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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.

    AUSD Sup. to meet with public on budget

    February 8th, 2010

    It’s that time again: time to hammer out a school budget for the next academic year. Albany Superintendent of Schools Marla Stephenson will meet with the public Thursday evening, February 11 to present her proposal for next year’s school district budget.

    The event is from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the new City Council Chambers at San Pablo at Marin Avenues.

    Each January, the superintendent holds a budget summit to discuss how much money the state of California is expected to allot to education, and to Albany Unified School District in particular, for the following year and to unveil a tentative proposal for how Albany will operate within that sum plus the amount collected from local parcel taxes. For more detail visit http://ausd.ca.schoolloop.com.

    In California, unlike most other states, at least 90 percent of school funding comes from the state through its general fund revenues collected from income, property and sales taxes. The balance comes from local parcel taxes and federal money. In Albany, the parcel taxes passed and renewed last November are estimated to make up about 10 percent of the school district budget. In many other states, taxes for schools are collected locally and apportioned locally.

    Superintendent Stephenson in a memo said that on Thursday she would discuss the current AUSD priorities and options and how the Governor’s recently unveiled state budget would change district funding levels as well as possibly alter requirements. She’ll also discuss how Albany’s emergency parcel tax will augment our budget.

    For more information on California school finances, readers may visit EdSource, a non-profit education research firm, at:

    Speaking of the current budget season, EdSource states:
    “As school districts around California begin work on their 2010-11 budgets, they are facing a financial situation likely to be even more difficult than this year’s. Much of the one-time money that the state and federal government provided in response to the recent economic crisis will have run out.”

    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:

    Greening of Golden Gate Fields

    November 14th, 2009

    By Barbara Grady-

    Behind its huge, brightly lit score board, in the turf receiving the pounding hoofs of galloping horses and in other places at Golden Gate Fields, new energy and water saving materials have been installed and are turning traditions of this 68-year-old horse racing venue on its head. Golden Gate Fields has gone green.

    In the beginning of this season, 10,000 incandescent light bulbs were removed from its score board and replaced with a lower energy use liquid crystal display system. Earlier, a water guzzling dirt track was replaced with turf that is a mixture of ash and wax that doesn’t need water – and is kinder to horses’ hoofs. Electronic betting terminals have been retuned to shut down automatically when not in use. In the kitchens, cooking grease is collected in special containers, filtered, and set aside for a bio-diesel fuel manufacturer to pick up. And outside, a race-track operated shuttle service from the Berkeley BART is cutting down on traffic and automobile emissions.

    These and other measures won Golden Gate Fields a “StopWaste Business Efficiency Award” from the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board for 2009. At an event Oct. 16, the county agencies named 12 large Alameda County businesses “whose leadership and continuous efforts to improve environmental performance and business efficiency have achieved outstanding results,” said Justin Justin Justin Lehrer, program manager of Alameda County’s StopWaste.org program.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    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

    Sound of music fills Albany, thanks to AMF

    September 9th, 2009

    By Barbara Grady-Ayer

    It has become a right of passage for youngsters in Albany.  When you reach fourth grade you get to pick out an instrument — shiny saxophones, silvery flutes, etc. – and play in a school band.

    It almost didn’t happen this year.

    So this past week, as 9 and 10 year olds in Albany public schools proudly chose their instruments and started playing – and some classmates began singing in school choirs – many adults were saying ‘whew, what a close call.’

     Elementary music instruction was slated to be eliminated from the Albany Unified School District last spring after the state budget crisis forced the district to cut its spending by 15 percent.

     But the Albany Music Fund, a volunteer organization of parents and teachers, saved the day – and the hopes of many a child.

    The Albany Music Fund raised $84,000 to save music instruction in Albany’s schools.  The sum allowed the elementary schools not only to restore instrumental instruction but to expand music to include vocal instruction or band instruction for every 4th and 5th grader. The fundraising also allowed Albany Middle School to keep its chorale program and allowed the high school to retain its range of music programs, specifically its Rythm Bound band.

    “We worked very hard to accomplish this,” said Penny Barthel, president of the Albany Music Fund. “We are committed to keeping music really strong” in Albany Schools.” In fact, the organization has upped its fundraising goal for this current year to $125,000.

    “As you can see, we’ve really stepped up to the challenges presented to us by the recent economic conditions,” she said.

    So if you hear a classic tune coming from the lips of a fourth or fifth grader around this town, or for that matter a middle schooler or high schooler, remember how they may have learned that tune.

    To learn more about the Albany Music Fund, go to www.albanymusic.org.

    Albany golf tournament a huge success

    August 28th, 2009

    Create Your Own 

    By Michael Mejia

    Out of the gloom and doom of a $115,000 cut in the Albany Athletics annual budget, the Albany Athletic Boosters delivered the Albany “Save Our Sports” golf tournament on a glorious summer afternoon last Friday. One hundred and sixteen golfers descended upon the Tilden Park golf course in prime weather to ply their skills.  Read the rest of this entry »

    Police Activities League awards scholarship

    August 19th, 2009

    MacGregor High School graduate Yesenia Vasquez wins the Albany Police Activities League 2009 college scholarship. With Vasquez, center, is APAL Executive Director Police Chief Mike McQuiston at left and APAL Board Member Brad Griffith, right.

    MacGregor High School graduate Yesenia Vasquez, center, wins the Albany Police Activities League 2009 college scholarship. With Vasquez is APAL Executive Director Chief Mike McQuiston, left, and APAL Board Member Brad Griffith, right

    By Peggy McQuaid
    Albany Police Activities League

    The Albany Police Activities League has chosen Yesenia Vasquez as their 2009 scholarship winner. Ms. Vasquez graduated from MacGregor High School in June 2009 where she stood out both as a top student and an outstanding contributor to the Albany community, the organization said. She will begin her college career next week at Contra Costa College.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    “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 »

    Letter from Albany resident on green living

    July 11th, 2009

    By Catherine Sutton

    Dear fellow Albany residents,

    I want to invite you to join me on a very important project, to start a “Transition Albany Initiative.”

    When I was in England this Spring I saw a premier of the movie Age of Stupid and vowed to put my best energy this year into moving as many people as I could influence towards a lifestyle that would begin to lessen our effect on global warming and climate change.

    A few weeks later I discovered Transition US and took a Training for Transition in Oakland with 35 other people of all ages and demographics. I brought away a lot of good information about the seriousness of the triple threat of Climate Change, Peak Oil and economic insecurity, and, most important, on a positive way to look at the opportunities they present in our very own communities. Read the rest of this entry »

    Albany celebrates 4th of July

    July 7th, 2009


     “Green, Red, White & Blue Day” in Albany featured lots of games, music and dance but zero waste.


    Jewel Okawachi and Jim Mullarkey of the Albany Historical Society greet visitors.


    Watermelon eating contest gets down to the finish line

    AUSD Board passes budget

    July 2nd, 2009

    By Barbara Grady-Ayer

    After a tumultuous planning season amidst the state’s financial crisis, the Albany Unified School District board of education passed a budget Tuesday night for the 2009-2010 school year. It will spend $46.8 million to educate 3,846 students in five different schools, enduring an 18 percent cut in state funding by getting by with fewer teachers, janitors and secretaries as well curtailed arts, drama, and athletic programs.

    But the district managed to save some key positions and academic programs that were once on the chopping block thanks to a federal Stimulus grant of $987,023 and contributions from the community of $288,000 raised by SchoolCARE. Administrators said they anticipate other fundraising groups will soon announce donations, too. Read the rest of this entry »

    Councilmember starts Car-free Challenge for Albany

    June 10th, 2009

    Bikers are ubiquitous in the town of Albany, which prides itself on being one of the “greenest” cities in California. “Being Green” is in fashion. Albany Councilmember Farid Javandel has signed up for a Car-Free Challenge recently, and resolved to drive no more than 30 miles for the month of June. Can he really achieve that goal? Is it possible for the whole town to follow suit? Here is what Javandel says about  his car-free endeavors: Read the rest of this entry »

    Senior Albany City Staff passed away

    June 8th, 2009

     Barry Whittaker

    Barry Whittaker, an employee of the City of Albany who oversaw major public construction projects, passed away from a car accident recently.

    69-year-old Whittaker was riding his bike at a street crossing in Hercules City when he hit into a car on a recent Monday, according to Ann Chaney, Director of Community Development Department of Albany. Read the rest of this entry »

    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.

    Mountain biking at AHS? Origins of a winning team

    June 4th, 2009

    Article and photos by Michael Mejia,  Coach for the Mountain Bike Team at Albany High School.

    Newspapers lowered at the barber shop the other day when Jerry paused during my crew-cut and asked about the Mountain Bike Team. The customers, many old Cougars themselves, understand football and wrestling – but racing mountain bikes as a high school sport? You’re kidding, right? Read the rest of this entry »

    Green Albany Day coming this Sunday

    May 15th, 2009

    The City of Albany and its Sustainability Committee are sponsoring the first annual Green Albany Day on Sunday, May 17, 2009 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Veterans’ Building in Memorial Park. Along with hands-on activities for children, 30 informational booths and six environmental workshops, the event will feature the unveiling of Albany’s draft Climate Action plan. Read the rest of this entry »

    Albany school district looks at how to save school programs

    May 14th, 2009

    By Barbara Grady-Ayer

    Even as the days count down to the May 19 election that will decide whether California schools must endure yet further spending cuts, the Albany school district has set up a tentative plan for how it would restore programs should it be able to reallocate money to meet priorities in the wake of a drastic reduction to its budget Read the rest of this entry »