Clay Jenkins' career as a jazz artist has covered a wide range of musical experiences. He attended The University of North Texas (then named North Texas State University) where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Music Theory and studied trumpet with John Haynie.
Upon completion of his degree, Clay went out on the road, playing the jazz trumpet chair with the Stan Kenton Orchestra. He recorded three live albums with the Kenton Band, Artistry in Symphonic Jazz, A Time for Love, and The Lost Concerts, Vols. I & II, and was also involved with the Stan Kenton Orchestra in Residence Jazz Camps.
Clay moved to Los Angeles in 1978, where he continued playing in live performances and in studio recording sessions. He also studied with the renowned trumpet teacher, James Stamp for the next two years. From Los Angeles, he toured with the big bands of Harry James, Buddy Rich, and finally, the Count Basie Orchestra.
Clay earned his Master's Degree in Jazz Studies from The University of Southern California in 1993, studying trumpet with Boyde Hood. Clay began teaching at several schools, including The Foundation for the Junior Blind, The University of Southern California, California State University at Northridge, and The California Institute of the Arts. He also served as Chairman of the Music Theory Department at the Colburn School of Performing Arts from 1988 through the summer of 2000, and co-authored the theory textbook being used there and in other schools. His duties also include being on the staff of several Jim Widner Summer Jazz Camps.
Currently, Clay is an Associate Professor of Jazz Trumpet at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. He also continues to be a very active performing and recording artist. He has performed and presented clinics all over the United States and Canada, and also abroad in Japan, Italy, Korea, Germany, Portugal, Russia, and South Africa. He is a charter member of the trumpet section of the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (which has included trumpet artists Snooky Young, Bobby Bryant, Chuck Findley, Oscar Brashear, Byron Stripling, Bijon Watson, Bobby Rodriguez, and Charlie Davis). The C.H.J.O. was the Jazz Orchestra in Residence at the Hollywood Bowl from 1999-2001.
Clay's solo recordings include: Rings, Give and Gather, Yellow Flowers After, and the just released, Azure Eyes on the newly formed Jazz Compass label. His ensemble with co-leader Kim Richmond, has released two recordings: Range, and Look at the Time. Other artists Clay has recorded with include Milt Jackson, Harold Danko, The Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Billy Harper, Lyle Mays, Peter Erskine, Ray Brown, Dr. John, Bob Sheppard, Jim Widner, Eric Reed, Gary Hobbs, Bill Perkins, Joe La Barbera, Pat La Barbera, Bill Cunliffe, Billy Childs, Steve Houghton, Lennie Niehaus, Ernestine Anderson, Kurt Elling, and Miki Coltrane.
Clay plays the New French Besson trumpet, produced by Boosey and Hawkes, Inc. and represents this company as a performing artist.