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Kenny Rittenhouse

Music Director

Kenny Rittenhouse, with over 30 years of professional experience, is a distinguished veteran of the U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own) and a current member of the renowned Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) for over 18 years. Additionally, he has showcased his talents as a former member of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra (PJO). Known for his versatility, Kenny excels in jazz, musical theater, and academia. Currently serving as a Professor of Trumpet at Morgan State University, he also directs the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Youth Orchestra, where he fosters emerging talent. A prolific composer and arranger, Kenny's contributions have made a significant impact on various ensembles and earned him recognition in esteemed competitions such as the National Federation of Music Clubs.

Bob Murad

Associate Music Director

Bob is a pianist, composer and recording artist who has performed as both a leader and sideman in numerous  jazz venues throughout Washington DC, New York, and the Midwest. He debuted his well-received 2015 CD “The Observer” as a band leader. Bob lives in Washington, DC where he  performs, composes and teaches jazz piano and improvisation.


Fred Foss (1949-2019)

Founding Music Director


Fred Foss was a native New Yorker who started studying music at the age of 19. He  performed with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, Hugh Masekela, Dollar Brand, Tito Puente, Patti Labelle, The Temptations, and The Four Tops. Foss also worked with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He taught music at the Filmore School and the University of Maryland. Fred created the Fred Foss Youth Orchestra which performed in Cuba’s Havana Jazz Festival. Foss enjoys teaching his knowledge and wisdom to young musicians who, in many cases, become professional musicians. In 2019, the DC Jazz festival honored Fred with it Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Board of Directors

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J.C. Jefferson Jr.

Executive Director


J.C. Jefferson Jr. is a 4th generation Washingtonian who began performing jazz as a teenager in 1984 under the direction of trumpeter Webster Young in the" Lettum Play" youth jazz ensemble. Over the years J. has performed jazz, and R&B with artist such as Benny Golson, Larry Willis, Fred Wesley, Butch Warren, Buck Hill, Rene Mclean, Cecil Payne, Ralph Peterson Jr. Hip Pocket; vocalists Denise Jannah and Sheryl Lee Ralph; Poet DJ Renegade (Joel Dais Porter) and the Coasters to name a few. J. has been a fixture on the DC jazz scene and regularly performs with Bill Heid, Imani and Pepe Gonzales, Vince Evans and the Kenny Rittenhouse quartet. J has taught percussion privately and has been on the staff of the Levine School of Music and the Jazz Academy of Music.

Gary Mason

Gary is an attorney in Washington, DC who specializes in consumer class actions.  He is a Founding Partner of Whitfield Bryson & Mason LLP, a plaintiffs law firm with offices in Raleigh, NC, Nashville, TN and Washington, DC. His son, Matthew (16), a drummer, joined the BBJYO when it started in 2017. Gary served as Executive Director from 2018 to 2022. Gary lives in Bethesda with his wife, Thea, and son, Matthew. His daughter, Jessica, is a Senior at Wesleyan University.

Rick Brown


Rick Brown is a native Washingtonian and has been a life-long real estate broker and investor. Raised in Silver Spring, he and his family reside in Potomac and Kent Island, Maryland.   He purchased the Bethesda Theater in 2012 and built the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club into one of the premier entertainment venues in the Mid Atlantic region. Raised by a jazz drummer, he created the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Youth Orchestra to provide a venue for young aspiring players to study and learn their craft. He is a Senior Project Director with The Pacific Institute, a leading company in the field of individual and organizational performance training.  

David Parker



Dave is an investor and Founder's Club member of Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club. A graduate of Georgetown University, he has spent over 30 years as an IT Sales and Marketing Executive with organizations including: IBM, Oracle, EMC Corporation, and most recently Pure Storage. A resident of Silver Spring, MD, Dave is an avid bass player who performs with his band, Off Color and with the Journey's Crossing Church band in Germantown, MD.

Daryl Davis



Daryl is an American R&B and blues musician, activist, author, actor and bandleader. Known for his energetic style of boogie-woogie piano, Daryl has played with such musicians as Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, B. B. King, Bruce Hornsby, and Bill Clinton. His efforts to improve race relations, in which as an African-American he engaged with members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), have been reported on by media such as CNN, NPR, and The Washington Post.

Cynthia Ellis-Givens



Cynthia Ellis-Givens is a native of Savannah, Georgia and graduate of Savannah State University with a bachelors degree in chemistry. Cynthia spent most of her career in pharmaceutical sales for three of the top Fortune 100 pharmaceutical companies. She is an active member and leader in several social, community and national organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Jack and Jill of America Inc., and Wings for Joy. As founder of “Let Me Be Me” LLC., she is dedicated to supporting youth access to the arts and providing a bridge to under-served communities. A resident of Silver Spring, MD, Cynthia is the mother of BBJYO vocalist Alexa Givens.

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Dolen Perkins-Valdez


Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the New York Times bestselling author of Wench, Balm, and most recently Take My Hand. In 2011, she was a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. In 2017, HarperCollins released Wench as one of eight "Olive Titles," limited edition modern classics that included books by Edward P. Jones, Louise Erdrich, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Dolen received a DC Commission on the Arts Grant for her second novel BALM which was published by HarperCollins in 2015.  In 2013, she wrote the introduction to a special edition of Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave, published by Simon & Schuster, which became a New York Times bestseller. She followed that with an introduction to Elizabeth Keckly's Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House published in 2016.  

Dolen is the current Chair of the Board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. On behalf of the foundation, she has visited nearly every public high school in the District of Columbia to talk about the importance of reading and writing.   She is currently Associate Professor in the Literature Department at American University in Washington, DC.

Bennie Barnes


Bennie Barnes, a Congressional retiree, served on the staff of United States Congressmen Charles B Rangel, John Conyers, Jr., and Ronald V Dellums from 1974 to 1996. Since her retirement, she has worked in various roles in the private and public sectors. Notably, she played a key role in promoting jazz education, connecting with the late Saxophonist Fred Foss and introducing youth jazz programs to prominent figures like Congressman John Conyers, Jr.

Bennie is widely recognized in the DC area and beyond as the manager and mother of Grammy Award Winner Bassist Ben Williams. She has been actively involved in youth jazz programs, including serving on the Board of Directors for the Bethesda Jazz and Blues Youth Orchestra. Bennie's commitment to jazz education extends internationally, where she collaborates with jazz communities in Europe and Japan.

Her significant contribution to the DC area jazz scene includes her work with Mr. Foss at the Fillmore Art Center, where she helped maintain and elevate the youth jazz program. Through her efforts, the program gained sponsorship from The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, providing lessons from prominent jazz artists to students, including her son Ben. Bennie's involvement didn't stop at the high school level; she assisted other jazz studies programs outside the DC area, helping Professor Rodney Whitaker of the Michigan State University Jazz Studies Program recruit students from the DC Public Schools.

Maintaining outreach into the international jazz scene, Bennie serves as the sole agent for her internationally acclaimed son, Ben Williams, occasionally taking on special projects with other artists. Currently, she and her sons are collaborating on the release of Ben's upcoming project, further solidifying her impactful legacy in the world of jazz education and promotion.

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Ellen Carter


Ellen Williams Carter is a seasoned Jazz Programmer with an impressive 38-year tenure at WPFW 89.3 FM. Throughout her long-standing career, she has not only been a dedicated radio host and producer, presently leading WPFW's Morning Brew – the Jazz Notes edition every Monday from 5:00 am to 8:00 am, but she has also served as the WPFW Local Station Board secretary for a remarkable nine years.

Before her illustrious radio career, Ellen was deeply involved in music education. From 1988 to 1998, she served as the Executive Director of the D.C. Music Center, and concurrently, from 1988 to 1993, she directed the D.C. Music Center Program. In this role, she organized concerts sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts, showcasing diverse musical talents. Ellen's commitment extended beyond the stage, as she initiated workshops and concerts that brought music into Washington, D.C. area schools.

Ellen's journey into the world of radio began in 1986 when she became an on-air jazz programmer at WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington, D.C., and she has since become a prominent figure in the realm of jazz broadcasting. Through her show, she shares her profound love for jazz music by presenting a rich variety of recorded classic and contemporary jazz pieces. Her dedication to preserving the heritage of jazz and keeping the public informed about musicians' recordings has been a driving force throughout her career. Jazz truly lives on through Ellen Williams Carter's enduring contributions, making a lasting impact in the Washington Metropolitan area and beyond.

Ruth H. Catan



Ruth H. Catan joined the BBJYO family when her twin daughters, Helen and Carolyn auditioned and became members in January, 2018. Helen is a guitarist and Carolyn is a drummer-roles they have singularly performed for the 2021-2022 BBJYO jazz year (they have also participated as clarinetists). Helen and Carolyn caught the jazz bug in 4th grade, playing in the school jazz bands where they play currently, but they wanted a commercial jazz band experience and an opportunity to perform with jazz legends such as Freddy Cole, Fred Foss, Sullivan Fortner, Sean Jones, and Sharon Clark. We are thrilled this is our fourth year with the BBJYO however, Helen and Carolyn will graduate high school in 2022 and Ruth will join this amazing Board of Directors and amazing Musical Directors. When Ruth is not attending performances and appreciating jazz and all other forms of musical expression, she is the Commercial and IP paralegal at NASA, Headquarters. 

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