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Joel Penner

Joel was born in Hollywood, California on October 28, 1946. He grew up primarily in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley where he began studying the trumpet privately at the age of eight. He was exposed at that early age to the joys and discipline of being a professional musician by his mentor Claude Lakey who was the director of the San Fernando Valley Youth Band, which offered  an incredible opportunity to study and perform both classical music and jazz in a variety of situations.  By the age of eleven, he was playing lead in a big band and by the time he was sixteen, he had performed twice at the Hollywood Bowl, performed at the 1960 Democratic Convention and sidelined in the marching band scene for the movie Hello Dolly starring Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau.

When he was a sophomore in high school, Joel put together and directed his high school big band which performed at many local events throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.  By the time he was fifteen he was playing professionally in several small jazz ensembles and the Eddie Allen Big Band. He also, at that age received a scholarship to the Cal State University at Northridge's Summer Music Institute which was composed of many of the best Southern California high school musicians and consisted of eight weeks of intense, eight hour a day training in all aspects of musical performance.

In 1963, at the age of sixteen Joel enrolled at The University of California at Berkeley, from which he graduated with a degree in music in 1968.  He had the opportunity to study with some of the  foremost composers in the world, including Charles C. Cushing, Andrew Imbrie and Jean Claude Eloy.  In 1966, he and his band mates appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with Sonny and Cher. Joel was honored by being named Student Director of the College Band during his fourth year and in his fifth year he co-founded and directed the ASUC Jazz Ensemble, which has become noted for its annual high school Jazz Band Festival. 

Right after graduation, Joel joined the California Army National Guard Band located in the Bay Area in order to fulfill his military obligation.  During those six years, he studied privately with Larry Souza and John Coppola and worked casuals and in various club bands. He also had the opportunity to back up numerous artists, including the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Florence Henderson, Glen Campbell and others.  From 1970-1974 he was a regular in the Oakland Raider's Band conducted by Del Courtney.

In 1975, Joel formed his own band which went out on the road, playing clubs all over the United States and Canada.  The band was out non-stop for two years. They played five to six nights a week, four or five sets a night with only three or four weeks off each year.  He returned to Los Angeles in 1977 and worked casuals, clubs and some record dates over the next six years.

In 1983, Joel decided to take a break from the music business and returned to school full time to get his doctorate in Oriental Medicine.  In 1987 he received his license as an acupuncturist/herbalist and has maintained a successful practice since that time. During that time he co-authored a successful book on Chinese Medicine and became a well known teacher and lecturer on the subject.  He continued to play, however his musical activities were greatly reduced.

In 1999, Joel found renewed passion for music and curtailed  his teaching and lecturing in order to form his current band, The Joel Penner Sextet.  The band has been a successful fixture on the L.A. jazz scene since that time.  His debut CD, "DragonJazz" received airplay on over 40 full time jazz stations across the country.  The band has performed at festivals, concerts, clubs and numerous private functions for almost six years.  The release of his new CD, "The Church Of The Little Black Dog" in October 2005 takes the band to a new level.  Sea Breeze Records signed the band and added it to its roster of jazz stars which includes Bobby Shew, Nick Brignola, Frank Strazzeri, Carl Saunders, Bob Florence, Doug MacDonald, Rob McConnel and many more.


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