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Benefit Jazzes School Funds
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Slim Man, right, and two members of his band Bona Fide, percussionist Mombo Hernandez, above, and saxophonist Kevin Levi, pose backstage at the OHS Theater on Sept. 11 between shows for the students. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

Jazz lovers and philanthropists came out to raise money for the Oakdale Educational Foundation at its annual fundraiser with an open air concert from musician Slim Man and his band Bona Fide on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club. 

Thunderstorms early in the day threatened to put a damper on the event, with organizers setting up and breaking down tables several times before the weather finally cooperated with clear skies and a mild temperature. Approximately 230 tickets were sold for the full dinner and concert, plus another 150-200 tickets for the dessert only and concert option, said OEF President Connie Friel.

The “Jazz It Up” themed-event also featured the James Todd Trio that entertained the audience through the early part of the event, a gallery-style showing of local artist David Rodrigues’ artwork, as well as displays of student artwork from the Cloverland Elementary School Art Corps program that is supported by OEF.

A high energy live auction prior to the 8 p.m. Dessert Intermission brought in $27,300 for the non-profit that provides grants to benefit Oakdale schools. The auction featured special dinners, a Rodrigues painting, winery and vineyard tours, vacation destinations, and more.

“It was beyond our expectations in today’s economy,” Friel said. “People were exceptionally generous. Some items sold twice.”

The high-selling item was “Dinner at the Tiki” for eight that sold for $3,300. Other high sellers were the Dinner on the Dam for 10 and the Culinary Class for 14. The Rodrigues painting “Encore” sold for $750. There was also a special surprise auction item offered late in the evening for a Slim Man private performance.

“We are ecstatic. We were just not expecting that,” Friel said of the auction’s success.

Slim Man and the five-man Bona Fide, took the stage at 8:30 p.m., entertaining the audience with their jazz/pop blend of music and bringing people to the dance floor with songs like “Secrets of Your Heart” from Slim’s latest CD “Solstice.” Friel reported that Slim Man fans from as far away as San Francisco, Stockton, and Sacramento attended the event.

On Friday, Sept. 11, Slim Man and two members of Bona Fide played two special mini concerts for students at the Oakdale High School Theater. The first performance was for the choir and band program students from OHS and Oakdale Junior High School. The second performance was open to other high school students.

“It’s a great opportunity for our kids to be exposed to different things…a whole Renaissance approach,” said OHS Principal Mike Moore, adding that having the special concert was a chance to emphasize the arts, not just core curriculum.

OJHS Principal John Simons said that there had been a lot of buzz on campus about going to see the Slim Man performance.

“We’re just very excited we can reward our band and choir kids with this concert,” Simons said. “…They’re excited to see someone perform rather than be the ones performing.”

After starting off with “Overdose of You,” Slim talked to the students about his background and how he got to where he’s at in the music business. He told the kids that he had a difficult time in high school because he didn’t fit in. However, he loved music and pursued his education by also attending a music school.

“If you are a musician, there’s no way you’re going to get better unless you practice… Put in the time,” he told the student musicians, adding that he doesn’t always like to practice either.

Percussionist Mombo Hernandez and Saxophonist Kevin Levi also chimed in with the “practice, practice, practice” mantra.

Slim also advised the students that if they wanted to make a career in the music business, they should do writing and study songwriting.

“If you’re a musician…any kind of artist…writing is always going to be where the money is,” he said. “…Writing is the key. It’s where all the money lies.”

He talked about his start in the business and how after being out of high school for only a year, he headed to New York City for a meeting with a music publisher. He recalled that he was very excited and had high expectations but the meeting was disastrous and left him deeply discouraged. However, he persisted and went right back out the same day and managed to get a meeting with Motown executive Roxanne Gordy. He signed on with Motown a couple of months later to be a songwriter.

“Be persistent. There are going to be doors shut in your face,” Slim told the students.

He also told them not to be lazy and to keep an open mind.

“Take some chances in your life. You never know what’s going to be behind a door,” he said.

Students were also able to have a brief question and answer session with the professional musicians. A few students even got to join Slim and the Bona Fide members on stage to play percussion to the song “Low Rider” by War. Post concert, some students found their way backstage to shake Slim’s hand, praising his performance.

In a post concert interview with The Leader, Slim admitted that playing for students in high school is an unusual experience for him.

“I’ve played before 10,000 people, network TV shows, but going back to high school is a nerve wracking experience for me,” Slim said, referring to his difficult days as a teen.

He said that if there had been someone who had been encouraging for him when he was in high school, it would’ve made his life different. He added that he hoped his performance would make a difference for the students, that they enjoyed the music, and that they learned they could make it a living.

“I was flattered and kind of honored that someone would want to hear me talk,” Slim said of being asked by OEF to perform and talk to the students prior to doing the fundraiser concert.

He and the Bona Fide members said they want to do this event again.

“It’s probably one of the best situations we’ll ever be involved with where you can play what you love, and have an appreciative audience where it benefits people,” he said.

Slim Man’s latest CD is called “Solstice.” Along with his music career, he’s also an avid cook and has his own East Coast cooking show on television. For more information, go to his website