Khalil Shaheed Scholarship Fund 2016


Dear Friend of Oaktown Jazz Workshops,

It is thanks to you that we enter 2017 with the momentum of over two decades full of supporting young musicians and presenting family friendly concerts at venues and schools throughout the Bay Area.  Recently we have added classes in improvisation, music theory, and percussion at our location in Jack London Square.  All of this programming is built around Oaktown Jazz Workshops’ year-round, twice weekly, jazz performance workshops where students learn the tradition of jazz directly from professional master musicians.

Young musicians from diverse backgrounds regularly meet at OJW where they are given high quality music education in a safe and supportive environment.  As they develop their musicianship they receive guidance that allows them to both discover their own distinct musical voices and become supportive members of an ensemble.  Many of today’s internationally celebrated jazz musicians including Ambrose Akinmusire, Jonathan Finlayson, and Dayna Stephens, took some of their first solos at OJW, but more importantly, the skills that young people pick up through our program help to prepare them for adulthood.  Gaining the courage to improvise a solo in front of an audience gives a child the confidence to share their thoughts and ideas with others.  And collaborating creatively as a part of a group naturally encourages young people to become more engaged community members.

OJW’s Founding Director, Khalil Shaheed, was committed to passing jazz on to the next generation of musicians through a historically authentic form of jazz education, complete with mentors, performance opportunities and access to live concerts. This approach is based on making jazz performance education accessible to all young people who value it.

Four years ago we launched the Khalil Shaheed Scholarship Fund to cover the cost of our workshops for young musicians who could not otherwise afford tuition.  Please help Oaktown Jazz Workshops continue to thrive and serve as a local community asset by making a contribution today. Your support, in whatever amount you can manage, will encourage our children’s creativity, elevate music education and appreciation, and enrich our community.


Ravi Abcarian
Executive Director

Preview Image



By Alison Stapp/Laney Tower

Oaktown Jazz Workshop’s Ravi Abcarian inspires a new generation of musicians

Oaktown Jazz Workshop’s founder, Khalil Shaheed, was only 13 years old when he painted a moustache on his face and slinked into Chicago’s jazz clubs to see America’s greatest jazz musicians. It was the 1950’s in Chicago, and the iconic Blue Note jazz club was hosting musicians like Louis Armstrong and “King” Oliver. Soon Shaheed would interrupt his classical music education to tour with the Woody Shaw and the Buddy Miles bands.

After he tired of touring and was ready to settle down, Oakland—which had a thriving African American population—became his new home. Shaheed had a vision to educate Oakland’s inner city kids about their musical roots and uniquely African American art form.

In 1994, Shaheed launched Oaktown Jazz Workshop with funding from Oakland’s Office of Parks and Recreation.  Oaktown was a passion realized. “To preserve …America’s Classical Music, Jazz… we need a community of teachers, mentors, and storytellers who know the importance of the next generation to receive this art form,” said Shaheed. Even after being diagnosed with cancer he kept the school going.

Shaheed’s friend and multi-talented musician, Ravi Abcarian was the obvious choice to step into Shaheed’s shoes when he became ill. Abcarian worked closely with Mr. Shaheed as Oaktown Jazz Workshop’s Educational Director and was also responsible for implementing jazz programs for non-profit music education programs and at Bay Area public and private schools.

The Port of Oakland, City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program and Alameda County Arts Commission help keep Oaktown Jazz in operation along with the support of foundations such as The Clorox Company Foundation, The East Bay Community Foundation and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund who provide about a third of Oaktown Jazz Workshop’s support.

And the parents are very involved, always doing things to support their children and the school.  “It’s really grassroots, and we make a conscious effort to stay independent.,” said Ron Marabuto, a professional jazz drummer and one of Oaktown Jazz Workshop’s instructors.

The vision that Shaheed had is alive and well, and Ravi continually adds workshops as outreach becomes more and more effective. The program has expanded to offer music theory and improvisation and percussion classes. Its Jack London Square location provides perfect place for Sunday afternoon concerts.

Youth mentors have always been a strong suit for Oaktown. OJW alumnus Anthony Mills-Branch is now a mentor, and summer always brings forth more youth mentors. “We have a great Board of Directors and Advisory Board. Laney’s John Santos presents master classes and has hosted workshops, and the core faculty is the real deal, professional musicians from around the area,” Ravi said as he reflected on the program.

A Q&A WITH OAKTOWN’S Ravi abcarian

Laney Tower (LT): Why is it important for the kids to work with young mentors?

Ravi Abcarian (RA): We might tell them something as their instructors but when someone who’s just six or seven years older than them tells them the same thing it means much more. Alumna, Aneesa Al-Musawwir, after getting her Master’s degree from Michigan State, came out and talked with the kids about her life. She’s done so many things for being that young. It was just a great opportunity for the kids to talk with someone about what their next move might be.

LT: What’s the best idea you’ve had that’s been successful?

RA: We have these workshops that have been around for about twenty years. Sometimes the kids would come in and be very intimidated, so now we have added an improvisation class and we have been successful in giving young musicians the musicianship and confidence that prepares them to enter into our year-round workshops.


At the Oaktown Jazz Workshop, Genius Wesley shows off his skills on the drums as one of the organization’s mentors, Anthony Mills-Branch accompanies him on bass. The program uses jazz to inspire a new generation of musicians through close, personalized mentorship with professional musicians.


Oaktown Jazz Workshops’ saxophone instructor, Richard Howell, leads young musicians as they learn a new tune.

Justice for Will Sims

Rest in Peace Will Sims. On November 12th, 2016 Oaktown Jazz Workshops’ keyboardist and alumnus (2001 to 2006) William Sims was beaten, shot and killed in El Sobrante, CA. 10 days later the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office announced one arrest and a manhunt for two other suspects charged with murder with a hate crime enhancement for Will Sims death. The hate crime enhancement is due to investigators belief that the three suspects were motivated to attack Will because of his race. Please join us for a candle light vigil this Sunday, November 27th at 5:30PM at 4191 Appian Way, El Sobrante 94803.

Charles McNeal saxophone clinic


Oaktown Jazz Workshops and Eastman Winds present a special clinic with world-class saxophonist and host of the #1 website for jazz saxophone transcriptions, Charles McNeal!    

Saturday, September 17th at 2PM

55 Washington Street in Jack London Square, Oakland 94607

All Ages welcome!                                                   Free admission!



East Bay Gives 2016

OJW_east_bay_givesThis Tuesday, May 3rd Oaktown Jazz Workshops will participate in The East Bay Community Foundation’s East Bay Gives 2016.  This 24 hour day of online giving helps nonprofit organizations raise funds and increase awareness of the important work they do in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.  Please support Oaktown Jazz Workshops on May 3rd, 2016.​


Khalil Shaheed Scholarship Fund 2015

© Michaela Jones Photography

Dear Friend of Oaktown Jazz Workshops,

Oaktown Jazz Workshops (OJW) is truly a community-based organization and it is thanks to your support that we have been able to consistently offer high quality jazz education to the youth of Oakland for over two decades.

This year has been full of music and growth for both our young musicians and our organization. We have added a new instrumental class, Intro to Jazz Improvisation, to support our youngest musicians, our Jazz in the Schools program reached over 500 students through assemblies and instrumental training sectionals, and KCSM Jazz 91 Radio featured both live and studio recordings of our Youth Performance Ensemble.

Our ongoing partnership with The Port of Oakland enables us to bring together youth from all of Oakland’s neighborhoods at our centrally located space in Jack London Square where they find a safe and supportive environment to develop their skills. Additionally, our Jazz Encounters program continues to bring students clinics from today’s most engaging jazz musicians, including trumpeter Sean Jones, percussionist John Santos, and other celebrated artists.

It was the foresight of OJW’s Founding Director, Khalil Shaheed, to identify an easily accessible space for our year-round jazz workshops. Shaheed’s greater goal, however, was to establish a performance space that would bring communities and generations together around live concerts. This September, through our completion of the permitting process for public assemblies, Mr. Shaheed’s vision was realized!

Since then, we have produced concerts and workshops by the Lionel Hampton Big Band featuring Jason Marsalis, Richard Howell & Sudden Changes, the Grassroots Ensemble and the Ways & Means Committee. And that’s just the beginning, as we look forward to presenting a 2016 calendar full of family-friendly jazz concerts.

It has always been through the generosity of friends like you that we remain a healthy and vibrant organization.  Three years ago we launched the Khalil Shaheed Scholarship Fund to cover the cost of our workshops for young musicians who could not otherwise afford tuition.  We now ask for your contribution, in whatever amount you can manage, to encourage our children’s creativity, elevate music education and appreciation, and enrich our diverse community.


Ravi Abcarian
Executive Director

Click here to make a donation through PayPal

Young Musician Spotlight


Photo © Grason Littles

“Jazz really helped make me the person I am today,” says singer and alto saxophonist Sadé as she reflects on her time at Oaktown Jazz Workshops. “I feel like it wasn’t a huge, huge time commitment in itself but it inspired me to go home and practice, it taught me a work ethic and I met Maureen who is one of my really good friends. My favorite thing about OJW is getting to know different people who I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

Born in Philadelphia, PA and raised by her parents in Oakland, CA, Sadé’s earliest musical influences were her grandmother and aunt singing traditional Yoruba songs around the house. “I love music, it brings out a lot of feelings, it’s expressive and it’s creative and I feel like it’s a great way for me to take a step back, when I’m feeling sad there’s nothing better than listening to ‘Moanin’ by Charles Mingus, nothing better!”

After taking a piano class at age 6, Sadé started playing saxophone in 2nd grade with beloved Oakland music teacher, Marlo Green. “It was cool because it wasn’t just sitting down playing songs people had written and songs everyone has played over and over but the ability to change stuff and make it your own was really, really cool for me.”

It was Mr. Green that suggested she check out OJW’s after school music program and he put her parents in touch with OJW’s Founding Director, Khalil Shaheed. “I believe a big part of jazz for me was Khalil and that for me is just to be happy about what you are doing and enjoy it. He was always really passionate about what he was doing when I was around him and he passed that on, I think that’s a really great thing about Khalil and Ravi is seeing people that are really, really good at their craft not just take the time to use it for themselves but give it to the next generation.”

Sade’ started vocal lessons in the 6th grade and went on to sing in school and church choirs and musicals. Her vocal debut with OJW was at Oakland’s Art & Soul Festival where she amazed the crowd by putting down her alto saxophone to sing “Route 66” with the band for the first time ever.

Sadé is now attending Yale University as a freshman where she is planning to pursue a double major in molecular biophysics/bio chemistry and political science. “I did not expect to come to Yale and sing, but coming here and seeing all the people made me want to get involved.” Sadé is now proud to be a member of The New Blue, Yale’s oldest female a cappella group and Yale University’s very first women’s organization of any kind being founded in 1969, when the university first admitted undergraduate women.

“Jazz has been such a great part of me, I don’t want to let it go.”