university, field zeitgeist, vocal jazz domain and educator. Austin Letson is an adjudicator and clinician for competitions, workshops, and festivals.

Jennifer Griest

Jennifer Griest

Piano, College Chorus
Jennifer Griest is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received master's degrees in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. Her teachers have included Donald Gren (a Protégé of Nadia Boulanger), Ricardo Miura, Nelson Harper, and internationally renowned pianist Timothy Ehlen. She has also studied with Reid Alexander, an expert and leader nationally in the field of piano pedagogy, and co-author/editor/composer of several teaching texts and editions. Additional studies were with Cristos Tsitsaros, composer and contributing author to the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library.

Ms. Griest has taught private and group piano lessons and has served as an instructor for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but she currently teaches at Contra Costa College. She received teaching awards in Columbus and was named six times to the "Incomplete List of Instructors Ranked Excellent" compiled by the Office of Instructional Resources at Illinois. She is a member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers and has been invited to adjudicate the 2011 Piano Guild Auditions.

Roger Letson

Roger Letson

Jazz Solo Voice
Professor Emeritus from De Anza College Roger Letson has been an internationally recognized educator for over 40 years. Throughout that time, he has brought classical and jazz music to professionals and aspiring musicians alike in classrooms, workshops, and performances. Graduating with his Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Montana, he began his teaching career as vocal and instrumental director at Park High School in Livingston, Montana. Upon receiving the Master of Music degree in trumpet performance, he moved to California and took a position at San Luis Obispo High School as Director of Bands and Choirs.

In 1969, the opportunity to move to the San Francisco Bay Area presented itself with the position as Director of Vocal Activities at Foothill College. It was there that Letson established the well-known vocal jazz program with the Foothill Fanfairs, in addition to presenting programs at state and national musical conferences with his chamber and concert choirs.

Letson left teaching in 1975 for a position as Director of Publications at Hal Leonard Corporation. This position provided him the opportunity to work with many well-known classical and jazz composers and arrangers in instrumental and choral music. He was an industry representative to IAJE and presented frequent workshops and clinics throughout the United States and Australia. His work, publishing educational music for music programs of all levels, included recruiting and retaining composers and arrangers such as Woody Herman, Lennie Niehaus, Sammy Nestico, Anita Kerr, Kirby Shaw, Gordon Goodwin, Dave Eshelman, and Don Menza. Producing audio recordings of professional quality for educators was also his responsibility.

Letson returned to teaching in 1979 as Director of Vocal Activities at De Anza College. Well-known for his expertise with vocal jazz ensembles and pedagogy for the solo vocalist, he founded the vocal jazz program there. It became one of the premier college programs in the nation. Under his direction, Vocal Flight was selected as a winner of the DownBeat Magazine award for College and University Vocal Jazz Groups 11 times. Mr. Letson also directed the chamber choir, Vintage Signers, and taught jazz solo voice, music theory, and classical voice classes. His ensembles have presented performances at the national conventions of ACDA and IAJE and at numerous CMEA and MENC conferences. Former students have made careers of music, including as professional recording artists, recognized opera singers, and music teachers at the elementary, high school, and collegiate levels.

The vocal jazz ensembles at De Anza performed at such places as Keystone Korner, The Kool Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and in San Jose, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz. Ten European performance tours brought performances at jazz festivals in Montreux and Neuchatel, Switzerland, and Megev, Bonneville, Valence, Toulon, Grenoble, Crest, and Paris, France. Often touring with Vocal Flight throughout France and Germany, he has spent each summer since 1989 presenting vocal jazz workshops in Paris, Crest, Aix-en-Provence, Grenoble, Frankfurt, and Koln.

In 1991, Letson received the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award. In 1994, he was selected as one of two United States adjudicators for the 4th Annual German Choir Competition in Fulda, Germany. In 1999, he received the De Anza College President's Award for outstanding professional contributions.

After 40 years as a full-time music instructor, Letson retired in 2007. Continuing to perform, Roger was a featured jazz vocalist at Contra Costa College in October, and at the Bleu Triton Jazz Festival in Paris in November. He continues teaching the Jazz Solo Voice class at Contra Costa College.

John Montanero

John Montanero

Schola, Voice
John Montanero comes from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Temple University's Esther Boyer College of Music. In the TU choirs, John sang with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the batons of Eugene Ormandy, Ricardo Muti, and composer Chrystzoph Penderecki. In 1989, he earned a Master of Music degree at the University of the Pacific's Conservatory of Music (Stockton), studying voice with George Buckbee of the Finnish National Opera, choral conducting with Dr. William Dehning of UOP (Stockton) and USC (Los Angeles), and orchestral conducting with Peter Jaffe of the Stockton Symphony. John was a teaching graduate assistant in theory and composition and conductor of the UOP Orianna Women's Choir. He also served as Assistant Conductor of the 150-voice Stockton Chorale (1990-1999).

Fred Randolph

Fred Randolph

Jazz Piano, Beginning Piano
Fred Randolph has performed as a bassist with many of the Bay Area's finest jazz artists, including Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, Bobbe Norris and Larry Dunlap, Anton Schwartz, Claudia Vilella and Ricardo Peixoto, Akira Tana, Ralph Humphreys, Scotty Wright, Jeff Massanari, Eddie and Mad Duran, Erik Jekabson group, Dan Zemelman Quartet, Ben Adams Quintet, Vince Wallace, Bishop Norman Williams, Graham Connah, Faye Carol, Frankye Kelly, Pamela Rose, Brenda Boykin, Jamie Fox, Jim and Morning Nichols, Delbert Bump, Al Molina Quintet, Michael Aragon, David Watson, Sonya Jason, Andre Bush, Mike Zilber, Mark Little, Art Hirahara, Tony Corman's 3 Tenors, Collective Amnesia, Rory Snyder, Wally Schnalle, Pete Magadini, Andy Coolberg, Kenny Washington, E.W. Wainright, Bearcult, Oakland Jazz Choir, Glass House, Loose Wig, Collective Amnesia, Mitch Marcus group, and many others.

In addition, he is busy on the Latin circuit, performing with Sandy Cressman's Homenagem Brasileira, Marcos Silva's Intersection, Phil Hawkin's Caribbean Jazz Ensemble, Julio Bravo's Orchestra Salsabor, Orchestra Soroa, Soul Sauce, Benny Velarde, Tito Garcia's Orquestra la Internacional, Danilo Paiz's Orquestra Universal, Rolando Morales, and many others. He recently appeared on the Dan Zemelman Quartet CD "One Way or Another" and Ian Carey's "Sink or Swim" and "Contextualizin" CDs. He has also appeared on the Al Molina Quintet's CD "Amigos Todos" and Tony Corman 3 Tenors CD "Deconstruction Ahead." He has recorded with Los Angeles-based saxophonist Doug Webb and with John Tchicai, who is now based in France. Recently, he has performed with Iranian vocalist Rana Farhan.

His educational background includes an MA in Music Composition from CSUEB University in Hayward, California, private bass studies with Frank Tusa, Kai Eckhardt, Brian Marcus, and Tim Spears, and piano studies with Don Haas.

Mr. Randolph is a dedicated music educator, having served as a faculty member of MUSE band program, Stanley Middle School, UC Jazz Ensembles, Berkeley City College, and Contra Costa College. He currently serves as Director of Instrumental Music at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, California.

Fred has recorded 2 CDs as a leader: "Learning Curve" (2003) and "New Day" (2006), both of which have received positive reviews. Fred is currently finishing his third CD, entitled "Song Without Singing," which will be released in Spring 2015. His quintet has performed at venues such as Yoshi's, The Jazz School, Sonoma Art and Wine Festival, Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, and others.