Meet McAuliffe Jazz Band Director – CHUCK WACKERMAN

by Donna Chinn, organizer
Los Alamitos Alliance
for Arts Education
Mr. Chuck Wackerman is the Director of Jazz Band at McAuliffe Middle School.  He has been teaching here since 1957, and he is the Founding Father of jazz education in LAUSD.
He earned his degrees in Music and Education from USC, specializing in trumpet and drums. He began his teaching career at McGaugh in 1957.  The details of his long and storied career have been documented by several sources in the last few years:
His name is synonymous with jazz and music.  He taught throughout what eventually became LAUSD, directing jazz bands, jazz combos, marching band and symphonic band.  His bands consistently earn high scores and awards, including a 1st place finish at the prestigious Reno Jazz Festival by his LAHS Jazz Band in1993.  Outside of his work with Los Al performing groups, he has directed the SCSBOA Honor Jazz Band.
He established Class Notes some 40 years ago to support his jazz education program.  He invites prominent jazz artists, such as Louis Bellson, Shelly Manne, Maynard Ferguson, Tom Kubis, and Gordon Goodwin to perform in an annual benefit concert.  He also brings in instrument specialists to hold weekly clinics for his students.
Chuck Wackerman is highly respected by his students, their parents, and his colleagues throughout the jazz community. He has a special talent for inspiring his students to do well.  Students realize that his standards are high, and work hard to meet them.  “Gotta practice. I don’t want to disappoint Mr. Wackerman” said a former student.  
His love of music and teaching is apparent.  In an interview with Roxana Kopetman for the OC Register, he explained, “As a teacher, you have to be enthusiastic in the first place.  I love teaching.  When you love what you’re doing, it kind of rubs off on the kids.”  
Recent recognitions include PTA Honorary Service Awards, OCMAA Educators Lifetime Achievement Award, CSULB Jazz & KJazz Educator of the Year, California Alliance for Jazz Hall of Fame, Seal Beach Founders Day Honoree, and 2013 Class Notes tribute concert in his honor.
Chuck Wackerman’s undeniable legacy is the strong award winning instrumental jazz education program we have today and its reputation for excellence.  But perhaps his greater legacy is the appreciation of jazz that he nurtures and passes on to his many former students.  Like seeds scattered to the wind, they spread their love of jazz well beyond Los Al.