staff + advisory board


Roger Glenn


Roger Glenn is jazz royalty. Son of the late Tyree Glenn, a trombonist and vibraphonist who played with Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong, Tyree was one of 57 notable jazz musicians to appear in Art Kane’s 1958 photograph ‘A Great Day in Harlem’.

The young Roger acquired an early musical education, playing with his father in a band that also featured jazz greats Wynton Kelly (piano), Joe Jones (drums), and Slam Stewart (bass).  In addition to his father’s tutelage on vibes, some of Mr. Glenn’s earliest teachers were Julius Baker (flute), Alberto Socarras (flute), Garvin Bushell (clarinet, sax, flute).

Roger’s mother Gloria was also a major influence. She introduced Roger at an early age to Latin jazz musicians such as José Fajardo, Johnny Pacheco, Eddie & Charlie Palmieri, and Celia Cruz. Later, Mr. Glenn would play in the Army Band with fellow members Grover Washington Jr. and Billy Cobham, and go on to perform and record with Mary Lou Williams, Mongo Santamaria, Donald Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, Rosemary Clooney, and Herbie Mann. Mr. Glenn’s flute playing is featured on Cal Tjader’s Grammy Award-winning album La Onda Va Bien, as well as many notable albums by Donald Byrd, Peaches and Herb, Bobby Hutcherson, and Mongo Santamaria. Today, Mr. Glenn works with a wide variety of musicians, including Steve Miller, John Handy, Ray Obiedo, Jamie Davis, James Carter, Poncho Sanchez, Lavay Smith and Pete Escovedo. In addition, Mr. Glenn has partnered with pianist Nolan Gasser, bassist Terry Miller, and drummer Andy Eberhard to form The San Francisco Jazz Quartet. Their latest release, Ode to Swing, also features The Alexander String Quartet. Currently, Mr. Glenn is touring with his Latin Jazz Ensemble in support of their latest album, In The Moment – a collection of all new original Latin jazz compositions. A ‘musician’s musician,’ Mr. Glenn is equally adept at saxophone, flute, vibes, clarinet, oboe, as well as numerous Latin hand percussion instruments.  He has performed at venues throughout the world, and continues to entertain and inspire countless musicians, critics, and audiences each time he performs. Learn more about Roger and his Music

Read more

Leah Tysse


Leah began singing on stage at the age of 9. Since then, she has been a featured soloist in an all-female a capella group, and lived and worked in France as the house ‘chanteuse’ at a popular Parisian nightclub.

In 1998, Tysse returned to the States to join the Glide Memorial Church Ensemble, where she still solos regularly.

Her debut album, ‘Real Good Fire’ was released in 2007 and features the track “You Don’t Scare Me”, awarded Billboard’s Best R&B/Blues Song of 2007. Released in 2011, Tysse’s follow-up ‘Love Again’, features a collection of original music as well as covers of “Let Him Fly” (Patty Griffin), “Only So Much Oil…” (Tower of Power) and “Write One This Way” (Tommy Sims).

Official Website of Leah Tysse

Renee Wilson

RenéeWilson2 copyAs a model, actor, singer, songwriter, and filmmaker, living life to the fullest just comes naturally for Reneé Wilson.

Since leaving her hometown of New Orleans, she has modeled on runways in New York, Miami and Los Angeles; taught acting, singing and songwriting around the world; appeared in the Academy Award-winning film Ray with Jamie Foxx, co-produced and directed a documentary; and released her debut album, Voodoo Queen.

Ms. Wilson is also actively involved with life-improving organizations in the Bay Area, such as the Pride Foundation (the largest employer of people with disabilities), HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere), and YES!, where she is a Jam alum and facilitator.

As a member of the 51Oakland Advisory Board, and an Elevate Oakland Artist-in-Residence (Year 1: Castlemont High School) Ms. Wilson is excited to have the chance to apply her prodigious energy and talents to yet another worthy effort, and is looking forward to accomplishing big things with 51Oakland.

Official Website of Reneé Wilson

Kev Choice

KevChoiceSmallPianist. Emcee. Producer. Bandleader. Sideman. Music historian. Kev Choice wears many hats, and all of them fit. Blessed with prodigious talent, plus the skill and dedication to his craft to pull it off, the Oakland-based artist is redefining what it means to be a musician in this day and age. Not too many classically-trained pianists who hold Master’s degrees in jazz can rock microphones with blazing-hot 16s.

Yet such versatility comes natural to Choice, whose diverse array of influences ranges from Prince to Rakim to A Tribe Called Quest to Stevie Wonder to McCoy Tyner to Chopin and Ravel.

“I grew up in the Hip-Hop era,” he explains. “I had love for Hip-Hop before I even knew what classical music really was.” Hip-Hop, he says, “was always the music that helped me express myself the most,” while “Classical music gave me a broader understanding and appreciation for music beyond Hip-Hop.”

Choice remembers being “heavily into vinyl” as a young child, which helped him to develop his ear for music. He began playing piano at age 11, and was soon recognized as a prodigy. As a teenager, Choice played in classical and jazz ensembles as part of the UC Berkeley Young Musicians Program, and continued his studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (New Orleans)–where he graduated with a (BM) in music– and Southern Illinois University (Carbondale)–where he graduated with a (MM) in music. Post-grad school, Choice became an in-demand sideman, recording and touring with the likes of Michael Franti and Spearhead, Lyrics Born, Too $hort, Ledisi and Goapele. In 2007, Lauryn Hill asked him to be her musical director, a gig which took him to 12 countries. Hill, he says, “was very influential in my musical development as an artist ” – exposing him to Ethiopian and world music, rock and reggae. Working with L-Boogie, Choice reflects, “showed me that I was capable of anything and that I should always be pushing myself musically, never get comfortable in your abilities, and always speak and say what you feel in your music without compromise.” He’s since added to his international resume by touring Europe with The Coup, and has also worked with Dwele, Martin Luther, Amel Larrieux, Omar, Joi, and Souls of Mischief. But Choice isn’t just a sideman. As a solo artist, he’s opened for Robert Glasper, Mos Def, Digable Planets, DJ Quik, and J Davey. He leads a jazz-hip-hop-funk big band, the Kev Choice Ensemble, in addition to producing and performing his own material, which includes original jazz and classical compositions as well as classical- , jazz-, and funk-inspired hip-hop. Choice has composed hip-hop sonatas and recorded rhymes to classical melodies, recorded a new song per day for an online series called The Daily Dosage, and has recorded several solo projects, including The Bailout and The Inauguration mixtapes, which highlighted his lyrical skills as well as his musical talents. Being able to read and play music gives Choice an advantage over average emcees and producers, he says. “I can communicate my musical ideas in multiple ways… I can take a beat that I make, and write it out for a band or an orchestra, or any configuration of instruments.” As an emcee, Choice has superb flows, and consistently conscious, intelligent subject matter– reminiscent of a West Coast version of Talib Kweli or Nas. It’s tempting to sleep on his vocal abilities, given his musical excellence – until you’ve seen him freestyle on stage, nonchalantly ripping verse after jaw-dropping verse. Performing live, he says, is “a way to take people on a journey. I want people to feel highs and lows, experience emotions, and relate to the things I’m saying in the music. I want people to see the amazing musicians in my band play at a high level and have us touch them with our musical gifts individually as well as collectively. I definitely always look to reflect my diverse musical influences in a show. I try to combine classical, jazz, soul, funk, rock, drum & bass, electro, and all types of music, in a Hip-Hop context. I like to stay current with my show, constantly adding new elements, trying new things, and trying to take it to a higher level.” Music is what fuels Choice’s aspirations. Like a jazzman of old, he’s known for a rigorous work ethic which places him in a constant cycle of rehearsal to show to studio. Rarely is he not involved in multiple projects concurrently – his current endeavors include a live KCE album; a studio EP of all-original material; a hip-hop opera; and independent film and TV scoring. As a bonafied composer with hip-hop chops, entering such Quincy Jones-like territory would seem like more of a natural evolution than a stretch for Choice. Currently based in his hometown of Oakland, Choice has also spent considerable amount of time in the South and Midwest, attending college in Louisiana and Illinois and living for awhile in Atlanta. “I may travel and dip to different places from time to time, but The Town will always be home,” he says. “I grew up in Oakland so I definitely have a strong connection to the city and community.“ Today’s state of black music, particularly mainstream rap, is a concern for many, including Choice, who imparts, “the subject matter is often very offensive, and centered around money, sex, drugs, and other subjects that aren’t positive… I definitely feel we need more of a balance again.” Choice aims to not only return hip-hop to the cultural standards it once had, but surpass the genre’s creative peak by adding new layers of musical nuance into beats, rhymes, and swaggadoccio. His artistic vision, he says, is to be “an artist that combined Hip-Hop with a type of musicality that has never been done” and to “make conscious Hip-Hop music that is also accepted on a mainstream level.” The absolute truth is that hip-hop in particular and black music in general, desperately needs a Kev Choice: a true musician, cultural historian, and urban griot dedicated to cultural expression and the art of making quality music. Sometimes, the most unique, original Choice is the best Choice one can make. Official Website of Kev Choice

Randy Porter


Randy Porter has been active in the Bay Area music community for over 25 years, as both a performer and an educator. As co-founder of both The Composers Cafeteria and the Improvised Music Association, he has made a significant contribution to the presentation of new and unusual music in the Bay Area.  He has performed guitar, mandolin, and saxophone on numerous recordings, has scored three documentary films. He is the founder of The Downtown Berkeley Music Circus, coordinating the simultaneous performance of more than 200 musicians around the Shattuck Avenue Corridor at a variety of locations by ‘conducting’ them over the airwaves of KPFA radio.

While serving as the first Education Director for the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Porter developed a highly-successful symphony education program that continues to be a national model. In 2003, the program won the prestigious ‘Excellence in Education Award’ from The League of American Orchestras (formerly American Symphony Orchestra League), alongside programs of the New York Philharmonic and the Tucson Symphony. As an instrumental music teacher, Mr. Porter is known for his innovative teaching methods.  He has presented numerous workshops for his fellow educators on the subject, and his students have been invited to demonstrate and perform at functions across the U.S. In 1994, Mr. Porter produced the CD Big Music Little Musicians, Improvisations and Compositions by Oakland Elementary School Children.  This recording received rave reviews, enjoyed substantial air play, and rose to #1 on several play lists around the country, and lead to Mr. Porter’s subsequent project, ‘The Thornhill Sound’, which featured his students in collaboration with a variety of artists, including Terry Riley, members of the SunRa Arkestra, Fred Frith, and others. In 2002, he co-produced a CD with Kent Nagano and The Berkeley Symphony, Julia Butterfly Hill, and Joan Baez, called ‘The Butterfly Tree’, which consists of two original compositions for the family audience. Since the fall of 2000, Mr. Porter has served as music director at Oakland’s Westlake Middle School.  After several years without any Music program, Westlake now boasts one of the most active in the area, with two levels of band, two levels of orchestra, guitar class, and jazz ensemble. Last year Mr. Porter’s students put on more than 25 performances.  He has been instrumental in the creation of the annual OUSD Jazz Festival, String Festival, and Honor Band.  He created and serves as director of Big O, the big band of OUSD Music Teachers, and has served as a conductor at Cazadero Performing Arts Camp and as Musical Instrument Making Artist-in-Residence at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp near Yosemite.  He is an annual performer at the summer solstice ‘Garden of Memories Concert’ at the Chapel of the Chimes performing on a variety of prepared and home made instruments. Mr. Porter lives with his wife Deborah, and their two sons, Dylan and Adam.  He spends his free time with his family, driving his sons to their various baseball and basketball games.

Read more

Jordan McConnell


Jordan McConnell has been playing the guitar for as long as he can remember. He spent his early years playing punk rock in various bands in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and generally being a loud, obnoxious nuisance.

At the impressionable age of 16 – much to the relief of his parents – Jordan was introduced to traditional Irish music by Dadgad specialist Zan Macleod.  Macleod’s music resonated deeply with the teenage McConnell, and led him to a passionate exploration of the form which continues today. In addition to his love for traditional Irish music, Mr. McConnell also began playing classical guitar, and in 2000 was awarded a scholarship to study under Skender Sefa at the University of Manitoba. Today, he has developed a unique style of guitar that incorporates techniques and harmonies from his diverse and varied influences.

In 2002 Mr. McConnell became a founding member of the celebrated folk/roots band The Duhks. The band received a Grammy nomination for “Best Country Performance by a Group or Duo with Vocal”, and was awarded a Grammy for their contribution to the Stephen Foster tribute record Beautiful Dreamer. The popular quintet has also received numerous Juno Award nominations, including a win for “Roots and Traditional Album of the Year.” Mr. McConnell has performed at major music festivals around the world, and has participated in guitar workshops in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Scotland, England and Australia. Besides playing the instrument, Mr. McConnell has spent the last 10 years crafting hand-made guitars, and his client list includes numerous famous musicians. Official Website of Jordan’s Band, The Duhks McConnell Handmade Custom Guitars

Read more

Gabrielle L. Wilson Williams

Gabrielle Williams with 51Oakland Board Members Don Reed & Yoshi Akiba

Gabrielle Williams with 51Oakland Board Members Don Reed & Yoshi Akiba

Gabrielle L. Wilson Williams received the degree of Juris Doctor after studying French and International Law at University of Paris.  An on-air Personality at KPFA – Berkeley’s listener-sponsored Free Speech Radio station since 1999, Gabrielle produces and hosts BAJABA [Bay Area Jazz & Blues Artists] Ear Thyme, a long-running jazz program created by the late Doug Edwards to spotlight Bay Area Resident Artists.

Her shows feature new talent, interviews, book and music reviews, Jazz, Blues, Latin Jazz, and European Classical music.  Her interview subjects have included Abbey Lincoln, Ray Charles, Branford Marsalis, Afro-Cuban Bandleader Israel ‘Cachao’ Lopez, and 51Oakland Board Member Don Reed.  She lives in Oakland.

Juan Escovedo

JuanEscovedo1At a young age, Juan Escovedo began teaching himself how to play bongos, congas, trap drums, timbales, percussion and other instruments. At the tender age of 14, he began playing with his father, Pete Escovedo. In the years since, he has established himself as a unique music talent in his own right – a musician of complexity, style and originality. His artistic achievements flow from his rich musical heritage and compassion for his art form.

Juan Escovedo tours, writes and records both as a solo artist, and with his family – father Pete Escovedo, brother Peter Michael, and sister 51Oakland Board Member Sheila E. Together, they recently release a collaborative album titled “The-E-Family”, which is quickly rising up the charts. Juan co-wrote and produced three original tracks on the album, which also features Joss Stone, Gloria Estefan, Earth, Wind & Fire.

Juan expects to release his own album next year. He’s made special appearances in videos and film, as well recording and performing with many of the most influential music-makers of our time.

The Official Site of Juan Escovedo


Sterling James has been on Bay Area radio airwaves since 1987 when she was still in high school. KSOL, Alice 97.3 for ten years and now mid-day and Sundays at KBLX since 2007. She is involved in Television and hosts many major events. She is a strong advocate of Youth Speaks.

The Official Site of Sterling James