• Photo of Peter Albin

    Peter Albin


    This founding member of Big Brother and the Holding Company helped organize campus folk festivals that brought acts like the Chamber Brothers and Dick and Mimi Farina to campus.

  • Photo of Vernon Alley

    Vernon Alley

    Bass player

    This jazz legend studied music at SF State in 1940 but he got his real education on the road playing bass for Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.

  • Photo of Sam Andrew

    Sam Andrew


    Before he met fellow SF Stater Peter Albin and formed Big Brother and the Holding Company, he was a literature major who aspired to teach university-level linguistics. Photo © John Byrne Cooke.

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  • George Duke

    George Duke

    Jazz musician

    At age four he watched Duke Ellington perform and "went a little crazy," running around and shouting to his mother, "Get me a piano!" He grew up, earned his master's degree in composition and became a critically acclaimed keyboardist, vocalist and Grammy-nominated producer.

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  • Photo of James Edward Goettsche

    James Edward

    Vatican organist

    In 1961 Professor Alfred F. Alberico arranged for him to play for Fernando Germani, a famous virtuoso organist visiting from Rome. Goettsche was invited to complete his studies in Italy, where he now performs for millions as the pope's official organist.

  • Vincent Guaraldi

    Vincent Guaraldi

    Jazz pianist

    He died in 1976 after recording the soundtrack for "It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown," the 15th and last Peanuts TV special to boast his original jazz riffs -- sounds that still bring smiles of recognition. He honed his talents in the beatnik club scene while studying music at SF State.

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  • John Handy

    John Handy


    In the 1950s, he blew his horn from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. at an Oakland jazz joint called Bop City then hustled over to SF State for an 8 a.m. biology class.

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  • Dan Hicks

    Dan Hicks

    Band leader

    He was finishing his senior year when he signed up with the Charlatans, pioneers of the San Francisco Sound. He left the group to form his own "folk jazz" band, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

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  • Ella Jenkins

    Ella Jenkins

    Musician/recording artist

    The "First Lady of Children's Music" majored in social work in the late 40s and early 50s and continues to use techniques for group work learned at SF State in the music she produces with children. She won a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004.

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  • Kitty Margolis

    Kitty Margolis

    Jazz singer

    Renowned sax player and former SF State instructor Hal Stein asked this student to take over his long-standing gig at Peta's, a North Beach instituition.

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  • Johnny Mathis

    Johnny Mathis


    This 1957 "Chances Are" crooner was a star high jumper at SF State but he rose to even greater heights as one of America's favorite troubadors.

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  • Kent Nagano

    Kent Nagano


    On top of his duties as the music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal and the Bavarian State Opera, he guest conducts many of the world's leading orchestras.

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  • Dan Nakamura

    Dan Nakamura

    Hip hop producer

    The Los Angeles Timescalled this design and industry major "dance music's greatest alchemist of the moment." Under the moniker "Dan the Automator," he followed up his Grammy-nominated "Gorillaz" with "Lovage," an eccentric concept album.

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  • Jacqui Naylor

    Jacqui Naylor


    She came to SF State to study marketing, but after hearing the album "Sarah Vaughan Sings George Gershwin" in a music appreciation class, became seriously interested in vocal jazz. Today she performs to sold-out audiences.

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  • Photo of Pauline Oliveros

    Pauline Oliveros


    While pursuing her bachelor's degree in music composition in the 1950s, she was one of just two women in Dr. Wendell Otey's Composer's Workshop. She has since influenced American music profoundly. Many credit her with being the founder of present day meditative music.

  • Cal Tjader

    Cal Tjader


    Hailed as the greatest anglo performer in Latin music, he studied music and education at SF State before signing on as the drummer for Brubeck's trio. His album "La Onda Va Bien" won a Grammy in 1980.

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  • Larry Vuckovich

    Larry Vuckovich

    Jazz pianist/band leader/recording artist

    At SF State, he divided his time between his coursework and his gigs at local clubs where he quickly made a name for himself as a leading jazz musician. In his early career he played intermissions on the same bill as Duke Ellington, subbed for Vince Guaraldi and jammed with John Handy.

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  • Wesla Whitfield


    This popular cabaret singer paid her way through SF State as a singing waitress. These days, she serves up torch favorites at New York's Algonquin Hotel and San Francisco's Plush Room.

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