Master Teachers

Our master art teachers coach and support our young artists by facilitating experiences that help them to develop their cultural competencies, identities of self, arts mastery, and commitment to making the world a better place.

Nicole Gervacio

Nicole Gervacio is an interdisciplinary artist based in Oakland, California - occupied Huichin. She received her BFA from California College of the Arts in 2011 and has collaborated with organizations including Her Resilience, People of Coloring, and Urban x Indigenous. In 2016, she became involved in the grassroots freedom school Liberation Spring and co-founded the collaborative cultural production collective We Rise, both continue to deepen and support her work as an artist and activist. Nicole is open to all methods and mediums available to express a concept, from visual work to movement, video to written word. She is inspired by the body, memory, destruction and deterioration, and permanence versus impermanence. As an educator, Nicole sees her position in the classroom as that of a collaborator. She offers guidance, support, as well as space for young artists as they explore mediums for self expression and self discovery.  

Safahri Ra Hendrix

Safahri Ra Hendrix is a hip hop educator, emcee, after school program director, Katrina survivor, and full time Arts Academy Instructor, who over the past 15 years has built  a career by teaching, workshops with teachers, taking over schools, innovating after school programs, aiding principals, creating summer camps, presenting in other states, panels, opening up new schools, performing & touring internationally in schools, coaching young artists, and eventually starting his own Hip Hop  company which seemed like the natural next step to take…

So now after countless albums, stages, tours, films and presentations, Safahri is launching his life love and dream company Pangea to partner with Arts Academy back at home base in the Bay Area with the support of all his family and friends!

Octavio Hernandez

Innovative arts-educator and youth advocate with over thirteen years of experience using the arts to foster expressions of intelligent, articulate, mindful visionaries.

Amani Jade is a multi-faceted creator born in San Francisco, CA and one half of The Oakland Mind. Though her first creative love was dance, she is known for writing poetry, original rap music, and exploring anything creative available to her. She blends her passion for art with her life work, supporting young people in and outside the school system in various artistic, political, and social-emotional capacities. She’s inspired by first time freestylers, cyphers of celebration & non-competition, and the power of healing through creative expression. You may know her as the co-creator and host of Sistar Cypher, from her debut project RJ to AJ, or the #30DayBayChallenge on YouTube.

Ranzel Merritt

Hailing from Oakland, Ranzel Merritt is always pushing himself to achieve more success in his music career. Looking to perfect his technical abilities and develop his own unique style, Ranzel Merritt draws upon his Oakland roots and lifelong passion for music, philanthropy,and technology! Ranzel has Toured, Performed, & Studied with Artists such as Solange, Kenny Garrett, Roy Hargrove, Bennie Maupin, Frank Foster, Ndugu Chancler, Stevie Wonder, Jamie Foxx, D'Wayne Wiggins, Raphael Saadiq, Patrice Rushen, and Kehlani. Get in touch to learn more about his background, experience, and latest projects on his Instagrams and Websites.

Instagram: @RanzelMerritt  @Codingmusic_ @Mprise__ - -

Branch Nautu

Born on the beautiful island of Oahu, Branch was influenced by the cultures of all the Polynesian islands. Since he could remember, he was involved in some sort of music, visual or movement art form. While in La’ie Elementary, he participated in Polynesian dance competitions where the groups he danced for placed amongst the top. During Kahuku Intermediate, he traveled to the continental US to win gold medals in each category of his division at AAU Karate national competitions. Continuing onto Kahuku High, he lettered in the marching band, judo where he also learned jiujitsu, ran track and played soccer. His class of 1995 won majority of their school songfests and statewide Polynesian dance competitions. Most notably he was amongst a team of high school football champions, all 4 years, winning himself an athletic scholarship to University of Hawaii. During his summers there, he supported himself by performing Polynesian dances at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel in Waikiki. Needless to say, competing or performing at high levels were commonplace for this island boy.

His Capoeira journey was sparked by “Only the Strong,” a movie showcasing the Martial Art helping struggling high school students. Fascinated, his Capoeira study commenced in 2003 at San Francisco State’s dance department under Mestre Preguica of Omulu Capoeira. While majoring in Kinesiology, he became hooked before the semester concluded. Working as a personal trainer, he continued private instruction with his college professor. Within 8 months of beginning, a “Batizado” (formal graduation) was held where he received his “cordao,” a cord instead of belts marking the experience level as in other martial arts.

In 2018, his love of movement took this experience and knowledge of Capoeira to Roses in Concrete Community School in Oakland, CA. Blessed by the opportunities provided by The People’s Conservatory, he has been fortunate to work with hundreds of youth and share Capoeira’s culture through it’s history, music through it’s instruments, language through it’s songs and his favorite, it’s movements through play. He has now been joyfully playing and sharing Capoeira for 17 years. You can be sure to find him playing in one of the many, many Capoeira academies in the Bay Area if he’s not already playing the game with kids.

Marcus J Salinas

Marcus J Salinas, also known as Omega, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and has been labeled a pioneer in the Chicago Hip Hop / Breaking scene. Having over 25 years of experience and 15+ years of teaching Bboy/Bgirl movement, he is recognized by an extensive background of dance competition titles and performances. Omega continues to stay active and relevant to the community as an influential competitor and mentor. Marcus has judged, showcased, and taught workshops at some of the most prestigious competitions nationwide.

Spreading his knowledge of the culture through his movement techniques promotes conditioning of the body and mind for abstract and acrobatic movement for youths and adults.


Dynamics of Breaking - Bboy/Bgirl Movement Instructor -

Raliegh J. Neal, II has 50 YEARS of music exposure, beginning at the age of
4 with his father teaching him the Ukelele. Raliegh attended University of
Virginia and University of Miami Music School which then launched a
career of over 3 decades of playing the piano and sharing the stage of
musical legends like Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Robert Daultry, Nile
Rogers, John Mayer, Guru, Be Be Winans and countless others. In 2006
Raliegh joined Michael Franti & Spearhead for a 9 year run
touring worldwide in Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Canada, and
throughout the continental U.S.
As a Composer, Raliegh has an eclectic catalog of pieces registered
with ASCAP that are played around the world. Some of his creative efforts
specialize in “youth empowerment” and have appeared on Nickelodeon and
ABC’s Saturday morning children’s programs.
Raliegh also has over12 years experience working with inter-city youth in
the field of Youth Development through the Arts. Hired as the Music
Director for The CityKids Foundation, Raliegh had the opportunity to
cultivate the musical and performance talent of hundreds of youth through
theme based performances touching on themes about teen pregnancy,
racism, culture and relationships.
At present Raliegh is scoring for independent films, providing session work,
and enjoying performing with local Bay Area music talent, as well as his
Steely Dan Cover group, “The Dans of Steel.”

Karma Smart’s passion for dance began in 1996, particularly, dances of the African Diaspora. Soon after beginning the study of West African dance she began to perform at public events.  While living in Hawai’i she studied and performed West African, Afro-Brazilian, Congolese, jazz, Haitian and hip-hop dance styles. In Hawai’i she helped form the dance company of Sankofa based on the Big Island with whom she performed at schools, museums, and events on Maui and Oahu and the Big Island while completing a degree in Cultural Anthropology in 2000. In 2002, in order to expand her learning opportunities as a dancer and to attend graduate school, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.  A few months after arriving she was invited to join the long standing Congolese dance company, Fua Dia Congo of which she was a member for three years. After graduating from the California Institute of Integral Studies she was presented with the opportunity to teach West African and Congolese dance while in an internship in Brazil. Currently, and for the last ten years she has consistently focused on studying Afro-Brazilian dance.  In addition, in April of 2013 she was asked to collaborate in forming a new Congolese dance company by the young visionary choreographer, Vivien Bassoumina.  It is Karma’s life passion to share her experience of personal healing and liberation through music and dance.   

Karma currently teaches adults, teens and children of all ages dance at various community organizations, dance studios, wellness centers, fitness centers and schools. More specifically she teaches at BrasArte, also known as the World Dance Center in Berkeley. And has recently performed as a company member with Omi Tutu Dance Collective as well as Damasceno Dance Collective and, as a guest artist with Maracatu Pacifico for the annual Cuba Caribe Festival in March of 2017. Karma also enjoys performing in the SF Carnaval Parade and other local celebrations annually. In addition, for the last 5 years she has taught as a guest dance teacher at St. Mary’s College High School as well as taught a variety of movement arts from gymnastics, circus arts, and Kung fu, at various schools and camps.  Teaching children movement arts is her passion and inspires her daily.

Cava Menzies is a multidisciplinary musician, visual artist, and educator who resides in Oakland, Ca. She holds a BA from the Berklee College of Music and a MM from the University of Miami. Cava is a founding music faculty member at the Oakland School for the Arts and served as the Artistic Director of the school from 2015 - 2018. She is a 2014 National Artist Teaching Fellow. She has been a guest faculty member for Berklee College of Music’s weeklong music intensives in LA and Puerto Rico. She served on the board of the SF Chapter for the Recording Academy and was a quarterfinalist for the 2018 Grammy Music Educator Awards. Cava is the founder of the brand, COLORQUEEN, a multidisciplinary platform that highlights her integrated visual art, music, and travel work. 

 Transplanted to San Francisco Bay Area from Shanghai, China and originally hailing from Virginia Beach, Ben Misterka’s story is anything but ordinary.  Spending nearly 6 years based in Shanghai, he is well known as a top call session and touring guitarist, regularly performing at arenas, major festivals, and intimate clubs alike, with leading pop artists, internationally renowned touring acts, and his original project “Collectivity”.  Relocating to the Bay Area in 2017, he is quickly turning heads and making an impact across California and beyond.    

       A graduate of VCU jazz department, Misterka quickly began performing in some of the top RnB, Hip Hop, Gospel, Funk and Jazz groups around Richmond, VA.  Developing a fluency in those languages, he grew to be a well versed and versatile in demand guitarist. He soon found the offer to move to China, working with several schools to develop the music programs, and perform full time.  Immersed in this new culture, he became fluent in Mandarin found himself performing at arenas, large festivals, and clubs such as Blue Note, all over the country, as well as holding a residency as Musical Director for one of the best soul music venues in Asia, “Shake”. 

       In 2019 Misterka released an album of original music, “Off the Grid” with his band Collectivity, which had the opportunity to tour in Asia, the US and Europe.  

         As an artist with incredible versatility, unique groove and pocket, and a compelling performer, Misterka has worked with; Lyrics Born, Tommy Igoe, Fred Yonnet, The Voice of China, Nikki Glaspe, Morris Hayes, Tia Ray, Glen David Andrews, Tan Wei Wei(谭维维), Leah Dou (窦靖童), Yu Quan (羽 泉) and many others.  He studied with Wayne Krantz, Fred Hersch, and Doug Richards.

Marina Elana has performed with the most important flamenco companies in the United States over the past twelve years including Caminos Flamencos, Maria Benitez’s Teatro Flamenco in New Mexico and Noche Flamenca in New York City. Marina has performed with Noche Flamenca for the past eight years and has toured extensively with the company both nationally and internationally. In one of the most recent performances, Brian Seibert from The New York Times reviewed her as “a dancer of distinction.” Marina was chosen to perform and present her choreographies at the New York International Fringe Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Festival, the Queensboro Dance Festival and Stanford University’s NExT Performance Series. Last year in San Francisco, she co-created her first major production, Tattooed, which Rene Renouf reviewed as "one of the most effective flamenco performances I have ever seen." Marina graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Film and Media Studies specializing in “Avant-Garde Aesthetics and Performance.”

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