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Creative Arts * Creative Education * Creative Therapies

Aspiring Musician Challenge 2021
June 2021

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We are so proud to announce the winners of this year's Aspiring Musician Challenge:

Melanie Palacios, 6-8 years solo category; Camila Sanchez, 9-12 years solo category; Roberto Reyes, 13+ solo category; Bella & Johannes Zarate, 9-12 years ensemble category; and Andrea Aleman & Melanie Castellano, 13+ ensemble category. Congratulations!!!


Thank you to all 82 entrants who worked so hard to share their talents with us. You are all inspiring!





Estamos muy orgullosos de anunciar a los ganadores del Aspiring Musician Challenge de este año:

Melanie Palacios, categoría solista de 6-8 años; Camila Sánchez, categoría solista 9-12 años; Roberto Reyes, categoría solista 13+; Bella y Johannes Zarate, categoría de conjunto de 9-12 años; y Andrea Aleman & Melanie Castellano, categoría 13+ ensemble. ¡¡¡Felicidades!!!


Gracias a los 82 participantes que trabajaron tan duro para compartir sus talentos con nosotros. ¡Todos ustedes son inspiradores!

OCCTAC Receives $10,000 for Violin Scholarships
January 2021

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On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, OCCTAC welcomed Univision television to our center for an interview with Edith Garcia, mother to our beloved student Justin Salgado, who passed in 2018 from a brain tumor. Edith and her family turned their grief into action and started a scholarship fund for violin students at OCCTAC, but during the pandemic it became very difficult to continue to raise funds for the scholarship. Edith wrote a letter to the editors at Univision in 2020, and they began a nearly year-long dialog about Justin’s story and legacy. What Edith did not know is that Univision worked behind the scenes to secure a very generous donation to the scholarship fund. After interviewing Edith and Dr. Ana Jimenez-Hami that day, the producers and crew surprised Edith and OCCTAC with a $10,000 check to the Justin Salgado Scholarship Fund at OCCTAC! The story was aired nationally on Univision in 2 parts, January 15 & 18 on their popular Despierta America show with Maria Antonieta Collins. If you missed the show, you can view it here Un tumor le arrebató a su hijo, ahora esta madre se acercó a MAC en busca de ayuda para honrar con un deseo su vida | Shows Despierta América | Univision.

He Is Hitting The Right Keys
October 2020

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Enjoy this beautiful story of one of our participants from the perspective of his teacher, Phoebe Stanciell:


“One of the most rewarding roles as a teacher is to witness a student thriving despite circumstances. As COVID- 19 has been the focus of many things around us for the last 7 months, we continue to reflect on the challenges and the impact. But exactly what kind of impact? For Daniel Angel and his parents, it has been a labor of love. Daniel, or “Danny” as we know him, now almost 24, has dealt with cerebral palsy like a trooper. He began attending classes at OCCTAC when he was only 6 years old, and he and his parents work hard to keep him engaged in a variety of activities. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the quick transferring to classes online, Gloria and Abdel, Daniel’s parents, did not know how Danny was going to deal with the lessons. At the time, he was attending (and still does) social skills and other classes at Cypress College that he really enjoyed. Well, I must say, the first round connecting online was a learning experience. At the time mom Gloria, his second teacher at home and a taskmaster, was keeping him on a schedule of practicing. I noticed over the months that Daniel was actually progressing faster online. Previously, in-person lessons were taking us quite a while to get through his main reading book, but by the beginning of summer, Danny had graduated out of his first book and started a new one. One other huge achievement was being able to play all his major white and black key five finger patterns and white key 1 octave scales. At the beginning of the year, prior to COVID, Danny could only play 5 patterns and 4 scales. Danny also took part in the acting role of Rex Raccoon in the summer 2020 OCCTAC pandemic production of the play and film “La Mariposa”, premiering to the public on Giving Tuesday, December 1! Danny had a wonderful theatre experience and is excited to be a part of more theater classes. Thank you to Abdel, Gloria and Danny for really pressing through these times – that’s really “hitting the right keys” to life that are truly important.”

OCCTAC Special Needs Students Approved For The National Music Merit Program
November 2019

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The Music Teachers’ Association of California® (MTAC) sponsors the music study program Certificate of Merit® (CM). Initiated in 1933, the annual statewide program involves approximately 30,000 students. This fall of 2019, two of OCCTAC’s piano department’s teachers (and MTAC members) started a long journey of requesting special needs accommodation for four students this year. In spring 2019, the department had 12 students enter the Certificate of Merit program with 7 out of 12 receiving State Honors, of which two students were special needs. After having a parent meeting at the end of the year, some of the parents inquired about participating. These students needed many more accommodations.

After about 6 weeks of waiting on state committee approval, all four were approved to do the program this year! One OCCTAC student in particular has a congenital limb deformity and we truly consider this a huge victory to be able to participate in this evaluation. OCCTAC continues to strive in breaking barriers and negating stigma in the community, and we thank and applaud whole-heartedly quality organizations like this that give our students a chance! Thank you to Hang Le for stepping up for this huge commitment as this year the student participation has more than doubled with almost 30 students participating. OCCTAC is proud of its’ students and teachers and their dedication to excellence in the arts!

OCCTAC Students Receive MTAC State Honors
May 2019

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Starting for CM Evaluations 2019, MTAC has developed a new “State Honors” award for students meeting specific eligibility. OCCTAC is excited to announce that all students passed, and we had 7 students receive state honors!


The Reyes brothers, (pictured above) are two OCCTAC students with special needs that received State Honors and excellent marks. The teenage duo represented OCCTAC and their families exceptionally. Roberto said, “I really learned so much doing this program! There were pieces I wasn’t sure I could play, like the jazz piece, ‘Slippin’ Around’, but Ms. Phoebe showed me some tricks to play the rhythm and how to swing the notes and now that’s one of my favorite pieces to play.” Roberto’s CM Evaluator/Judge Ming-I Chen said his piece was “fluently performed with a lot of fun!” In our piano department meeting, teenager Master Roberto gave a wonderful “thumbs up” testimony about the program and also added that he “highly recommended it for their kids and thought they would enjoy it too.” Jesus, his older brother also received great comments from the judges and looks forward to participating again next year.

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