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Joining me at OCSA's "One Time Only" gala were its co-chairs Sandy Segerstrom Daniels and S. Paul & Marybelle Musco

Joining me at OCSA’s “One Time Only” gala were its co-chairs Sandy Segerstrom Daniels and S. Paul & Marybelle Musco

I’ve attended 20+ galas for the Orange County School of the Arts, and every year I’ve said it was the best year yet. I was talking about the show the students put on for the guests. I’ve got to tell you, the gala show the students performed this year WAS the best EVER!! I never remember there being such a depth of talent before. One solo singer or group of singers after another just blew you away. With a “One Night Only” Motown theme, there was plenty of belting going on! With songs like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love,” The Four Seasons’ “Bye, Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye),” Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” the Temptations’ “My Girl,” Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” and Martha & The Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street” part of the mix, the ballroom was rockin’!

Earlier, the gala’s red carpet at the Hotel Irvine Jamboree Center showcased a stunning white Audi 2014 R8 Spyder sportscar, the night’s signature martini – the “Temptation-tini” – a party photo op, and entertainment by a talented OCSA male quartet singing “Build Me Up Buttercup,” among other Motown favorites. Darling OCSA students in LBD’s (little black dresses) greeted guests as they perused the student artwork and bid on tempting items in the silent auction tent. While students dressed as vintage cigarette girls sold opportunity prize tickets, dance students Blake Robinson and Alexa Bender, dressed in a gold sequined, fringed stunner, partnered  for some sexy Latin dance moves. I must tell you, UCSA Music and Theater senior Dominique Brych blew my mind with her card tricks during the reception. A member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood (she’s in high school, for goodness sake!), she has launched a Magician’s Guild at OCSA. To say these kids are multi-talented is an understatement!

Once inside the hotel’s ballroom, the nearly 600 guests enjoyed photos of Motown stars flickering across a huge screen, including a famous one of its future stars standing in front of “Hitsville USA,” Motown’s first home. The student performance was sensational and took everyone on a Motown journey. It’s the music of my generation, but my nieces and goddaughters know and love the music just as much as I do, so I could see that the show was enjoyed by everyone. This nationally recognized school attracts the creme de la creme in the arts, provides them with a challenging, nurturing environment to achieve and grow and also prepares them for higher education through its stellar academic programs. And, as a nonprofit, OCSA offered tuition-free academic and arts instruction to students in the region. But, I digress. The show was great on all levels – singing, dancing, orchestra and band performances and accompaniments, choreography, sets, costumes, etc. You get the idea. Not only are the students to be commended for their talented performances, but the student crew backstage and out front making it all happen are to be saluted as well. And, finally, the OCSA production staff, led by Director/Producer Cindy Peca, was spectacular!! Kudos to everyone who made it a magical evening!

The public launch of OCSA’s $20 million Masterpiece in the Making campus expansion project was announced at the gala. An impressive $9.5 million has already been raised for the expansion, which is due to break ground this summer, with completion set for the summer of 2015. It is the first time in the school’s 27-year history that a new facility will be built on the Santa Ana campus rather than using repurposed commercial buildings. The campaign co-chairs, and also the gala co-chairs, are longtime supporters Marybelle and Paul Musco, Sandy Segerstrom Daniels and OCSA alumnus Matthew Morrison (the Glee star was unable to attend at the last minute due to a Broadway role invitation). Also joining the campaign leadership team are foundation board members Doug Garn and Jerry Mandel.

The live auction, led by feisty auctioneer Jim Nye, saw one of uber-talented senior Harley de Winter’s drumsticks (star drummer/percussionist at OCSA) sell for $2,000, not once another time for the other drumstick! The Las Vegas package for 10 went to David MacInnis for $28,000. McInnis, family and friends will be flying to Vegas on a G-4 jet, thanks to longtime OCSA supporter Mike Harrah, and enjoying $1,000 towards dinner at a restaurant of their choice and premier seating at a top show of their choice. OCSA graduate Lauren Lim Jackson, ’03, who performed “I’ll Be There/Reach Out” with amazing eighth grader Daniel Zolghadri (Daniel is currently in OCSA’s Musical Theatre Conservatory and has secured several prestigious acting roles, including a special project for Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hit record and an appearance on ABC-TV’s “Once Upon a Time”), helped raise funds during the Fund-A-Need portion of the auction. The Harvard graduate and Broadway mainstay (Jackson is currently in “Motown, the Musical”) said of OCSA, “OCSA allows you to dream the dream and make it happen.” No one was happier that OCSA Founder and Executive Director Ralph Opacic, who said of the expansion, “Our students deserve an enhanced campus environment that matches the commitment and passion they bring to OCSA.” The $500,000 net proceeds raised from the gala will support the school’s arts conservatory programs.

Selected photos courtesy of Cheryl Walsh of Alt-Senior Photography