All About Me



For twenty-eight years, Charles Hamilton was the Director of the world renown Berkeley High School Jazz Program.


He had been teaching music in the Berkeley Unified School District for ten years, when he was offered the chance to take over for Phil Hardymon, the developer, along with Herb Wong, of the Jazz Program.   During Charles' tenure, he was the music teacher for many of the music industry's outstanding musicians, inspiring the likes of Joshua Redman, Miles Perkins, Josh Jones, Thomas Pridgen,  Dave Ellis, Kito Gamble, John Smith, Ambrose Akinmusire, Hitomi Oba, Sean Erick, Billy Buss, and many others.


Charles' began performing in the mid-60's while still a teenager. In His home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he played trumpet in his high school band by day, and rhythm and blues in a back woods' night club band by night.  He came to San Francisco in 1965, earning a Bachelor of Music Degree in Instrumental Music, Education emphasis, from San Francisco State.


Locally he has appeared with Steve Allen (of the Steve Allen Show), Bill Bell Big Band, David Hardiman Big Band, Joe Henderson Big Band (also at the Hollywood Bowl), Warren Gale, Louie Bellson, Fred Barry, Randall Keith Holton Orchestra, Dave Parker, Khalil Shaheed and the Big Belly Jazz Band. 


He has performed in the European venues of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, (with Ghasem Batamuntu), the Vienne Jazz Festival in France, the Perugia Jazz Festival, and the Umbria Jazz Festival, Rome and other cities in Italy, and the Bilbao Jazz Festival and the Victoria Jazz Festival in Spain (Saint Gabriel's New Orleans' Brass Band).


In Asia, Charles has been invited twice by the U. S. State Department to be a cultural ambassador, leading international goodwill tours with the San Francisco Bay Jazz Band (of which he was the founder and director),  to the Jaresh International Cultural Festival in Amman, Jordan, Ho Chi Min City and Saigon in Viet Nam, and Bejing, Shanghai, and other cities in China. He has lead three tours to Japan, to the Tokyo/Yamano Jazz Festival, the Kurashiki Jazz Festival, and Osaka Jazz Festival.


He is only the second jazz educator ever to be awarded the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts "Distinguished Teachers in the Arts" award.


His students in the Berkeley High School Jazz Program performed at prestigious Jazz Festivals in California, Europe and Japan. His students have performed in such honors bands for the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Grammy Awards and others.  As soloists, music directors, producers, session musicians, educators, sidemen, or composers, in jazz, hip hop, rock, contemporary, or symphonic music, his former students are sought after and frequently hired without auditions.


Besides Berkeley Unified School District, he has taught for San José State University, and Cañada Community College.   He is on the Advisory Board for the JazzSchool in Berkeley, CA.


He is currently a professor at The Univdersity of Califonia at Santa Cruz, dircting the UCSC Jazz Big Band.  He also instructs at The JazzSchool (Berkeley, CA), leading the High School Combo.