The OSA Newsletter: March 2021
Newsletter Contents:
  • Executive Director's Letter
  • Advancement News
  • Calendar Updates
  • Student Mental Health Supports
  • Updates from Academic Teachers
  • Updates from Arts Teachers
  • February Students of the Month
  • Accolades
  • Casting & Contest Opportunities
Letter from the Executive Director
To the OSA Community,

March is a special time of year when women are recognized for the incredible impact they have made on society. We can recognize writers, poets, artists, celebrities, trailblazers and even our most recent historical step – electing the first woman, Kamala Harris, as the Vice President of the United States. This is a time to pay tribute to past and current women.

At OSA, we can recognize numerous important pieces of art that tell a story or share a vision that is impactful. One particular piece of artwork that stands out to me is an incredibly moving piece of choreography titled Cry by the late master choreographer, Alvin Ailey. I first saw this piece over 40 years ago performed by Judith Jamison, Alvin Ailey’s muse. This piece was choreographed for Alvin Ailey’s mother as a birthday present. This 15-minute piece is a powerful solo depicting the struggles of Black women. I feel this is an incredibly poignant piece for people to see. Ms. Jamison shared in her autobiography Dancing Spirit the following:

"Exactly where the woman is going through the ballet's three sections was never explained to me by Alvin. In my interpretation, she represented those women before her who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations. Coming out of a world of pain and trouble, she has found her way - and triumphed."

Cry is considered a historical and legendary piece of choreography by the late Alvin Ailey. Each of the women who have danced this solo over the past 50 years have joined the ranks of honorable women who have told a masterful story. We all have a particular woman in our life who has been influential and to whom we can pay homage. I selected this piece to share because Cry is dedicated to a mother, and it tells an incredibly poignant story of a woman and the women who have performed this piece speak through movement and share a spirit of hope. I hope you enjoy this lovely piece.

Our newsletter this month is full of stories, department news, accolades and current updates regarding our artistic calendar, our upcoming fundraiser and the health and safety measures we are adhering to during this challenging time.

Thank you for your continued support of OSA. We hope you will be reaching out to our Advancement department in the coming weeks to support our next fundraiser on April 29th - Heart of Oakland. Please click the link to learn more about our event and how you can contribute to OSA.

Lisa Sherman-Colt
Lisa Sherman-Colt
Executive Director
Survey Reminder!
Please remember that the parent/guardian survey has been distributed and we encourage all to provide their feedback. Thank you to the almost 400 families who have already responded!
Advancement Update
Save the (New) Date! 
OSA's Heart of Oakland: "Oakland Made" 
Virtual Spring Benefit
Thursday, April 29th at 6pm

After careful consideration, OSA's Heart of Oakland Spring Benefit will be moved to Thursday, April 29th. This decision was made to ensure ample time to get the OSA and larger community involved which will allow us to offer a robust auction and show program. We remain excited to bring the community together to support our creative youth!

Register: Registration is Free! RSVP today!
Volunteer: Help us secure items for the Heart of Oakland auction! To volunteer, please email Annual Fund Manager, Kristin TT Robson.

Donate: Do you have an item you'd like to contribute to our auction? Fill out this online form or email Annual Fund Manager, Kristin TT Robson.

Sponsor: Sponsorship opportunities are available! Please contact Kathryn Keslosky, Director of Advancement at or (510) 873-8819 for more information.

Click here for more information, including how to RSVP, about this year's "Oakland Made" themed Heart of Oakland Benefit. Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you on April 29th!
Important Calendar Updates!
Join our next Artist Speaker Series to hear from Tower of Power founder Emilio Castillo! More details appear in the Arts portion of the newsletter, below:
Date: Tuesday March 9
Time: 11:00 - 12:00

Wednesday and Thursday, March 10 & 11 are scheduled as asynchronous learning days, which means that students will not have scheduled classes but will instead use that opportunity to finish their coursework for quarter three and potentially have a break from screens. Please be aware that there is no school on Friday March 12 due to the end of the quarter - please be sure all student work is submitted before this teacher grading day!

Also there is no school on Monday March 29 in honor of Cesar Chavez Day.
Our four-day academic schedules are posted on our website:
Using the Science of Motivation to Help Struggling Students
Article by Dr. Erica Wandner, OSA Psychologist

Last week I heard from a bunch of OSA parents, as well as parents in my own tween and teen parenting network, that they were struggling with trying to support their children who were dealing with very low motivation regarding both their academics and their artistic pursuits. Vaccine availability mixed with the spring weather and longer days is bringing hope for some, but the effects of so many months of isolation and lack of structure continues to take its toll on many of us—and seemingly many teens in particular.
So, what does the science of motivation tell us that might help these students? And why might previously highly motivated students who wanted to come to OSA to pursue their artistic goals and dreams not be feeling the same level of motivation as before? Some of the answers might be common-sensical but I wanted to know more and then share it. An article was published in 2020 after the pandemic hit Italy and Portugal. Students were surveyed regarding impacts to motivation with distance learning. Although continued involvement in extracurricular activities during lockdown were found to be preventative, what was found to hurt students motivation was :
1) a lack of clarity and feedback from teachers,
2) an over-expectation regarding students capacity to self-regulate and be autonomous when completing tasks, and
3) a lack of supportive, positive connections with both teachers and peers.
Motivation is always both internal and external and for teens distance-learning has been the perfect storm since they so much want to be perceived by adults and peers as independent, and yet so many of them still need the external structures and social connection of school to stay motivated and successful. So that’s why my big message to both parents and teachers is:
-Reach out and help your teen set goals,
-Refresh and recommit to routine,
-Give some choice (so your teen has some sense of control) but also consider making concrete contracts (you do this and I/we will do that.)
As always, I’m available to consult with families especially Thursdays 4-5pm email me directly at Sometimes, low motivation can be a sign of a more serious mental health crisis, so please also contact your student’s primary care provider with concerns.
Updates from our Academic Teachers:
Teachers in the English Department have been sharing ideas on getting students to read more while they are attending classes through Zoom. We have also been discussing ways to promote literacy school-wide when we return to OSA. Stay tuned!
Students in Ms. Wagner's CC3 class recently tested their wizarding skills when they tried to work their way out of a Harry Potter themed digital escape room. Young wizards drew on their "arithmancy" skills to convert between galleons, sickles, and gnuts, and needed to dig deep into their wizarding knowledge to decode clues such as "the point of intersection is the key to your escape." Were students able to write the recipe/equation for sleeping potion and make it past the three-headed dog? Only "Professor Woggner" knows! Ms. Wagner credits Mrs. Yan for the idea; Mrs. Yan created an "Escape from OSA" digital escape room for her own CC3 class. Thank you Mrs. Yan and Ms. Wagner for finding creative ways to keep students engaged in online learning!
Chemistry classes are integrating design with chemistry concepts to draw covalent molecules and their 3D geometries. Check out our students' observations using molecular geometry PhET simulations!

Work credits go to Kirby Parsons-Doherty, William Truong, and Karly McRae
Social Sciences
This semester 8th grade students have been studying the American Revolution by taking notes on the events and synthesizing the information by doing a project where they pretend to report on the war as though they were journalists at the time. They started with a newspaper format looking at the events that lead up to the Revolution, then they moved on to the beginning of the Revolution (Lexington and Concord through the British retreat from Boston) and formatted this segment as though they were making a television news program. Finally in the last segment my students looked at the Declaration of Independence and the war itself up through the surrender at Yorktown and reported on it in the style of a radio program. In each segment the students pretended to interview people they learned about and showed what they learned through art. In segment 1 there was visual illustration, in segment 2 there was a good deal of acting, and in segment three each group was asked either to compose a song or rewrite the words to a song to reflect their content. It has been an absolute joy to see what our 8th graders can do! -Ms.Pontecorvo

OSA's Mock Trial team competed in several rounds of competitions for the last three weeks, showcasing their skills as brilliant student attorneys, witnesses, and expert witnesses. While the team didn't advance to the semi-finals, they gained recognition for strong lines of questioning in the courtroom and made significant improvement after each round. Several students are interested in competing next year and continuing to advance their knowledge of the legal process.

U.S. History is starting a new unit about the Civil War and the Abolition. Students are studying counter-narratives about slavery that are typically omitted from the U.S. History curriculum and will be analyzing the issues faced by Abraham Lincoln prior to writing the Emancipation Proclamation. Students will also engage in a series of activities that ask them to put themselves in the position of abolitionists from the 1800's, and have them engage in a political meeting space to discuss the tactics for how to advance the cause of abolition. 
World Language
Spanish 1 students are learning about breakfast and lunch foods. They are making sentences about what people eat and drink; they also learn about traditional dishes from Puerto Rico.
Spanish 2 students are finishing a lesson about clothes. They are currently preparing a virtual fashion show in Spanish.
In Spanish 3 students are finishing a short novel set in Perú. They are about to write and perform alternate endings to this novel.

Earlier in January Spanish 2 students compared their life to that of students around the world. Here are some examples of their work.
Period Two work
Period Four work
Updates from our Arts Teachers:
In Dance, we have continued our focus on working and training as MS and HS teams. Students had the invaluable opportunity to view their progress through mid-quarter assessment videos and set Q3 Goals, and Action Plans to achieve those goals, based on the feedback they have been receiving through in-class instruction, Progress Reports, and video feedback. Students researched Martha Graham and studied and worked on Graham-based technique and movement aesthetics.
HS students have also been working on learning and rehearsing material for the Heart of Oakland benefit show!
Paris Jackson Jr, Class of 2023
Digital Media
Digital Media has been collaborating with the East Bay Photo collective on putting together a photo exhibition. We are excited to debut this work online and in a gallery on Grand Ave on March 6th. We are also busy at work on a number of collaborations with Lit Arts, Vocal, Theatre and Production Design. We're looking forward to sharing all the things we've been working soon!
Fashion Design
OMG it's March! The Fashion Department would just like to take the opportunity this month to send a huge Thank You to all of our amazing students and families. During this tough year of remote learning we have continued to explore and make meaningful art and it would not have been possible without the patience, commitment and spirit of each and every member of our fashion family. 
Instrumental Music
Middle school and high school students are working hard on their spring concert material. Recently, we had guest visits from Gerald Clayton (Grammy-nominated Dutch jazz pianist) and Tom Spahn (Emmy-winning sound producer from Sesame Street Studios). String players are looking forward to contributing to a cross-US Kronos collaboration March 25th (connecting with schools in HI, DC, NY, TX, and CA). The department is also excited to announce stronger partnerships with the SF Symphony and the SF Conservatory; for the latter, two students, Vincent M. and Max N. have passed an audition for free tuition toward SFCM's pre-college program. Finally, here are a couple cultural projects to highlight.

From Mr. Butler in AP&E:
"This assignment was given for students to explore cultures of music outside of the United States. I wanted them to learn about their strengths and weaknesses of making music outside of what they are used to creating."

From the "Music and the Human Imagination" course: A collaborative presentation including instruments across the globe and across eras (Note: Chrome no longer supports Adobe flash, so copy and paste link in another browser)
Literary Arts
Both middle school and high school Lit Arts have published the February issue of the OSA Telegraph, featuring pieces on the election, Capitol insurrection, Black history month, Covid-19, UFOs, as well as movie, book, TV, & social media reviews—and more! Read more at Ms Whitcomb is working with her high school Screenwriting Workshop on the elements of a scene - introducing screenwriting software, motivation objective and super-objective for character and scene development, storyboarding childhood memories, and group projects. Senior Books met with student designers from California College of the Arts who will be creating their book covers, which will be published this May! 
Production Design
Production Design Middle School students just finished their final Virtual Background Design for The Addams Family. They presented to the class the designs, spoke about their approach and how they came up with the composition. Next they are taking these designs and learning how to duplicate them in three dimensional software.

Production Design High School students are focusing on creating or adding to their portfolio, writing Artist Statements, resumes, choosing the projects they want to showcase, and preparing their presentation which will start this Monday.
You may recall that three Production Design students worked on props for the "Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief 2021 Trailer" directed by Beshoy Eskarous, in collaboration with OSA Theatre Alum Sionne Elise. The trailer is now available on YouTube - check out the credits given to students Henry Sylvia, Emily Leonard and Al Houk! What amazing work-based learning opportunities for our students!
 Theatre is in full production mode with all of our main stage shows in rehearsals for spring performances: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Addams Family, and Spring Awakening. The middle school show just started working with green screens and other tech equipment as we are recording some musical portions of the show and gearing up for a live broadcast in collaboration with Production Design. Coming up is the Physical Theatre students' production of bobrauschenbergamerica by Chalres Mee on Friday 3/5 and Saturday 3/6 at 7pm. bobrauschenbergamerica is a dynamic devised piece incorporating Viewpoints movement techniques, character work, film work and film editing, dance, comedy, and loads of creativity and talent as we take a roadtrip through the American landscape through the lense of one of the greatest postmodernist artists, Robert Rauschenberg. Also on Friday 3/19 and Saturday 3/20 at 7pm is the New Works Festival, where our amazing playwrights showcase their original student directed pieces. All show details can be found on the OSA main webpage.
In the 11th grade - we recently finished making the graphic artwork for the visual branding for the the Heart of Oakland event (below). We also continue to make our "pixel paintings" - a color mixing assignment where hundreds of individual color squares are color mixed and painted to create a larger image. Find out more about Heart of Oakland here!
Vocal Music has been very busy during February. The month began with our Vocal Winter Showcase - with solos from over 100+ students! Last night we hosted a listening party for OSA Songwriters and shared original work from students in Vocal, Theatre, and Instrumental. You can still listen to our students for the rest of February - just go to our website and you can connect to both shows, as well as make donations at Support OSA! 

Now we are moving forward to prepare for Heart of Oakland, a collaboration with San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, an education program with California Jazz Conservatory, and Vocal Spring Shows on April 23 and 24.
Pathways Update

Due to a scheduling conflict, we have a change in next week's Artist Speaker series. We are honored to announce that the legendary founder of Oakland's own Tower of Power, Emilio Castillo, will be stepping in with our student moderators Sir Ronald Hamlet and Oliver Tuttle from the Instrumental Music department.

Date: Tuesday March 9
Time: 11:00 - 12:00

As a Linked Learning school, this series of events was created as a part of our commitment to transforming education into a relevant and engaging experience. OSA believes in providing our students with the opportunity to connect directly with these influential working artists.
February Students of the Month
Accolades & Achievements
Audio Production teacher and amazing human being Kumar Butler released a new album which was covered in a recent KQED article. It's his solo debut, called solidarity.
Three of the 'Five Black Oakland Artists Making Waves in the Bay Area' are affiliated with OSA. Go figure! We loved reading about our beloved and super talented Cava Menzies, Kev Choice, and Jwalt!
The talented author of these previously mentioned articles, as well as a new book, Piñata Theory, is former OSA English teacher Alan Chazaro. He is also the author of This Is Not a Frank Ocean Cover Album (Black Lawrence Press, 2019) ). He is a graduate of June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley, a former Lawrence Ferlinghetti Fellow at the University of San Francisco, and co-founding editor of HeadFake, an online NBA zine.
Oakland Cultural Affairs Commissioner and OSA teacher Kev Choice in partnership with Oakland City Council President and OSA parent Nikki Fortunato Bas, presented "Stories of Solidarity", a virtual town hall conversation and concert led by Oakland’s Asian, Pacific Islander and Black artists standing together. Some powerful stories and artistic collaborations were involved, including Emily Tian, OSA teacher and talented pianist (images below). This event was organized in response to the rise in anti-Asian violence. Thank you for your heart and dedication!
Casting & Contest Opportunities
Please note that OSA is passing along student opportunities which were shared with us. None of these organizations are affiliated with nor endorsed implicitly by OSA.
If your student is looking for acting gigs, a few parents have recommended we share information about Backstage for casting calls. Many opportunities are listed here, for adults as well as youth, so parents should be sure to read the fine print!
Apply for an Oakland Promise Scholarship today! Scholars awarded a multi-year scholarship from Oakland Promise receive scholarship funds as well as mentoring, peer-advising, networking opportunities, and other persistence support and services to achieve post-secondary success.
Complete your application today!
Questions? Email or join us for Office Hours every Tuesday & Thursday, 2-4PM, at
Congratulations to the OSA students who submitted work to the Bay Area Creative Foundation. The Creative Youth Celebration takes place on March 31st, at which the BACF will present $15,000 in cash rewards to students.
Thank you for your continued support of OSA!
Oakland School for the Arts