On a recent Saturday evening in September, some 300 parents and friends of students attending the Orange County School of the Arts converged on the bayfront lawn of the Balboa Bay Club and Resort for the “Season Premiere 2019” benefit. It was a return engagement for student members of the performing arts conservatories within the public charter school, which offers a unique, arts-focused curriculum.
Students came rehearsed and ready to perform, demonstrating their all-consuming passion and dedication to vocal, instrumental, dance and dramatic performance. For some of the youth, perhaps all, the drive is inborn, innate and life-affirming.
Students come to the Santa Ana arts school via audition and rigorous application. OCSA is free of tuition and offers students the chance to pursue this passion, which remains largely unavailable in California public education.
Educating students in grades 7 to 12, with a current enrollment of 2,200, this institution, now in its 33rd year since its founding by Ralph Opacic, is something more than just an art school. Rather, it is a creative haven, a nurturing environment for kids who desire immersion in the arts while also completing required college prep classes.
Interestingly, the theatrical concept behind “Season Premiere” is to create a show that features some 25 student musicians and a similar number of singers and dancers performing as soloists, members of ensembles and backups to a celebrity headliner that fronts the production.
Each season, that celebrity also happens to be an OCSA alumnus or alumna. This year, actor, singer and Broadway performer Terron Brooks took center stage. The production was an homage to the Motown 1960s with music from the likes of The Temptations. Brooks just happened to be one of the stars of the Emmy-winning NBC miniseries “The Temptations,” playing the role of Eddie Kendricks.
In a prior year another OCSA alumnus, Matthew Morrison, took center billing. The former star of Ryan Murphy’s groundbreaking television production “Glee” certainly epitomized OCSA’s plan, purpose and raison d'être. “Glee,” of course, was the story of a diverse group of kids brought together by a common love of performance in a backdrop of public school challenges. “Glee” told a story not unlike the OCSA experience; art imitating life.
Backing for the “Season Premiere,” as well as needed support for OCSA in general, comes from sponsors and donors. Every year some $10 million must be raised to cover costs beyond public funding of the school. Making the “Season Premiere” possible were underwriting angels Carole Pickup of Balboa Bay Resort and the Bushala family.
Also sponsoring the evening were Stacey Downey, Julia and Richard Finken, Kendra and Dan Miller, Jennifer and Mike Fell, Julie and Kevin Rosenberg, Linda and Vince Foley, Roxann Engle Rossini and Joe Rossini, among many others. Corporate donors included Audi, Brite Ideas, Bella Flowers, Farmers & Merchants Trust, GARYS Fashion Island, MOCA Fund and Vision Design Studios.
Spotted in the crowd applauding the OCSA students were Bryan and Erin Giglia, Michael Gleason and Nicole O’Bryan, Cheryl and Michael Laven, Don and Rosemarie Steiner and Kelly Townsend.
To learn more about OCSA go to www.ocsarts.net.
B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.