In 2005, Oakland Public Conservatory of Music (OPC) was founded to create an accessible, affordable, and culturally relevant music education. It is a place for Oakland residents to learn and connect through music.
“I attended two conservatories and both were very eurocentric. Few people looked like me and I wanted to create a space that embraced the musical backgrounds and heritages of all the different communities throughout Oakland,” said Angela Wellman, OPC’s founding director, who recalls the organization’s beginnings in 2005. “Music is a magnet that brings people together – people who wouldn’t normally cross particular boundaries. OPC is a space where we make music together and achieve some of our highest community goals.”
The organization spent ten years in a 4,400 square foot space in downtown Oakland. The facility combined space for several of their programs, including the Summer academy, rehearsal space rentals, and individual lessons for youth and adults.
In 2014, the organization found itself unable to keep up with downtown Oakland’s rising real estate costs and booming rental climate. Having lost its home and unable to find affordable space, OPC reached out to the Northern California Community Loan Fund for support.
“NCCLF helped us understand what our needs were, how it’d be best for us to position ourselves, and how we could start looking for a long-term lease and to purchase our own building,” said Wellman. “The Real Estate Readiness for the Arts workshop we attended made a big difference in our thinking in how we move forward and how we need to situate ourselves for our own sustainability.”
With NCCLF’s support, OPC chose to focus on building strategic partnerships with youth service organizations to minimize their occupancy costs while providing increased accessibility to youth in low-income areas throughout Oakland.
More than a year after losing its home, OPC now has a space at the West Oakland Youth Center where the organization has a dedicated teaching studio/office space and storage for musical equipment. OPC has also developed strategic partnerships with several community-based organizations including the East Oakland Youth Development Center, Eastside Arts Alliance, Coliseum College Prep Academy, and SFJAZZ Education. These partnerships allow them to reach more members of the community. OPC’s current focus on program development in collaboration with community partners has supported the organization in carrying out its programming and working towards its mission.
On August 21st OPC will be honored at Oakland’s Art and Soul Festival where they will be presented with a Key to the City. “I believe in the power of music to transform and heal people,” said Wellman. “This honor is a validation of our mission, work, and presence in this city. We will continue to grow, regardless of challenges before us. We are resilient because of the power of music to heal, nurture and invigorate the soul.”