AOK is proud to introduce a special new annual $5,000 award, named after long-standing AOK Board member Laurie Pitman. Laurie served on our Board for 15 years, acting as Board President for over half of that time. She contributed significantly to every aspect of the organization, especially by building the systems AOK needed in order to grow. Laurie’s driving purpose was her vision of providing every single kid in Oakland with a great arts education every single week.

The annual Laurie Pitman Award has been created to honor Laurie’s invaluable contributions and to mark her retirement from AOK. Thank You Laurie!

As with AOK’s Project Mini-Grants, the Laurie Pitman Award will fund hands-on arts education programs serving students who attend financially oppressed Oakland public schools. The award is designed to recognize exceptional Project Mini-Grant applicants that would otherwise be disqualified from funding. These include: excellent projects that don’t quite fit our Project Mini-Grant guidelines; outstanding projects that have been required, per our guidelines, to take one year off from funding; or exemplary past recipients that may not have applied in a given year.

We are delighted to announce that the inaugural recipient of the Laurie Pitman Award is The TOaG Jazz Clinics program that serves the Oakland High School Jazz Band.

TOaG demonstrated extraordinary creativity and focus on their students during the pandemic. When it became clear that schools would not open for in-person learning in 2020-2021, TOaG pivoted their entire curriculum and used their 2020 Mini-Grant funding to buy home recording equipment for every Oakland High School Jazz Band student! TOaG then trained the students on how to use the equipment and become studio musicians—even when the studios are closed. Says AOK Executive Director Gwen Loeb, “The TOaG site visit was some of the most inspired and engaging teaching we saw all year.”

The $5,000 Laurie Pitman Award will allow TOaG to provide in-person ensemble instruction from top professional musicians in the 2021-2022 school year, and give their Oakland High students time in a professional recording studio, resulting in a reel they can use to obtain employment outside of school.

Congratulations to TOaG Jazz Clinics! We can’t wait to see your program in action in the coming year.

Check out our other 2021-2022 grantees!