Teacher Profile: Rhonda Crane



Teacher: Rhonda Crane, With OYC since 2005

Studied Music Education at San Jose State University

As a warm-up question, what is your favorite warm up that you use with the singers?

There are several. Two songs, I Need a Waiter, and Eye Eye Yayikis are student favorites.

What’s your favorite part about being a Music teacher?

Getting back what I give and the joy the students experience in singing.

What are you doing when you’re not teaching?

Gardening or sewing.

Who is your favorite musical artist right now?

Anita Wilson

Who are some of your influences, musical or otherwise, and what is inspiring about them?

My influences are many. Classical and American music (gospel, RnB, Funk). I have always known people who were musicians so I have been surrounded by many influences.

What’s your favorite key? 


Are you involved in any other musical endeavors/projects right now?

I sing with a band, a’capella quintet, 2 Gospel Choirs, one of which is a world renowned Grammy winning recording choir.

What’s your favorite song ever (right now)?

Fur Elise; Beethoven.


Everybody Teaches, Everybody Learns

Developing musicianship, confidence, and a life long love for singing in our children, OYC teachers model continued learning and excellence in the classroom and beyond. Our teachers even go to school on Saturdays, recently attending NCAKE’s Kodaly workshop on world music with Chistopher Roberts, and NCAOSA’s day of Orff based music and movement with Beth Melin Nelson. Attending teachers found the days inspiring and are excited to bring the activities and concepts to their classes. “This workshop provided awesome resources and activities that I will definitely be using. I very much liked the way that he outlined the structure of a listening lesson, providing the different kinds of activities you can do within a listening lesson. I also like how he explained some accommodations that can be made during the activities for different students’ behaviors,” said Sid Quinsaat. Ja’Mell Fairley also appreciated the listening lesson, which “really gives students a chance to exercise your musical ears to sounds they’re not used to hearing. ”

“Continued learning by our teachers brings exciting new ideas, inspiration and resources to our programs, expanding our success with students at different stages of development and with a variety of learning styles,” said Executive Director (and Miracle teacher) Keri Butkevich. “We want our students to find that spark that keeps them learning throughout their lifetimes, and our teaching staff embodies that spirit. Plus, it’s so much fun to play the games, dance to stories, and sing the songs with music educators from around the country – it puts us in the mindset of our students and lets us reconnect with their sense of wonder and joy.”

We look forward to updating you on how these workshops are being used in the classroom and sharing our students’ learning with you this year!photo 1

Meet Oakland Youth Chorus’ new teachers for the 2014-2015 Season

Oakland Youth Chorus is proud to introduce two new teachers joining our staff for the 2014-2015 season.



An alumna of Oakland Youth Chorus (2006-2008), Ja’Mell received her Bachelor of Arts & Science Degree in Vocal Performance from Grambling State University in May 2014. She was inspired to study music by her years in OYC.

Ja’Mell is teaching our Miracle Chorus ensembles at Chabot, Kaiser and Hillcrest this year, in addition to serving as an Administrative Assistant in the OYC office. Ja’Mell was featured in the 2009 film, La Mission, starring Benjamin Bratt. She has performed music of many different genres and is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity and ACDA. Recent performances include A Tribute to the Harlem Renaissance, Can I Get a Witness, and concerts and events for the Dallas Metroplex Music Association for Negro Musicians, Jazzland Music Festival, and the Shreveport Spiritual Festival. She brings six years of experience working with children ages 2-14 at Lakeshore Children Center in Oakland providing music learning and educational activities to her current position with OYC.

Ja’Mell is thrilled to reunite with the Oakland Youth Chorus and wishes to give Oakland children what was given to her: a welcoming and comfortable learning environment inspired by music.



Sid joins OYC as a newcomer to the Bay Area. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Michigan, where he directed and sang in his college a capella group, the U of MI G-Men, which competed and performed internationally.

Sid has taught K-9 students for Young People’s Theater, conducted children’s choirs, and was a Program Director for Neutral Zone’s Your Voice! program. He is also constantly working on musical projects of his own, and is excited to extend this creativity to the classroom. A life-long musician, he has experienced first-hand the positive influence music can have on one’s life and strives to help students realize this power. He believes when making music, students can immediately experience the benefits of putting the good of the whole before the self—an invaluable lesson in today’s society.

For the 2014-2015 season at OYC, Sid is leading our K-5th grade Miracle Chorus ensembles at Yu Ming Charter School, Mill College Children’s School, and Crocker Highlands Elementary, and leads the middle school choir ensemble at Madison Park Academy.

Meet Diana Strong – one of OYC’s new teachers


Diana Strong began studying piano at age seven, and is currently a professional accordionist performing regularly around the Bay Area and the West Coast with Sweet Moments of Confusion (original instrumental music), the Red Hot Chachkas (klezmer fusion), appears solo and with numerous other ensembles as well as collaborating with dance and theater (most recently Central Works in Berkeley).  She studied general education at Mills College and Orff Schulwerk (music education) with the San Francisco School, teaches private lessons in piano and accordion, loves to sing, and enjoys sharing her love of music with students of all ages. She is new to OYC this year and excited to work with and learn from this team of incredible teaching artists.

Meet one of OYC’s New Teachers

Meet Ben Brady –
Ben Brady is a native of Denver Colorado, and a recent graduate of University of Michigan where he studied vocal performance with Stephen West and choral studies with Eugene Rogers and Jerry Blackstone. He has a great deal of performance experience in classical voice, jazz, rock, and theatre. He is a recent addition to the Bay Area and is extremely excited to be teaching music and conducting choirs for the first time with Oakland Youth Chorus.


Soon we will introduce you to Diana Strong and Eileen Lauer, two more new teachers joining OYC for the 2013-2014 season.

Out with the old and in with the new!

With the start of the 2013-2014 season on August 26 comes a feeling of excitement: embracing our returning singers, welcoming new families, expanding partnerships at our established sites and new schools in Fruitvale and East Oakland, and celebrating the return of our veteran teachers AND new additions to our faculty.

To launch our 39th season of creating harmony through diversity, we are thrilled to share with you our newly designed website. Take a look HERE and visit us often as this site will be more dynamic, updated frequently, and will create a meaningful space for Oakland Youth Chorus families, alumni, partners, and community members to learn about OYC and to engage with us as we look ahead to our 40th anniversary season.

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Visit us soon at oaklandyouthchorus.org and let us know what you think.

Exciting news about an Oakland Youth Chorus alum!

Great news on the OYC alum front!

Victoria Theodore, who was in OYC in the 1980’s and has performed all over domestically and internationally with Stevie Wonder as his keyboardist and backup singer, has a new high-profile gig. Beginning September 9, Victoria can be seen playing in Arsenio Hall’s house band!

Congratulations, Victoria. We can’t wait to watch.

Here is Victoria in Spain in 2009 for Stevie Wonder’s Live At Last concert. See her play at 0:48.

Victoria recently released a solo CD called Grateful. Learn more about Victoria and where to see her perform by visiting her website http://vtmusicworks.com/index.php