If you are Center alumnus, we would love to hear from you! Please fill out our alumni network form, and we will be in touch.
95%+ of our graduates enter college after completing our program. Many alumni return to Richmond to serve their community.
Joel grew up in Richmond and does not plan on leaving anytime soon. Joel is passionate about the community he calls home and is determined to continue to help cultivate and sustain positive community experiences in Richmond. To Joel, the Center is a hub that helps grow and support the Richmond community. He has seen the Center impact his high school as well as families throughout Richmond. Joel worked closely with staff and faculty at the Center to develop a student music group at Richmond High, a group that is now 25 members strong. Joel will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall of 2016 to study Music and Astronomy.
Since the age of four, the Center has been a second home to Selah. She started playing the steel pans and the piano then moved to theater, from there she found herself in a ballet class she loved and expanded to modern and West African dance. The Center is where she found some of her most trusted mentors and a community that has helped her through both the good and hard times. Selah appreciates the opportunity she has to work as a Teaching Assistant, as a volunteer, and as a mentor for the younger generations of artists. Selah emphasizes, “What I learned at the Center is a part of my everyday life. I am grateful to be able to appreciate and value the importance of the good kind of hard work.”
In 2012 John Dandan entered Boston’s Berklee College of Music on a full four-year scholarship. In Spring 2016, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Writing & Production and Composition. John developed a passion for classical music at a very early age and during his time at the Center, he believes he was able to set a sustainable foundation for his music practice. Today, John is a producer, composer, arranger, and pianist and plans to share his gifts, knowledge, and talents all over the world.
Pinkie is now at Occidental College where she was invited to join the Cal Tech/Occidental Joint Orchestra alongside graduate students in music. Pinkie’s goal is to influence change through music, media, and the arts as well as the sciences. In reflection about the Center she says, “It’s difficult to say that I learned one thing over another at the Center because it has shaped me as a person, not just a musician.”
Andre grew up in the foster care system in Richmond, with limited resources to explore his creative side. His high school didn’t provide the performing arts classes he needed and he didn’t have the financial means to take private lessons, which led to Andre finding East Bay Center. During the time he was at the Center, he studied voice, guitar, piano, ballet, and African dance, eventually discovering and focusing on his love of theater. Andre will graduate from UC Santa Barbara in Spring 2016 with a BA in theater. He is currently applying to graduate schools in Southern California to pursue a master’s degree in theater.
Tiffany works in Healthcare Administration and is the mother of five kids, and grandmother to three. She runs a non-profit called #Loveintoaction, which does pop-ups at parks that provide free clothing and items to families in need. At the Center Tiffany’s focus was in West African Dance and Theater. She has continued incorporating the arts into her life through writing and directing plays in the theater ministry she created at her Church. Tiffany says that the Center taught her to “own who you are,” “be confident in any room you walk into,” and to find ways to relate to people from different cultures.
In 2012, G’Bari won a scholarship award from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA). G’Bari is currently double majoring in Dance and Sociology at UCLA. He is also an Assistant Director for the NSU Modern Dance Team (Nikkei Student Union) helping to recruit dancers, choreograph, develop themes, stage block, and perform administrative work. NSU Modern Dance is one of the premier hip-hop dance teams at UCLA and is also one of the most ethnically diverse.
Born and raised in Richmond California, Malachi recently graduated from the University of the Pacific in Jazz performance. As a former member of the Brubeck Institute, Malachi has had the opportunity to perform with major artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Bobby Hutchison, Stefon Harris, Eddie Gomez, Adam Kolker, Joel Frham amongst many others.
Marshall joined the Diploma Program to focus on jazz trumpet and expanded his interests to Steel Pans and Theater. He reflects, “Arts training and mentoring done well, nurtures confidence in young people and allows for opportunities to go beyond simply believing or dreaming about doing something, but instead allows for taking action and working to succeed.” He has since graduated from California State Polytechnic University, with a Major in Business Finance.
Liam encountered the Center through the Summer Jazz Program. He recalls West African Music & Dance as helping him develop listening skills beyond the technical aspect of music; enabling him to hear more of the story, sound, and overall feel that deep artistic traditions offer. “I developed an appreciation of assimilating ideas and art forms of all cultures into the context of my own music focus,” says Liam. Liam is now at UCLA, majoring in Ethnomusicology, and a member of the UCLA Jazz Orchestra.
Upon completion of the Diploma Program, Darius arrived in New York on a prestigious fellowship from the Alvin Ailey Company, with financial assistance from East Bay Center under the newly created CK Ladzekpo Dance Scholarship. Darius’ most recent experience includes work with renowned choreographers such as Anthony Burrell, Carlos dos Santos Jr., Darrell Grand Moultrie, Jeffrey Page, and acclaimed dancer Ray Mercer—currently part of the Broadway cast for The Lion King.
Monserrat (Monsé) first came to the Center for ballet and Mexican dance through the after-school outreach program. She has since received her B.A. in Sociology, with a Minor in American Studies and Chicano Studies from UC Merced, and will be starting her graduate studies in Fall 2015. Monsé notes that the Center provides “students the ability to act as agents of change in the community,” something that continues to guide her academic and career pursuits.
As a drummer at the Center, Henry‘s dedication and love of music helped him to attend the five-week summer performance program at Berklee College of Music. Henry went on to attend Berklee for college on a full scholarship, where he majored in music business. He is now a musician and music producer in LA, making music under the name øHenry. Henry has interned with well known record producer Harvey Jay Mason Jr. and has worked with CEO of Capitol Records Group Jeff Vaughn. He has worked with well known musical artists, including background vocals and percussion on the Selena Gomez song “Ring” Henry is currently working on his first album, and is also interested in making a debut in acting. He says the Center taught him to “Stay determined, never give up, never stop, keep striving.”
Richard Zhu studied piano at the Center for fourteen years, beginning at the age of four. Richard was active in the Richmond Chamber Ensemble and Richmond Jazz Ensemble, and also attended several summer intensives that were central to the genesis of today’s Young Artist Diploma Program. Richard went on to attend college at UC Berkeley, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business while continuing his studies in classical piano with faculty in the Department of Music. Richard is now a Vice President in the Investment Solutions group of Merrill Lynch, where he works with financial advisors across 18 states in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest to deliver the firm’s capital markets solutions to investors. Prior to joining Merrill Lynch, Richard spent 9 years at Wells Fargo in progressive roles within the Securities division. In his spare time, Richard enjoys traveling, attending concerts, playing classical piano, and collecting spirits from around the world.
Jayla is a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is getting her BA in Jazz Percussion. At the Conservatory, she has had the opportunity to play with and learn from Bay Area Jazz greats, such as trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, trombonist Steve Davis, and vocalist Carmen Bradford. In addition to studying Jazz at the Conservatory, Jayla also took classical percussion classes with Jacob Nissley, principal percussionist for the San Francisco Symphony. Jayla has performed around the Bay Area with many great Jazz musicians such as vocalist Tiffany Austin (a Center faculty Artist). She recently put together her own group of musicians from the Conservatory to perform at Oaktown Jazz. She also is a part of the local hip hop group, The Black Excellence Band. Jayla still has fond memories of classes she took at the Center, especially West African Dance, West African Drumming and Richmond Jazz Collective. She credits the Center with helping her prepare for her audition to the San Francisco Conservatory, as well as the key role the Center played in helping her to get to where she is today.
Ricardo was first introduced to the Center as a student in our afterschool program. This led him to the Center’s Intensive Summer Institute, through which Ricardo studied dance and violin with Center ensemble, Son de la Tierra. After his time at the Center, Ricardo attended Sarah Lawrence College, worked as an AmeriCorps member, and took what he learned to further inspire youth through dance. He continues to be passionate about the role that creativity and expression can play in a persons’ life. Ricardo reflects, “The Center really inspired me. I learned so much about my culture and became a more creative person.”
A native of Oakland, Antoine is an award-winning African American Deaf and Hard of Hearing choreographer, dancer, dance instructor, actor, poet, deaf advocate, and producer. He has performed with the Savage Jazz Dance Company, Nuba Dance Theater, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Alayo Dance Company, Sins Invalid, Sonic Dance Theater of Epiphany Productions, Cat Willis, Push Dance Company and Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Company, Sign Dance Collective. In 2007, he founded and continues to direct Urban Jazz Dance Company. In August 2013, he founded the Bay Area Deaf Dance Festival.
Howard took up the saxophone at age 11 and hasn’t put it down since. His accomplishments include receiving the Thelonious Monk Scholarship, Downbeat Blues/Pop/Rock Instrumentalist Award for Best Soloist, and the MVP Award for the Grammy All-American Jazz Band. He maintains an active performance schedule locally with his own projects as composer and bandleader and has toured extensively throughout North America with some of Northern California’s top bands, including Marcus Shelby Orchestra and Lavay Smith’s Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Howard is currently Faculty at the Center.
A native of Richmond, Jamar (a.k.a Jammer) began taking classes at the Center when he was nine years old. He received his Associate Degree in Theater from the Los Angeles Theater Academy. Jamar was the Artistic Director and Co-founder of “Housing Authority,” a Hip Hop dance company created in 1991 in Richmond. Jamar has worked with Michael Jackson, Madonna, Usher, Beyonce, Bette Midler, and Diana Ross, to name a few. As a dance teacher Jamar has toured internationally teaching his signature “Hip House Soul” dance style.
Gonzalo grew up in Richmond and was once a gang member himself. But in 1991, his wife and two baby daughters were shot at while she was driving his car. They were not hurt, but the event shook Gonzalo. Soon, he began full-time gang intervention work with Familias Unidas and in 2000 Gonzalo moved on to work at Centerforce at San Quentin State Prison with men returning to the greater Bay Area. In 2005 Gonzalo co-founded Bay Area Peacekeepers, a gang intervention program designed to touch those individuals that the community and society had given up on.
A Richmond native, Father Masseo began his formal music training in 1983 as a student at the Center. Ordained in 1996, Fr. Masseo is proud to be the brother of David Gonzales, artist and creator of “HOMIES.” He is also a producer and performer with FoundNation and goes by the stage name “Rapping Padre.” Since founding El Padrecito Ministries in 2000, a nonprofit which brings faith and the arts together in the service of empowering youth, he has provided guidance to over 10,000 urban youth throughout the country. In 2012, he established a performing arts studio in Guadalupe, California.