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    AHS Jazz Band sent to Lincoln Center

    May 24th, 2010

    Albany High School Jazz Band practices for “Essentially Ellington”

    Video and blog by Barbara Grady

    There are 18,400 public high schools in the United States and chances are each one has a jazz band. Of them, 1,550 hoped to be invited to this month’s “Essentially Ellington” High School Jazz Competition & Festival held at Lincoln Center.

    Only 15 school bands were selected. Albany High School’s Jazz Band was one of them.

    To listen to what makes the Albany Jazz Band stand out, click on this video of the band practicing songs they later performed at “Essentially Ellington.”

    Playing with Wynton Marsalis, the legendary trumpeter who is Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, and attending sessions taught by conductor David Berger, saxophonist Jimmy Heath and bassist Rodney Whitaker, the Albany students experienced what it’s like to play in the Big Apple with some of the world’s best under the glittering lights of Lincoln Center.

    “For Jazz, New York is one of the biggest hubs, it pretty much is the biggest hub,” said AHS saxophonist Tad Nicol. “It’s really cool to go to the place where it all kind of evolved.”

    AHS Instrumental Music Director Craig Bryant said being invited to the festival was the culmination of lots of dedicated work.

    “We’ve been trying for a number of years to get in to the festival,” Bryant said. “We worked really hard,” not only practicing but then also preparing an audition CD which turned into a team effort for band members, he said.

    The 19 students and their director headed off to the festival on May 7 for three days of jamming, competitions and good listening.

    No doubt, some of these kids will be back – as professionals.

    Transition Albany hosts climate change film

    March 5th, 2010

    Information submitted by Miya Kitahara

    A small band of Albany residents has formed “Transition Albany,” one chapter in a growing global movement to foster community resilience in the face of climate change and related challenges of peak oil use and the economic crisis. (visit www.transitionalbany.org)

    Transition Albany is the 59th official Transition Initiative in the United States, according to Transition US. The Transition Movement represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people in strengthening theircommunities against the effects of these challenges, resulting in a life that is more abundant, fulfilling, equitable and socially connected, Transition US says.

    This coming weekend, Transition Albany is showing the acclaimed 2008 British independent docu-drama on climate change, “The Age of Stupid,” at Albany’s movie theater on Solano Avenue, on Sunday, March 7th at 11:30 am.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    MLK Jr day: Commit to serve

    January 15th, 2010

    On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 18, the City of Albany will .
    host a second annual “Commit to Serve” expo. Designed to help people heed the call of president Barack Obama to devote the day to service, the event
    will offer ways that people can volunteer to help the community and the world. It will be held at the Albany Community Center on Marin Avenue.

    To honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment to service, the “Commit to Serve” Expo will provide resources, contacts and ideas to assist people in making a pledge of service to your community in 2010.

    “Make this the year you become a Block Captain, or volunteer at your child’s school, or help the elderly neighbor with his yard-it is up to you!” organizers said in an email.

    The Albany Expo will feature representatives from local organizations offering volunteer opportunities and information as well as an idea board and tools to assist citizens in making a pledge of service to the community in 2010. To learn more go to. http://www.albanyca.org

    People can also donate a coat to the organization One Warm Coat oor a canned food item to the Alameda County Food Bank.

    At its first “Commit to Serve” day a year ago on Martin Luther King Jr. day, the event received 250 pledges of service, 500 coats and over 1,000 lbs of food.

    Attenders will be asked what they would like to do to serve the community and then to fill out a “pledge card” and hang it on the Commit to Serve pledge card display at the Community Center.

    Oranizers say that if each person in Albany gave one hour of service in 2010 that would add up to 17,000 hours of help to the community.

    To learn more about the national day of service, go to http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/mlkservice/

    Albany groups focus on Climate Change

    December 7th, 2009
    Albany activists at the corner of Marin and San Pablo during the Oct. 24 International Day of Action on Climate Change

    Albany activists at the corner of Marin and San Pablo during the Oct. 24 International Day of Action on Climate Change

    By Ellen Toomey and Emma Rotem

    Dec. 7, 2009 — This week begins the international summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, to craft a new global treaty on climate change.

    “Thinking globally and acting locally,” Albany citizens and city government are learning and taking action to meet the climate change challenges we all face. These efforts include citizen groups Transition Albany and Carbon Neutral Albany. The City of Albany is in the process of creating a Climate Action Plan — a coordinated effort intended to reduce local emissions that contribute to global warming and to improve air quality, reduce waste, cut energy use and save money.The plan also aims to help the Albany community achieve greenhouse gas reduction.

    On October 24, an international day of action organized by 350.org, people at over 5,200 events in 181 countries came together for what may have been the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history — including members of these two Albany groups pictured.

    “Our focus is on the number 350–as in parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. But 350 is more than a number–it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet,” the organization, 350.org, states.


    Albany High’s EarthTeam joined a group of other participants to form a necklace of human “beads” around the summit of Mt. Diablo.

    To learn about Albany citizen groups addressing Climate Change, go to:

    For information about the Climate Action Plan being developed by the City of Albany:

    For more information and photos from a Day of Action all over the globe:

    Waterfront survey open till Friday midnight

    November 19th, 2009

    The Albany waterfront

    By Barbara Grady

    After a round of community meetings about the Albany waterfront indicated that residents want both expanded open space and a continuation of tax revenue-generating activities, residents now have a second chance to voice their opinions. They have two days left to respond to a detailed survey about their hopes for the 190 acres of land along the San Francisco Bay. (Go to www.voicestovision.com to respond to the survey)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Albany to go to polls Nov. 3 for schools vote

    October 22nd, 2009

    By Barbara Grady-Ayer
    an endorser of Albany ballot Measures I and J

    Albany voters will be asked to consider two parcel tax measures on November 3 aimed at saving Albany schools from the state’s worst financial crisis in half a century.

    The Measures I and J would restore less than half the money the state took away from Albany’s school district this year. However, they would keep Albany schools from a rapid deterioration by paying for a number of the academic programs and teaching services that Albany is holding onto with virtual band-aids and shoe-string this year.

    For the current year, the district is using 2009 federal Stimulus program grants of $1.2 million to fund some programs. That money won’t be available next year. It’s also using donations from Albany parents and citizens. Although those donations poured in at a record-breaking amount this year, they still added up to only a fraction of the $4.2 million the state took away from Albany in its education budget.

    So in many ways, Measures I and J are a referendum on whether the community wants to preserve the kind of education Albany has had or let it slide downhill, many believe.

    “I feel that I cannot stand by and watch the quality of education in Albany sink along with the state budget,” said Miriam Walden, a parent and board of education member who is leading the Measures I and J campaign.

    Buoyed by the thought that Albany can bypass the troubles experienced in other school districts by passing the parcel tax measures — and by fear of what would happen if Albany does not get this funding — dozens of volunteers for the Measures I and J campaign have been out canvassing neighborhoods in recent weeks talking to people about the two measures. Last weekend, the volunteers visited 850 homes, bringing to 1,500 the number of front porch conversations or visits that have been had about Measures I and J in recent weeks.

    Measures I is an emergency tax of $149 a year per house or residence. It is designed to get Albany schools through the current crisis by lasting five years.

    Measure J is not a new tax. It would renew an existing tax that is set to expire in a few years and thereby stabilize funding by keeping all past parcel taxes on the books. It also provides an exemption for seniors and low-income residents. (Go to www.savealbanyschools.org for more information)

    “The message we need to send about supporting public education is not to a state legislature that won’t respond. It’s to our kids and to our teachers. And we’re the only ones who can deliver it. I’m voting yes on I and J,” said Bob Menzimer, one of the volunteers.

    Marla Stephenson, superintendent of the Albany Unified School District, has said that renewing the existing parcel taxes is absolutely crucial if Albany is to maintain the level of educational offerings and quality it now is holding onto so tenuously. That is because as the state has withdrawn money from education, Albany and other districts have used parcel taxes to fund core programs, rather than extras, and to hold classroom sizes at teachable amounts. Still this year, classes in Albany schools are more crowded than they have been in a generation. Stephenson said Albany needs the emergency tax, Measure I, if it is to hold on to the quality that people have come to expect of Albany schools.

    “Those parcel taxes are essential to the running of the school system,” Stephenson said at an Albany Board of Education meeting last summer when the parcel tax was being decided. She said if the renewal measure doesn’t pass “we will go back to the voters again and again until it does” because Albany desperately needs those funds.

    If measure J does not pass, there would be a $2.5 million hole in the budget in addition to whatever reductions the state may or may not pass. The emergency tax, Measure I, would bring in $1.2 million. A committee of volunteers and the board of education determined last summer that to seek more than this amount would be too burdensome on some Albany residents. The committee did a research survey of a few hundred homes to see what level of a parcel tax most people would be comfortable with. They arrived at $149 a year instead of $200 or $250 because the recession is already putting stress on people’s pocket books. Stephenson said restoring all cut programs would cost above $250 in new taxes per household.

    Measures I and J need a two/thirds majority vote to pass, so the committee felt it was essential that most people were comfortable with the tax.

    A number of the volunteers no longer have children in the school system. But as several people said, the quality of Albany schools seem to be what has been holding up property values in Albany.

    “Why should we impose this tax burden upon ourselves when prospects are currently so uncertain and funds so scarce? The reason is simple: self-interest. Albany property values far exceed expectations, primarily due to Albany’s commitment to schools,” said Robert Cheasty, an Albany resident whose children are grown and no long in the schools.

    He said that while he definitely wants to support the education of children, “Any quick survey shows that those communities that pass school taxes are the communities with the best property values.”

    To visit the Albany Unified School District web site go to http://ausd.ca.schoolloop.com

    Barbara Grady-Ayer has endorsed and contributed money to the Measures I and J campaigns for Albany schools. She is also a parent of two children in the Albany school system.

    Albany “Dry” Triathlon coming up

    October 20th, 2009

    By Barbara Grady-Ayer 

    So what if there’s no pool?  Organizers of the second annual Albany Triathlon are not deterred by the lack of a pool.  They’re just calling it the “Dry Triathlon” and it’s coming up this Sunday, Oct. 25.

     The running and biking but hold-the-swimming event will launch from Memorial Field in Albany, with the first wave of racers taking off at 8 a.m. for a biking course of nine miles and a running course of two miles.  There will also be a “Mosey” edition of the race involving a four mile bike ride and one mile run.

    “The reaction of the community to the flexibility and openness of the triathlon’s structure where people could race or just participate, and feel supported by all, was great,” said one of the organizers, Michael Mejia, recalling how it went last year.

    “Every Albany High School student has to run a mile for timing every week. Residents run and ride bikes on the BART Trail and Bay Trail and also ride to work,” he said.  “Clearly hundreds of kids ride their bikes to school every day – over 50 to Albany High School alone. With these sorts of numbers of active people, an event like this a natural,”  Mejia said.  Volunteers with the Albany Athletic Boosters organized the event.

    If last year’s Albany Triathlon is any guide, the event will bring out young and old, serious athletes and Saturday morning joggers as well as those who just like to walk.  Last year, the 70 participants ranged in age from 10 to 68 years old and you can see the enjoyment they had by reading the Albany Today 2008 story on the event go to http://albanytoday.org/2008/09/29/504/

    Albany’s pool has since been torn down for reconstruction.  But participants from last year have been asking when is the next Triathlon, so organizers went ahead and planned something — sans swimming.

    In addition, the triathlon is a fundraiser for Albany High School athletics whose budget has been cut in half.  Last year’s triathlon brought in $1,100 but organizers are hoping for both more participants and more revenue this year since the need is so great.

     The nine miles of biking entails 15 cycling laps around the Portland, Masonic, Thousand Oaks and Carmel block that surrounds Memorial Field and Albany High School. The two-mile running track is four laps around the sidewalks and lawn of the same block.

    The “Mosey” event will take off at 9 a.m. for eight cycling laps around that block and two running laps on the running course. Streets will be closed off to automobile traffic and event organizers will supply water, first aid supplies, course marshals as well as T- shirts and water bottles to participants.  It costs $30 to enter and the race will accommodate the first 100 people who sign up. To do so go to http://Albanyhs.schoolloop.com/boosters/general and click on “Albany Dry Triathlon.”

    Albany Alums to perform for music benefit

    September 9th, 2009

    from the Albany Music Fund

    When Albany High School 2006 alumni Jonathan Sandberg and Emma Gavenda heard that the disastrous state budget cuts were threatening their alma mater’s music programs, they did what they do best: planned an evening of beautiful music as a benefit concert to keep the music program alive.

    On Saturday, September 12, at 7:30 p.m., Albany Music Fund proudly presents these two bighearted and talented alumni in a concert with selections spanning more four centuries. The concert is at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Palache Hall, 2837 Claremont Blvd in Berkeley. (To purchase tickets, go to http://www.brownpap ertickets. com/event/ 78916)

    Jonathan, a vocal performance major at University of California at Irvine, will perform Mozart, Schumann, Schubert, Donizetti and Moore, as well as traditional spirituals and sacred works with accompanist Mary Low. Emma, a harpsichord performance major at University of California at Davis, will play Jean-Henri D’Anglebert and William Byrd.

    All proceeds go to the Albany Music Fund, which sponsors much of the music program in Albany’s public schools, from elementary school band to award-winning vocal programs at the high school. Tickets are $25 – 50 sliding scale, and must be purchased online at brownpapertickets. com. For a direct link to this event, go to: http://www.brownpap ertickets. com/event/ 78916

    “Save Our Sports” event coming up

    August 4th, 2009

    The athletes at Albany High School are just not going to let Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators take away their bats and balls, championships and opportunities to compete.

    Instead, coaches, athletes and parents have organized “Save our Sports” – a massive fundraising tournament and auction they hope will raise enough money to let AHS continue its 18 interscholastic sports this year despite losing half its sports funding to state budget cuts.

    Their “Save Our Sports” fundraiser is a golf tournament, auction and dinner planned for August 21st at the Tilden Park Golf Course and the Emeryville Hilton Garden Inn.

    The goal of this event is to raise $50,000 to save “all” sports at Albany High School,” said Stephen Dunkle, coach of the high school swimming team and one of the organizers. Read the rest of this entry »

    City Council honors reporter for developing community news website

    June 19th, 2009

    Council Honoring
    Albany Mayor Marge Atkinson awarded an Appreciation of Work to Linjun Fan for her work of developing Albany Today Monday. The news website is “an invaluable asset to our community”, said the City Council in the document. Photo by Allen Cain. Click here to watch the video recording of the meeting online.

    Albany High School students traveled to Mali to help build school

    June 7th, 2009


    Kayla Nachtsheim, a sophomore at Albany High School, traveled to a village in Mali, West Africa to help build a school for local children recently. She will give a presentation on her work there on June 24th, Wednesday, 6:15 pm, at the Albany Community Center, Edith Stone Room, together with Jeff Cooper, an AHS junior who also joined the work organized by buildOn.

    Albany Police Department holds Neighborhood Watch meetings

    June 5th, 2009

     Neighborhood watch meeting

    69-year-old Albany resident Judy Tanaka signed her name at a Neighborhood Watch meeting at the Albany Senior Center recently.  The Albany Police Department is holding a series of meetings for each neighborhood in the city to help residents stay alert on crimes.  Contact Karina Tindol, the department’s newly-hired Community Engagement Specialist at 510- 812- 6240 for more information about how you can benefit from the program.  Photo by Linjun Fan.

    School Superintendent introduces latest budget situation

    June 1st, 2009

    Superintendent Marla Stephenson of the Albany Unified School District will give a report to the community on the 2009-10 budget on Monday, June 8th, 6 pm – 7 pm at the Albany Community Center. It’s a good opportunity to find out how the latest state budget cut would impact Albany schools. 

    City officials give talks on issues of concern

    May 23rd, 2009

    Albany Mayor Marge Atkinson, City Administrator Beth Pollard, School District Superintendent Marla Stephenson, Polic Chief Mike McQuiston, and Fire Chief Marc McGinn will give talks on issues of public concern this coming Wednesday, May 27th, 11:30am – 1:30pm, at Six Degrees on Solano.

    The State of the City Luncheon is sponsored by the Albany Chamber of Commerce. Click here to view details.

    Don’t forget to vote

    May 19th, 2009

    Election workers at polling places in Albany and elsewhere say turnout has been very light today in the state’s special election. However, the results of the election will have a big impact on California residents. Read the rest of this entry »

    An easy and green way to dispose your e-waste

    May 12th, 2009

    Hate to dump your old computer or TV on the sidewalk? Albany residents could now call (510) 528-4052 to schedule a free pickup of your e-waste. Read the rest of this entry »

    A Yard Sale to benefit AHS Mental Health Program

    May 1st, 2009

    Peggy  McQuaid, President of the Albany Community Foundation, wrote the following message calling for help with the Mental Health Program at the Albany High School:

    The Albany Community Foundation and the Albany Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Council will be holding a yard sale on Saturday, May 2 at 1604 Marin Ave. Albany from 9:00 – 2:00.  This sale is unique because all of the proceeds will go to towards stipends for the mental health interns at Albany High School.  Last school year, mental health interns helped 145 Albany High School students.  The need is great. Read the rest of this entry »

    Moments of Beauty at 2009 Albany Art and Music Festival

    April 29th, 2009

    Please enjoy a photo slideshow on the Albany Art and Music Festival taking place Sunday. Special thanks to Albany residents Richard Ishida and Michele Ku, who helped to capture the moments of beauty at the event. Photos by Linjun Fan, Richard Ishida and Michele Ku.

    Albany holds Spring Art and Musical Festival

    April 23rd, 2009

    Albany will hold its annual Spring Art & Music Festival at Memorial Park this upcoming Sunday, April 26, 11 AM – 4 PM. The event features live music, ethnic dances, local artists,  and a variety of food.  Click here to view a detailed program and other information about the festival. Below is a photo slideshow on the wonderful festival in 2008.  

    Create Your Own

    Albany Little League opens its 2009 season

    April 9th, 2009


    Several hundred players of the Albany Little League and their families participated in a parade on Solano Avenue to start their 2009 season recently. The League is run by volunteers in the community and has a history of more than half a century. Photo by David Berson, Editor of the League’s newsletter.