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IMG_3322Once again, the student performance at the Orange County School of the Arts’ annual gala, this year themed “ARTrageous ROCK,” was spectacular! The talent at this 26-year-old tuition-free public charter school, known for its award-winning arts and academic programs, is really impressive. Several of its recent graduates attended, including Kaitlyn Jenkins, class of 2010, who plays Bettina “Boo” Jordan on the popular show Bunheads with Broadway star Sutton Foster. I LOVE the show and am an avid follower, so meeting Kaitlyn was a real treat. She looked adorable in a strapless black mini with a fuchsia tulle overskirt (see photo).

Many of the more than 500 guests included members of OCSA’s foundation and advisory boards, as well as its board of trustees. The formal cocktail reception, which gave guests the opportunity to bid on some tempting silent auction items, was followed by a tasty dinner (loved the white chocolate guitar with the red velvet cake dessert!) interspersed with the student and alumni performance, which featured 250 students and alumni performing a blend of classic, contemporary and symphonic rock music. I heard some amazing vocalists, pulsating guitars, powerful percussion, superb dancers, and a full symphony orchestra perform some of rock’s most recognizable anthems – from Queen’s “We will Rock You” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believein'” to a Rolling Stones Tribute, “Born to Be Wild” and the iconic “Juke Box Hero/I Love Rock N’ Roll” finale.

Auctioneer Jim Nye led a spirited live auction, which saw a rock sell for $2,000 to OCSA supporters Valerie and Hans Imhof and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a walk-on part in a Bridge 2 Broadway production being developed by Tony Award-winning producers Pamela and Tim Kashani (Memphis and Hair) sell for $5,000 – twice! – to OCSA parents Cynthia and Martin Howard and OCSA parent Peggy Haidle. OCSA donor Cleo Bluth grabbed the Ultimate Disney Resort experience for $4,500, which included tickets to “Dancing with the Stars” and lunch with, you guessed it! – Kaitlyn Jenkins from “Bunheads.” OCSA parents Ronit and Gil Benjamin won the private jet donated by Michael Harrah of Caribou Industries for a Las Vegas getaway for $16,000, while Sue and Ralph Stern opted for the Napa Rose dinner for 16 guests for $17,000. The one thing I’ve learned about OCSA supporters – they are passionate about the school!

Nina Herzog, OCSA Music & Theatre Conservatory class of 2009, performed in the show and later shared her passion for the school, saying, “OCSA gave me the confidence to be myself and the support to be who I became.” She has since graduated from UCLA in three years with degrees in Musical Theater and Psychology, making the Dean’s and Latin Honors lists, recently founded a non-profit that tutors autistic children, has recorded with Tony Ward-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, and is writing her own music. Following her testimony, the Fund-A-Dream portion of the evening raised $242,636, led by a challenge grant of $50,000 from OCSA supporters Marybelle and S. Paul Musco. Net proceeds were later tallied at an impressive $590,000 for the cause.

OCSA Founder and Executive Director Ralph Opacic took the stage to announce that the evening’s rock drummer Harley deWinter and his band Un D Vided had been named “Best Youth Artist” at the Orange County Music Awards that same night. The talented student is in the Instrumental Music Conservatory/Commercial Music Program, class of 2015.

Nice Aside: I noticed the table behind me at the dinner contained four young ladies and what looked like their parents and maybe some family members. Sure enough, when I introduced myself and inquired, it was the Britt and Bob Michaelian and their four daughters. They told me proudly that their eighth grade daughter Maya was an OCSA student. I had to take their photo. It was a magic moment! That, in short, was the essence of the evening. The people of Orange County can be very proud of OCSA, its award-winning programs and the amazing students who are being educated and trained there.

Selected photos: Cheryl Walsh/AltSenior Photography