San Francisco Bay Area based composer and jazz bassist, Ravi Abcarian, started learning guitar at the age of seven and began playing bass when his high school jazz band director challenged him to switch from electric guitar to upright bass.

Ravi went on to join the house band for a weekly jam session at famed jazz venue, Yoshi’s Oakland. There, he met and began working with many of the Bay Area’s great musicians, including Faye Carol, Edwin Kelly, and Smiley Winters. By his mid-twenties he was busy performing a wide range of gigs from small clubs and cafés in Oakland and San Francisco to regional jazz festivals.

In 1997 Ravi was invited to join the Oakland, CA based nonprofit organization, Oaktown Jazz Workshops (OJW), as a bass instructor by Founding Director, Khalil Shaheed. Shortly after, Ravi was promoted to the position of Educational Director.  In 2011, Ravi was appointed Executive Director of OJW by Mr. Shaheed and the OJW Board of Directors.

Ravi has more than 20 years of teaching experience through his former role as the Artistic Director of “The Richmond Jazz Collective,” a resident company at The East Bay Center for Performing Arts in Richmond, CA where he taught from 1993 to 2013, as a school music teacher for grades K-12, and teaching individual bass and guitar lessons at his home studio. He also enjoys working as a sideman, as is evidenced by his extensive experience accompanying artists ranging from legendary tap dancer Fayard Nicholas (of the Nicholas Brothers) and vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock to tenor saxophonists Chico Freeman, Joshua Redman and Sonny Simmons.

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Khalil Shaheed Scholarship Fund 2023

Dear Friend of Oaktown Jazz Workshops,

Next year will mark 30 years since Oaktown Jazz Workshops got its start in the rec centers of Oakland. Founder Khalil Shaheed’s motivation was to cultivate the next generation of jazz musicians and at the same time, develop engaged, disciplined, and confident young adults.

As we look forward to this milestone, we want to thank you for your enduring support. It has enabled us to invest in thousands of young people, helping them to develop their unique voices. This is a moment to look back and take stock of all we’ve accomplished together.

Oaktown Jazz Workshops has been around long enough to see our alumni light up the music scene in Los Angeles, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area. They are arranging music for symphony orchestras, composing for films, and touring the world. Other alumni are applying the lessons they learned through Oaktown Jazz Workshops – like active listening and collaboration – in other meaningful fields.

The creative community that we have created is a rare and beautiful thing: safe, supportive, diverse, and multi-generational. In our cascading leadership model, our students are encouraged by seasoned professional musicians as well as young adult Youth Mentors. Your donations have allowed us to support students and alumni with guidance on college applications and professional development opportunities, suchas mentoring younger students, teaching private lessons, and leading concerts at our Jack London Square venue.

This year, we have prioritized bringing high-quality concerts to places where all the community can enjoy our performances, including children and families who can’t afford or easily access live music. Oaktown Jazz students performed at 25 Bay Area events, 10 of which took place at East Bay libraries. We have made 56 visits to local schools, to lead clinics and presentations. And we have hosted 94 Combo and Ensemble Workshops, and 63 classes in Improvisation, Music Theory, Live Audio Production, and Vocal Ensemble.

All these years later, Oaktown Jazz Workshops is still rooted in Khalil Shaheed’s words: To preserve this music we need a community of teachers, mentors, and storytellers who know the importance of the next generation to receive this art form. Students are challenged to improve on their skills in a collaborative, creative safe environment. We attempt to eliminate some of the hardships young musicians had to endure in the past to learn this music.”

Every year, we ask our supporters to contribute to the Khalil Shaheed Scholarship Fund, which covers the cost of workshops for young musicians whose families cannot afford tuition. It’s a great way to support the young people in our community seeking opportunities for creative expression and artistic development. Your support encourages our children’s creativity and enriches our community with music and culture vital to our past, present, and future. Please consider making a year-end donation to Oaktown Jazz Workshops.

With gratitude,

Ravi Abcarian
Executive Director
Oaktown Jazz Workshops 

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