The Creative Side of Lamorinda

creative-side-lamorinda-2Whatever your child’s artistic interest – theater, dance, visual arts, or instrumental music – Lamorinda schools and a vast number of private mentors and organizations can provide the instruction, encouragement, and outstanding opportunities to help fulfill artistic dreams.

Our elementary, middle, and high schools are fortunate to be supported by groups such as Lafayette Partners in Education, The Education Foundation of Orinda, and the Moraga Education Foundation – each providing donor funding for performing arts programs, instrumental and choral music, photography and art classes, and so much more. Our dedicated and enthusiastic teachers, such as Bob Athayde, director of music education at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, often take their students’ learning and performing to new levels, helping to instill a lifelong love of the arts.  

Outside of school, groups such as Lamorinda Theater Academy, Town Hall Theatre, and California Academy of Performing Arts (Capa) help foster budding talent. The non-profit Lamorinda Arts Council supports programs such as the Lamorinda Idol singing competition, the high school Visual Arts Competition, and Art in Public Places. We are fortunate to live in an area that so highly values artistic endeavor. Here are a few recent grads who excelled in our high school and community arts programs and took their creativity beyond the bounds of Lamorinda:

Maritza Grillo (Miramonte class of 2015): Maritza began singing in her elementary school chorus at age seven and competed in her first Lamorinda Idol competition at age eight. She is the winningest Lamorinda Idol participant to date with solo wins in 6th and 9th grade, and group wins in 8th and 10th grade. At Miramonte she pursued drama and chorus and was the lead in two musicals – Fiona in Shrek, and Rona Lisa Peretti in Putnam County Spelling Bee. She has also sung the national anthem at A’s Baseball games and Saint Mary’s basketball games. Maritza is a sophomore at Yale where she sings with an acapella group (and plays goal keeper on the women’s soccer team.)

Matt Kolb (Acalanes class of 2013): Matt started his music education with piano lessons at age seven. At Stanley Middle School, he participated in band, learning percussion while also playing piano in the jazz band. At Acalanes, he continued with both the jazz band and the wind ensemble, and in his free time worked at Lamorinda Theater Academy teaching music theory and providing piano accompaniment. A self-taught guitarist and digital audio producer, Matt started writing, producing, and recording original music during high school under the name Eventide with his friend Ben Miller. Matt currently employs his talents as a composer and producer of original music at a high-end Santa Monica sound design studio. He plans to complete his higher education towards the goal of becoming a professional record producer/songwriter.

Carolyn Moore (Acalanes class of 2013): Carolyn traces her love of acting to her involvement at age six in Town Hall Theatre’s youth program musicals. Her subsequent participation in drama, choir, improv, and acapella while at Acalanes, and her love of each, inspired her to seek a BFA degree in acting at The Theatre School at DePaul in Chicago where she is currently a senior. “The skills I learned during my time at Acalanes and in the East Bay performing community created a strong base for the performing artist I am today. My exposure to acting and improv at Acalanes have led to my current training in clowning, contact improv, and movement work. My experiences in the choral program have prompted me to pursue work in musicals, TYA (theatre for young audiences), and voiceover work as well. I could not be more grateful for the loving and talented community of artists in the Lamorinda area. Without it, I would not be who I am today.”

James Prinzi (Acalanes class of 2013): James started piano lessons at age eight, and started drums at Happy Valley Elementary School in 5th grade. He played in the Stanley concert and jazz bands for three years with Bob Athayde, and the concert and Jazz bands for four years at Acalanes where he also sang with the Acalanes Chamber singers. During high school, he also played with the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra of Berkeley and was a member of the Berkeley Jazz School Studio band, with which he toured large Jazz Festivals in Europe. Now a senior at USC’s Thornton School of Music majoring in Popular Music, James also plays in Latin and Jazz ensembles, and takes Jazz drum lessons. He has played with amazing student musicians as well as professionals throughout Los Angeles and plans to stay in LA post graduation to continue pursuing his passion for music.

Bridgette Thornton (Campolindo class of 2010): Bridgette’s interest in art took hold at age nine with her first art class – Critters and Clay – through the Moraga Recreation Department. She enrolled in art and photography classes throughout high school, during which time she also took summer ‘pre college’ courses at California College of the Arts in Oakland from which she ultimately graduated with a major in Painting and Drawing and a minor in Visual Studies. She is now a successful painter, managing and creating art for her own website: She also creates art for a Bay Area based interior decorating company, Serena and Lily, and has participated in pop-up shops at West Elm and Anthropologie. Bridgette encourages aspiring artists to read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. “This book totally formed my work ethic and thoughts about what success means as an artist; it is a must read.” She also encourages young artists to be bold: “Do not be afraid to get your artwork out there. If you have a favorite clothing store or café, don’t hesitate; ask the manager if you can hang your work up for sale. It will change your life.” 

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