Sheila E. in Oakland, promoting music in public schools. And her thoughts on the Prince "hologram"
OAKLAND, Calif. - Sheila E. knows only too well the challenges and joys of music education in Oakland public schools.
The musician best known for her mid-1980s hit, "The Glamorous Life," attended those schools -- studying violin at Franklin Elementary and Montera Middle schools in Oakland. That's before she ultimately dropped out of Oakland High School to join Azteca, the large Latin-jazz-rock fusion band co-led by her father and her uncle, the late Coke Escovedo.
"I learned how to learn to play violin in the Oakland schools and it was very important to me," Sheila E. told KTVU Tuesday while she was in the studio. "Most kids don't have music and arts in the public schools and we're giving back."
As for being a dropout herself, Sheila E. acknowledged it wasn't cool and that Oakland has a huge dropout rate, which should be curbed, and that one way of doing that is finding a young person's passion.
"Music is key," she said.
The Queen of Percussion is now the co-founder and cheerleader for Elevate Oakland, an organization that provides financial support for music and arts programs in the Oakland public schools, along with 51Oakland, founded by jazz club maven and former owner of Yoshi's, Yoshie Akiba, and Jason Hofmann, an Oakland-based entrepreneur and former educator.
The two nonprofits are putting on a show at Yoshi's Tuesday evening to benefit the music programs at McClymonds and Castlement high schools, both campuses that serve underprivileged populations. Along with bands from Oakland Tech and Edna Brewer Middle School, Sheila E. will also take the stage.
Her co-founder, Lynn Mabry, said in the last four years, Elevate Oakland has raised about $200,000 and helped about 3,000 students in Oakland, mostly by finding local artists in residence, and inviting their expertise into the classrooms.
Outside of her school music campaign, Sheila E. also grabbed headlines this week. That's because of her comments surrounding a controversial image of the late Prince projected on a white screen during Justin Timberlake's halftime show at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, Prince's hometown. Sheila E. and Prince were longtime friends and lovers, after having first met at a concert in 1978.
Sheila E. had told first Entertainment Tonight that Prince thought holograms were "demonic" and she voiced her disapproval that Timberlake would project Prince's image like that. "He did say to me, 'Don't let anyone do a hologram of me,' " Sheila E. reiterated to KTVU on Tuesday.
At first, she said Prince would have disapproved, causing a mini firestorm on social media. "I just made a statement that took everyone on a different journey," she said.
Then, in a Facebook Live video published Tuesday morning, she gave a long pitch for the public to come out to Yoshi's, but spent some time apologizing for being part of “division and anger and anxiety” at “what should have been a time of joy and celebration of the life and the music of my dear friend Prince.” She also realized that the image wasn't exactly a hologram, but she declined to say much more about Timberlake's performance. She did add that she was touched by how the city of Minneapolis lit up buildings and monuments in purple for her beloved friend. That tribute, she said, made her cry.
To KTVU, she added: "I apologize for anything I have done to divert anyone's attention."
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED: If you'd like to learn more about Elevate Oakland, click here. If you'd like to buy tickets to A Night With Elevate Oakland Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Yoshi's, click here.