Thumbs up to Fresno’s Broadway baby Audra McDonald. Fresno Unified School District is planning to name the theater at the Roosevelt School of the Arts after her, its most famous alumna. She has been performing for adoring Valley audiences since she was a child, as a member of the Good Company Players.
McDonald, who graduated from Roosevelt in 1988, went on to attend the prestigious Julliard School in New York City. As a singer, actress and Broadway performer, her career is unparallelled. She has won six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award. In 2015, former President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts – America’s highest honor for achievement in the arts.
She will perform in Fresno May 26 at the William Saroyan Theatre in her first concert with the Fresno Phiharmonic. Ticket prices are $35-$95. They can be purchased at fresnophil.org or by calling 559-261-0600. McDonald’s music director, Andy Einhorn, will conduct the orchestra.
Thumbs down to the copycat terrorists who have made school shooting threats against Valley students following the Parkland, Fla., massacre. Threats have been made against Sunnyside, Edison, and Selma and high schools. All were determined to be unfounded.
However, investigations continue after two 13-year-old girls were arrested at Pixley Middle School Thursday. A gun and ammunition were seized during a search. Another 13-year-old student at the school was arrested on Feb. 15 after he allegedly threatened to “shoot up the school.” He was booked at the Juvenile Detention Facility.
Thumbs up to Dutch Bros Fresno for its big heart on Valentine’s Day, raising more than $8,200 for the Poverello House, a full-service homeless shelter. During its annual Dutch Luv Day, $1 from every drink sold was given to food banks. On average, a $1 donation to a food bank allows organizations to purchase seven pounds of food for those in need.
Thumbs up to The Fansler Foundation for giving Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention (FCCAP) $59,484 for the Mandated Reporter Training (MDRT) Program, which provides training on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect, and how to report known or suspected abuse to the proper authorities.
The grant award also allows FCCAP to expand the program to accommodate the new MDR law, AB 1207, which specifies that all child-care workers have until March 30 to take a specialized training and are required to be trained every two years. FCCAP is authorized to provide this specialized training in English or Spanish. Already, thanks to Fansler, 170 child-care workers have been trained..
Thumbs up to Fresno jazz treasure Mike Dana for the avalanche of accolades coming his way, just as he celebrates his retirement from Fresno City College’s faculty in May. The California Music Educators Association named him the California State Jazz Educator of the Year and The California Alliance for Jazz has selected him to receive the Hall of Fame Award this month.
“California is a big state, with a lot of amazing music educators,” Dana says. “It’s such an honor to be recognized by one’s peers. The previous honorees are all heroes of mine, and I’m grateful to be included in their company. The past 28 years at Fresno City College have given me the chance to share the music I love with so many students, and this is a fantastic way to end my time there. It’s like the best icing on the beat cake.”
Dana still plans write more music and continue teaching with the Jazz Education Abroad program. A graduate of Fresno State, he taught in Fresno Unified School District before joining the FCC faculty.
His compositions for jazz ensembles (both instrumental and vocal) are widely published, and performed around the world. His teaching and performing have taken him to Thailand, Lebanon, Cyprus, China, among other nations. He was a U.S. Cultural Envoy to Thailand last year and will be returning there in March.