Audra McDonald (Actress, Recording Artist)
Audra was born in Berlin Germany and raised in Fresno, Ca. She started acting at the age of 6 and soon where was a cast member of Rodger Rodka’s Good Company Players. She was a graduate of Roosevelt School of the Arts in 1987 and went on to Julliard. She has since received 4 Tony awards in 11 years, an unprecedented accomplishment for an actor of her age. She received her first Tony for her role in Carousel and went on to receive Tony awards for her roles in Ragtime, Master Class, and A Raisin in the Sun. Audra also received Best Actress in 110 in the Shade.
Gilbert Castellanos (Jazz Trumpet)
Graduated from Roosevelt in 1990, Gilbert was a dedicated jazz trumpeter in the Roosevelt Jazz band, Latin jazz ensemble and his own jazz combo. Mr. Alcala’ says of Gilbert, “I recall Gilbert always giving me recordings of challenging music for the jazz band. Several of our festival pieces were a result Gilbert’s suggestions”. Gilbert went on to attend the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), and the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston. He is currently active in two of the top jazz groups in Los Angeles, guitarist Anthony Wilson’s Nonet and one of today’s most critically acclaimed big bands, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Gilbert has played recorded with legendary jazz and contemporary artist past and present such as Dianna Krall, Michael Buble, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Poncho Sanchez, Gladys Night, Natalie Cole and countless others. Downbeat Magazine voted Gilbert Castellanos as one of the top 25 jazz trumpet players living today.
Web site: www.gilbertcastellanos.com
Taku Hirano (Percussionist)
Taku graduated from Roosevelt School of the Arts in 1990 and was a member of the jazz band and Latin jazz ensemble. “I chuckle when I think about the first day Taku sat down to try and figure out how to hold a pair of bongo, now he is endorsed by all the major percussion manufacturers”.
Taku graduated in World Music Performance at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), attended the Escuela Nacional de Artes (National School of the Arts) in Havana, Cuba. He also received his Bachelor of Music degree cum laude from the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
Taku is one of the top-call percussionist on the touring and recording circuit today. Taku has toured with Fleetwood Mac, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler, Stevie Nicks, Lionel Ritchie, Isaac Hayes, Tevin Campbell, Stevie Wonder, LeAnn Rimes, The Backstreet Boys, Sean “Diddy” Combs, the Neville Brothers, and many other notable artists. In addition to touring Taku has appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Dateline, Extra, The Grammy Awards, The American Music Awards, MTV Unplugged and many other programs.
Web Site: www.takuhirano.com
Channing Booth (Piano)
Channing was a graduate of Roosevelt School of the Arts in 1991 and played with the Roosevelt Jazz band, Latin jazz ensemble and jazz combo classes. Mr. Alcala` smiles when remembering Channings abilities. “When it was his turn to play a piano intro at a jazz festival, he turned over on his back and played the piano upside down”. He graduated as a double major in Jazz Composition and Piano Performance from the Berklee College of Music. Channing also studied classical theory and music from Boston Conservatory. A Magna Cum Laude, he later received his Masters in Jazz studies with an emphasis in composition. In the fall of 1999 at the age of 26, Channing accepted a full-time position at San Diego Miramar College and was fully tenured at the age of 30. Specializing in the Afro-Cuban Genre, Channing has led his own groups that have toured throughout the East Coast and Southern California. Channing’s own compositions and arrangements have been recorded on several albums and can be heard on radio stations throughout the US, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Spain.
Web Site: www.channingbooth.com
Richard Giddens (Percussionist)
Graduated in 1998. A member of the marching band, Jazz Band and Latin jazz ensemble Richard is an aspiring double bassist. “ Richard’s very first gig as a freshman was opening up for Arturo Sandoval in the Roosevelt Auditorium. He was so excited” (Mr. Alcala`).
Richard moved to New York in 1998 to attend the New School University Jazz and Contemporary Music Division. On a whim, he tried out for the famed touring show “Stomp” and made it. He has been touring with Stomp all over the world ever since. In between tours, Richard has continues his education. He received his Bachelors degree from California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts). He studied at McGill University in Montreal and will complete his Masters at Cal Arts.
Heidi Blickenstaff (Actress)
Heidi Blickenstaff is an actress based in New York City. She starred in The Full Monty on Broadway and is now playing Carlotta in the Broadway musical The Little Mermaid.. In 2006, she starred in the musical Meet John Doe at the Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., for which she won a Helen Hayes Award. Heidi grew up in Fresno, California, got her start in musical theater at the Good Company Players and graduated from Roosevelt High School of the Arts. She is the daughter of the former District Attorney of Fresno County, Dale Blickenstaff. She is a graduate of Duke University.
Christopher Gorham (Actor, Model)
Christopher Gorman is an American actor born on August 14, 1974 in Fresno, California. He attended the Roosevelt School of the Arts and graduated with a BA in Film and Theater Arts from the UCLA, before going on to appear in a number of television series. He’s worked on Jake 2.0, Party of Five, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, Boomtown, CSI, Third Watch, and Ugly Betty, Out of Practice . He’s also had roles in the videogames Star Trek: Hidden Evil and Medal of Honor: Rising Sun. Outside of acting, he’s a licensed auctioneer, and has participated in fencing, rollerblading, and ballroom dancing.
Andrea Chamberlain (Actress)
Andrea Chamberlain was born in Fresno, CA and, at 10 years old, began performing at Roger Rocka’s Good Company Players, the local dinner theater. She attended High School at Roosevelt School for the Performing Arts. She has toured the country and performed in many plays with many theater companies in San Francisco, Los Angeles and eventually making here way to New York. In New York she performed on Broadway in The Drowsy Chaperone , where she covered and performed the roles of Janet and Kitty as well as a Sondheim review called Opening Doors at Carnegie Hall. Off-Broadway she appeared in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and in Reefer Madness. She is currently touring the country as Janet Van De Graff in The Drowsy Chaperone.
Sharon Leal (Actress)
Sharon Leal was born on October 17 in Tuscon, Arizona, and was raised in Fresno, California by her mother Angelita, a homemaker; her father Jesse, a retired master sergeant in the US Air Force, who is now an elementary school teacher; and her stepfather Elmer Manankil. Sharon has a younger sister, Kristina Manankil. At the age of two, Sharon sang into a microphone, and her parents taped her "performances." This later led to acting, which she began doing in community theater productions when she was 13. Sharon graduated from Roosevelt High School of the Arts in Fresno and attended Diablo Valley Junior College, where she studied acting while privately studying voice. In 1989, she won a vocal scholarship at the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival, which enabled her to study with Seth Riggs (Michael Jackson's voice coach). Sharon has also performed in various rap and R&B music videos. She has sung in cabaret productions at B. Smith's, The Violet, and Steve McGraw's, all in New York City, and played teenager Dahlia Creed on the daytime soap opera Guiding Ligh and the TV series Boston Public in the mid-90's. At New York Theatre Workshop: Bright Lights, Big City. Regional credits include Little Shop of Horrors-Arizona Theatre Co., Into the Woods-Theatreworks CA and other shows like Ain't Misbehavin, West Side Story, Me and My Girl and Nunsense to name a few. Sharon last performed on Broadway as Mimi in RENT. Recently she was cast in the movies Dream Girls, This Christmas, and Why Did I Get Married. In her spare time, she likes to roller blade, ice skate, dance at clubs, and read.
Joel Abels (Actor)
Joel Abels graduated from Roosevelt School of the Arts and was involved with many of the plays presented while at Roosevelt. He is the founder of Children's Musical Theaterworks, the Valley's only non-profit theater company dedicated to the training of young performers in the area of musical theater and the arts. It was started in 1996 by Joel as a way to give back to the Valley's youth by providing quality musical theater training in a safe and positive environment. Through the dedicated efforts of the CMT staff of theater educators, Children's Musical Theaterworks is well on its way to being the Valley's premiere theater company for youth in the San Joaquin Valley. Joel recently moved to York to pursue his acting career.