Vocal and Piano Programs



Multiple Award Winners!













Dr. Stephanie Austin Letson

Contra Costa Singers, JAZZ-ology, JazzaNova,

College Chorus, Jazz Singers


     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.  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's ensembles have been recognized by DownBeat Magazine (winning two Outstanding Performance Student Music Awards), the Monterey Jazz Festival (selected as a national top six performer 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014), and the Reno Jazz Festival (Category Award Winner 2012, 2013).  Her jazz vocal ensembles JAZZ-ology and JazzaNoval have released two CD's, JAZZANOVA (May 2010), Starting Here, Starting Now (May 2013), and their third CD, On a Clear Day, is set to release May 2015.  Her classical chamber choir, Contra Costa Singers, has performed extensively including Grace Cathedral, St. Mary's Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Westin St. Francis.  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 California Community College League, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Oakland's Art and Soul Festival, Reno Jazz 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. Awards include Merrill Ostrus Staton Endowed Scholarship in Choral Conducting from Columbia University and Loyola University's Outstanding Pianist.  Austin Letson is an adjudicator and clinician for competitions, workshops, and festivals.


Jennifer Griest

Piano, College Chorus


     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 protege of Nadia Boulanger), Ricordo Muira, 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 contributing author to the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library and composer, Cristos Tsitsaros.

     Ms. Griest has taught private and group piano lessons, and has served as an instructor for University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and currently for 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.

Denise Hunter

Gospel Chorale

     was born in Illinois and received her Bachelor of Music Degree from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. In her music journey Denise had a vocal music studio in which she taught students of all ages. The CCC Gospel choir have performed in both Northern and Southern California. She is currently the minister of music at her local church in Vallejo where she directs four different choirs. She is also a director for the Northern California First Jurisdiction, Church of God. Christ. This choir has over 170+ voices from 60 different churches throughout Northern California. During her career in vocal music Denise administered and directed her local church choir to enter a Gospel Choir contest called “How Sweet The Sound, sponsored by Verizon Wireless.” The choir was selected from over 2,000 competing choirs. Her choir won first place in the competition and won $10,000.00 for their church ministry. In addition to teaching at Contra Costa College Denise is a high school music teacher at Vallejo High School, where she is the Visual and Performing Arts Lead. Denise also received her Masters in Business Management.

Roger Letson

Jazz Solo Voice


     Professor Emeritus from De Anza College, has been an internationally recognized educator for over forty 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, MT. Upon receiving the Master of Music degree in Trumpet Performance he moved to California and took a position as 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 I.A.J.E. 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, and 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 winner of the Down Beat Magazine award for College and University Vocal Jazz Groups eleven 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 A.C.D.A. and I.A.J.E., and numerous C.M.E.A. and M.E.N.C. conferences.  Former students have made careers of music including 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, Kool Jazz Festival, San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Cruz, and the Monterey Jazz Festival.  Ten European performance tours brought performances at jazz festivals in Montreux and Neuchatel, Switzerland, and Megev, Bonneville, Valence, Toulon, Grenoble, Crest and Paris, France.  Additionally, 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

Schola, Voice


     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

Jazz Piano,  Beginning Piano

     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 Carribean Jazz Ensemble, Julio Bravo's "Orchestra Salsabor", "Orchestra Soroa", "Soul Sauce", Benny Velarde, Tito Garcia's "Oquestra la Internacional", Danilo Paiz and his "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 and appeared on the cd by the Al Molina quintet entitled "Amigos Todos" as well as the Tony Corman 3 tenors cd "Deconstruction Ahead". He has also recorded with Los Angeles based saxophonist Doug Webb and 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 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. His Quintet has performed at venues such as Yoshi’s, the Jazz School, Sonoma Art and Wine festival, Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, and others.

     Fred is currently finishing his 3rd cd entitled “Song Without Singing” which will be released in Spring 2015.