President’s Note: A Look Back at 2013

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to share Performing Arts Workshop’s 2013 Annual Report website with you.

Cyrus Wadia - Board PresidentGrowing up, I was passionate about playing piano — I would get lost in scales, pieces, improvisation, and writing for hours on end. It gave me a sense of inner strength, discipline (probably the endless scales…), and the ability to express my (shy) self in a different way — all of which I still use today. Playing piano became a way to focus my thoughts. These days, every time I play I get happily lost, just as I did when I was seven years old.

That’s why being a part of Performing Arts Workshop is very personal to me. I’m proud to support an organization that believes that all young people need and deserve quality arts education. The Workshop is relentless in its pursuit to provide at-risk students with life-changing arts education experiences. What really impresses me is that we have the research that proves our program’s effectiveness: participating kids improve their critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and are more engaged in learning.

Our 2013 Annual Report highlights our commitment to serving youth with the best arts education programming — programming that’s been refined and polished over 50 years. As you’ll see in the report, the Workshop has grown in new dimensions while staying true to its commitment to quality programming that helps students, teachers, schools, and communities.

For the past five years, I’ve had the extraordinary privilege of serving on Performing Arts Workshop’s board of directors. 2015 is going to be a special year for me: It’ll mark my final year on the board and the Workshop’s 50th anniversary. Save the date — we’re going to throw a party for the ages.


Cyrus Wadia
Board President

Read the 2013 Annual Report



Advocating at the State Capitol

By Jessica Mele, Executive Director

The State Capitol - Arts Advocacy Day

It’s hard to muster enthusiasm on a crisp early Tuesday morning. But, standing on the train platform with Performing Arts Workshop staff, we buzzed with chills of anticipation (and maybe a little from the cold). We were turning our eyes toward the state capitol, and heading to Sacramento for a day of lobbying in support of arts education!

Amtrak Station

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 was National Arts Advocacy Day. At this time of year, I’m usually developing blisters and sweating through my cardigan as I climb capitol steps in Washington with my fellow arts advocates. Americans for the Arts organizes this event each year, and the Workshop has been a proud participant for the last three years.

This year, however, we elected to celebrate in a different way. Why should I get to have all the fun? Advocacy has been in the Workshop’s blood since those first teens in Gloria’s class spoke truth to power through dance and theater. So that’s how, at 7:40 in the morning, I boarded a train to Sacramento with four staff members.

We were treated to a personal tour of the Capitol from Joe Landon, Executive Director of the California Alliance for Arts Education. Ducking past school groups and suited lobbyists, Joe showed us the main Assembly and Senate Halls, committee rooms, secret staircases, and even got us a meeting with the Assembly Speaker’s Arts staffer!

The State Capitol

Over the course of the day, we had five legislative visits, and we had planned our talking points carefully. Arts education policy touches so many policy areas – education, art, health and wellness, families – that we had plenty to discuss when we met with staff at Member Ammiano’s (SF), Skinner’s (Berkeley/Oakland), and Levine’s (Marin) offices. In particular, we were struck by Ammiano staffer Wendy Hill and Speaker’s Office staffer Eric Astacaan’s personal experience with and enthusiasm for the arts.

Of course, each staffer received an invitation to our student showcase – Bravo! @ The Brava on May 12!

Our final meeting of the day was with Senator Mark Leno himself, who flashed us a smile and fiercely delivered our own talking points about the importance of arts education to a young person’s development and education! He discussed his own ideas for supporting the California Arts Council’s budget, and hinted that he may consider taking action on this issue during his remaining years at the Capitol (Sen. Leno terms out after the 2016 session).

Workshop staff with Senator Leno

It was a long day, and we certainly saw, heard and learned a lot. On the train ride home, we were swarmed by a group of elementary students from Martinez, still bursting at the seams with energy after a long day visiting the Capitol. We started playing “Head’s Up!” – a game similar to charades that requires players to act out a word, so the person in the hot seat can guess what it is. Kids were screaming and jumping and encouraging each other. It was a bit chaotic, but that’s when it hit me: We work all year to make sure that young people have access to a deep, meaningful learning experience that takes them out of their desks and outside of their classroom. For this year’s arts advocacy day, we reconnected with that goal, by getting ourselves out of our desks and beyond the office. Sometimes you need a change of scene to remind you to keep learning.

Click here to view photos from our Arts Advocacy Day! 

Advocacy day photos

Watch the official trailer for Bravo! @ The Brava

By Joseph Tomsovic, Student Showcase Intern

Bravo! @ The Brava is coming to the Brava Theater on May 12, 2014!

Watch the trailer for our BIGGEST show of the year:

Reserve your FREE ticket at

Be a part of the show!

If you’re wondering how you might help make this a dream come true for our students, consider VOLUNTEERING or becoming a CORPORATE SPONSOR. 

For more information, contact Beverly Mislang, Individual Giving Manager, at

Bravo at the Brava

PHOTO CREDIT: Victor M. Samuel Photography


Join the Workshop’s Board of Directors!


San Francisco-based nonprofit is looking for board members interested in promoting educational equity through the arts.

For almost 50 years, Performing Arts Workshop has helped youth develop learning skills through critical thinking-based arts education programs.

At Performing Arts Workshop, our teaching artists teach dance, theater, music and creative writing in the Bay Area’s most challenged schools.We work with over 6,000 students both in and after school to maximize the impact of arts learning on young people. Our history of programmatic excellence and metric measurement has resulted in a tangible positive impact on student learning outcomes, including greater academic achievement, attendance and classroom leadership.

Creativity and collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving are essential skills for every student in San Francisco.

If you believe in our mission, apply for our Board of Directors. Individuals with corporate, event planning, or fundraising acumen will add huge depth to our board.

Contact Jessica Mele, Executive Director, for more information at (415) 673-2634, Ext. 201 or e-mail

Learn more: 

Discover Performing Arts Workshop in this video made for us by Giving Library. Learn about how we work to help young people develop critical thinking, creative expression, and basic learning skills through the arts.

> 2013 Student Showcase: Last May, our students performed on stage for their families, many for the first time. Check out their creative movement, Afro-Peruvian dance, capoeira, and spoken word performances!

> Virtual Classrooms: Step inside a pre-kindergarten class at Visitacion Valley Family Schoola hip hop dance class at the Tenderloin After-School Program, or a creative writing class at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary. 

> 2011- 2014 Strategic Plan: Facilitated by Olive Grove Consulting and with generous support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, our Strategic Plan charts three priorities for the Workshop’s mission impact and security from 2011 – 2014.


Meet our current board members here.

Board and Staff

Board and staff at the annual professional development workshop!

Board Members Carmen Milagro and Yashica Crawford

Board Members Carmen Milagro and Yashica Crawford

Gloria Unti, Founder and Board Member Emeritus

Board Member Annie McGeady

Board President Cyrus Wadia and Board Member Ashley Serra

Board President Cyrus Wadia and Board Member Ashley Serra

RECAP: Beats of the Bayview

By Maya Sussman, New Sector Alliance AmeriCorps Resident

“…We want to see a better nation,

That’s why we get our education.

Now we can have a celebration,

Now we can have a celebration!

And we celebrate, and we celebrate,

and we celebrate…”

-Students from Drew Elementary School at Beats of the Bayview (see picture below)

Students from Drew Elementary performing their spoken word poem at 3rd on Third! PHOTO CREDIT: Robyn Navarro Photography

Students from Drew Elementary radiantly perform their spoken word piece! PHOTO CREDIT: Robyn Navarro Photography

The third grade students who wrote this rhyme weren’t the only ones celebrating at last week’s Beats of the Bayview! Families, friends, community members, and Performing Arts Workshop supporters braved a windy March evening to show their support for these talented young artists.

In partnership with 3rd on Third, a monthly community arts and culture festival in the Bayview, Beats of the Bayview featured Afro-Peruvian dance and spoken word performances by students from Dr. Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy, who have been working with teaching artists Amani Manning and Rahman Jamaal since the start of the school year. The program also included a rap and hip hop dance performance by Workshop teaching artists Rahman Jamaal and Nick Brentley.

And no one went home hungry – students and families celebrated their creative accomplishments at an afterparty catered by the Bayview’s own Auntie April’s Chicken ‘n’ Waffles.

Check out photos from the event on Facebook by clicking here.