With an emphasis on music, art, and community and a mission statement of ensuring that, "all Oakland public school students have equal access to Art and Music education" the small but hard-working non-profit 51Oakland ("51" + "Oakland") organization has had a most positive impact since its creation a little over a year ago. Co-founder/ executive director Jason Hofmann (interviewed above for the Amoeblog) along with Yoshie Akiba - co-owner of the famed Bay Area jazz club Yoshi's - 51Oakland is doing for the Oakland public school system what, due to continual cutbacks in funding, has been unable to do for itself; present much-needed music and arts programs in the classroom. This the charitable organization has done by working with the schools in Oakland directly and responding to their stated needs.
As word spreads on 51Oakland more and more people in the community are getting involved. One of 51Oakland's volunteers is Oakland resident Joe Kemper who said he decided to volunteer time out of his week with the non-profit because, "I really admire how much of an impact the organization is making. Obviously bringing back music to the Oakland schools is going to have a positive effect on kids who want to learn and play, but more than that, it's significantly helping to increase overall attendance, kids who are involved in music and 51oakland are doing better in their other classes, and it's having a positive impact on graduation rates and affecting kids in their lives far beyond just musically." Kemper added that he cannot stress enough the importance of music and arts programs in schools. "Having gone through the public school system and having the opportunity to participate in music and sports programs made a huge difference for me, and to see that those opportunities are no longer there for these kids is a real tragedy," he said.
Another Oaklander to get involved recently is renowned Oakland singer/musician Sheila E. "Recently we partnered with Sheila E's foundation called The Elevate Hope Foundation," said Hofmann. "And we've crated an Elavate Oakland initiative so we are going into the schools that have little or nothing and we are helping implement music and art curriculum in those schools." In addition to Sheila E they've also recently connected with Carlos Santana's Milagro Foundation. "This is our first year," said Hofmann, noting as among 51Oakland's accomplishments: "We are at Castlemont High School in East Oakland where we have started a guitar class. We have hip-hop artists in residence that will be going in. We have a vocal and gospel singer that will be going into choral class every week. We have different artists that are going to help with the band classes and different instruments. We also have a hip-hop dance into their PE class." To get involved with or simply to stay up to date on news of what's happening with 51Oakland visit 51Oakland.org, follow them on Facebook, on Twitter, as well as via the 51Oakland YouTube channel. Below is a video on the 510Oakland artist-in-residence program at Oakland's Glenview Elementary School.