Grammy-nominated pop band OneRepublic has graced the stages of sold-out arenas and award shows, but on Friday the group took to a smaller stage: that of the Oakland Technical High School auditorium.
The chart-topping band played a stripped-down, intimate acoustic set for about 500 students — to whom the show was a complete surprise. OneRepublic played many of its hits, including “Stop and Stare,” “Good Life,” and “Apologize” as students danced, chanted and sang. The students were told to leave their cellphones in their classrooms; nobody in the crowd was allowed to take photographs.
The show was an added bonus to a $5,000 grant from San Jose-based tech giant Cisco and the Grammy Museum to support the school’s music program. Though 19 other schools throughout the country also won the grant, Oakland Tech was the only one that got to have a concert as well.
“I was shaking, I grew up to the band, and it was just amazing,” said freshman Mya Delany as she walked back to her class after the afternoon performance.
Students were told beforehand there would be a performance, but were left guessing who the artist would be, said Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki. When Co-Principal Josue Diaz Jr. introduced the band, the students — all of whom were enrolled in the school’s music and performing arts programs — erupted into cheers.
“I was so surprised, I did not think it was going to be them,” said Jason Gaylor, a junior.
At one point during the hour-long set, OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder gave a speech about his tough journey to stardom, encouraging students to follow their dreams like he did.
“As long as you can pay your bills and eat, if you get to do music for a living you’ve won the lottery,” Tedder said. “Whatever you do, whether you’re songwriters, recording artists, music video directors, classical composers … just do it, that’s all I’m going to say.”
Tedder, in addition to leading OneRepublic, has also written songs for pop artists such as Adele, Jennifer Lopez and Kelly Clarkson. The band played its own rendition of Beyonce’s “Halo” — which Tedder also wrote.
The climax of the performance was when the band brought Oakland Tech junior Nick Reeves on stage to play cello on “Secrets.” Reeves is in Oakland Symphony’s Youth Orchestra and last year performed as part of a quartet at the White House before former First Lady Michelle Obama.
As Reeves stepped onto the stage, his schoolmates chanted “O-T” — referring to Oakland Tech.
“It was fun, I was so excited,” Reeves told the Oakland Tribune.
The band closed the show with its 2013 hit “Counting Stars.”
Music teacher Ted Allen, who applied for the grant, said the money will be used to pay for music coaches to teach percussion, violin, flute and brass to students in the school’s music program.
“One issue we have at Oakland Tech, like several Oakland schools, is that we’re meeting the needs of both highly resourced and under-resourced students,” Allen said. “Highly resourced students often have more access to music programs and private lessons. Our bands tend to provide services for our highly resourced students and we want to bring in more coaches to provide instrumental instruction for the under-resourced students so that they can bring everybody up to the same level.”
James Mescall, of Cisco, said Oakland Tech’s application for the grant was strong, and the company was happy to approve it.
“It’s a great moment in our own backyard to give back to the community and celebrate the entire program,” Mescall said. “I think music is something at the heart of everybody in the world, it connects us all together, and that’s kind of what our technology does as a brand as well. We provide ways for people to connect visually and virtually, so it’s just a great fit.”
Grammy Museum director of development John Morrison said he hopes the combination of the grant and special performance will leave a positive lasting effect on the students.
“Our mission is music education and music preservation, and all the smiling faces on these kids, and the impact music has on their lives, is super important,” Morrison said. “We hope this will be a memorable day for the kids, but we also hope for many years that the money will continue to make an impact on the school and the music program will continue to grow and get stronger.”