Jefferson Awards for Public Service

by Sharon Chin and Jennifer Mistrot

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — When two friends learned that many Oakland public schools had little to no music and arts education, they teamed up to bring the joy of music and arts to thousands of students.

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Students at McClymonds High School in Oakland can’t wait for their weekly percussion lesson.

That’s because professional musician Juan Escovedo has been teaching the class. He and his superstar sister Sheila E., are among the guest instructors at Oakland arts and music program 51Oakland, a non-profit founded by Yoshi Akiba, co-founder of 45-year-old Yoshi’s Jazz Club, and entrepreneur Jason Hofmann.

51Oakland is named for the city’s area code, and it targets kids in the Oakland schools.

With Akiba’s music connections and Hofmann’s business background, 51Oakland reaches more than 2,000 students in more than two dozen Oakland schools a year. Using private donations, the nonprofit pays for many locally-based professional artists to teach and speak on school campuses.

“They see people that come from the same neighborhood that are doing amazing things, and now they think anything is possible, explained Hofmann.

Akiba credits music with saving her life. She grew up in an orphanage in post-World War II Japan. Her desire to help other young people led to her opening up Yoshi’s Jazz club for student performances. It is an encouragement of the student’s musical aspirations.

“Through music, they could have dream, they could express who they are, said Akiba.” Makes me very happy. Also I’m very proud of them.”

The next student band performance at Yoshi’s is the evening of January 24, 2017. During the year, the students also play at the Temescal street fair.


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