Music Inspires Community

All Photos by Dan Dion

Every year, members of the jazz band at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, California, play a concert at the historic Yoshi’s Jazz Club. They perform on the same stage that’s hosted such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Betty Carter and Oscar Peterson.


For Zach Pitt-Smith, winner of Oakland Unified School District’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2013-2014, music education is about more than learning the notes. It places students in the context of a larger community and teaches them how to contribute. It celebrates the individual contribution as well as the harmony of the whole.

“It’s what we do. We call and respond in life. We’re always stepping forward and stepping back, and sharing the microphone and supporting another person when it’s their time to shine…I’m constantly asking my students to assess the situation with this question: ‘Is it time for me to stick out and solo, or is time for me to blend in and accompany?’”


Dan Dion is a world-renowned music photographer. As 20-year house photographer of the Fillmore, Warfield and other famous San Francisco music venues, Dan has photographed some of the greatest musicians the world has ever seen. Stars as diverse as Johnny Cash, Fleetwood Mac, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, The White Stripes, Tenacious D and literally hundreds more.


Dan agreed to help us show the students at Edna Brewer just how great they looked on stage. We wanted the students’ performance to inspire the most important audience around: themselves.


A few weeks after the performance, we presented the photos to the students. They now appear in frames over fireplaces and on posters in bedrooms. Every day reminding the kids of what they can achieve.