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Stars in the arts 2021: Arts Council Napa Valley recognizes January's student artists

Stars in the arts 2021: Arts Council Napa Valley recognizes January's student artists

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Ashley Hall

Ashley Hall 

Despite the challenges of the pandemic shut-downs, Napa Valley students have continued to create art. Arts Council Napa Valley (ACNV) began 2021 by recognizing 11 students from Calistoga to American Canyon for excellence in the arts.

Each student was singled out by their teacher for “going beyond,” “always showing up,” and most importantly, “inspiring others.”

ACNV judges agreed two studio art students at the high school and middle/elementary levels were deserving of honor, resulting in two ties in that category. Other students were recognized for excellence in choir, theater, digital media, instrumental music and dance.

Here are February’s Student of the Month winners:

High School

Alexa Cazares

Art work by Alexa Cazares, a senior at Calistoga High School. 

Studio Art: Alexa Cazares, Calistoga High senior (tie)

Whether it is painting abstractly or rendering realistic pen drawings, her teacher, Tyrone Sorrentino, said, “Alexa’s enthusiasm and passion for creating shine through to inspire others.”

He recognized her for her exceptional dedication and disciplined work ethic. Sorrentino is equally impressed with her learning approach, which drives her to discover new ways to express herself.

Studio Art: Emma Katherine Tada, Justin-Siena High senior (Tie)

Emma Katherine Tada

Art work by Emma Katherine Tada

Art teacher Monica Jacobson recognized Emma Katherine Tada for “her passion and commitment to visual arts, along with her desire to explore and dedicate herself to learn and refine her personal voice.”

Jacobson is also impressed with her AP art student’s ability to offer insightful observations during peer review. Tada is also involved in visual art outside of the art classroom, as a member of the National Art Honor Society along with being a contributing artist to the Memory Project, and a jury selection recipient for the Napa Valley Museum Yountville student exhibit of 2020.

Choir: Ashley Hall, Vintage High senior

Ashley Hall, the current co-president of all of the Vintage choirs, was instrumental in producing “Vintage Goes Virtual,” the high school’s winter performance accessible on YouTube.

Musical director Mark Teeters recognized Hall for managing every aspect of the presentation — piecing together videos, creating a storyboard, gathering introductions from fellow officers and making each segment into a cohesive concert.

Teeters said, “I’m very proud of her and grateful for her effort on a project that was new to us during a time that seemed somewhat hopeless for our art form. Her personal and musical leadership is invaluable.”

Hall has been a member of three Vintage Choirs for four years.

Theater: Gabriel DuBois, Cafeteria Kids/St. Helena High sophomore

Gabriel DuBois

Gabriel DuBois in "Matilda." 

Olivia Cowell and Aimée Guillot, directors of Cafeteria Kids Theater, recognized Gabriel DuBois for his acting chops and his ability to rise to the challenge of producing musicals over Zoom now that all classes are virtual.

DuBois assisted with audio editing, recording, recording students, and downloading and organizing files.

Cowell/Guillot said, “We were continually impressed with how much he handled in addition to his responsibilities as an intern and actor.”

Digital Media: Eric Toscano, New Technology High junior

Eric Toscano

Art work by Eric Toscano

Eric Toscano has taken on a leadership position this year in Digital Design Lab. Teacher Lisa Gottfried recognized him for his exceptional skill and artistic style. She said, “He’s ready to begin a career in Graphic Design now. His aesthetics are sophisticated. He always participates in class, even over Zoom. He’s calm, cool, and stable.”

She is equally impressed with his willingness to offer technical assistance to others.

Dance: Angela Aguilar-Andrade, Vintage High senior

Angela Aguilar-Andrade

Angela Aguilar-Andrade

Angela Aguilar-Andrade is attending school in person, and even though she is unable to perform right now, her teacher Lisa Sullivan said, “she comes to class every day with a brilliant smile on her face and works as if she were taking the stage tomorrow.”

Sullivan added that the fourth-year dance student is an inspiration to her peers, offering assistance with kindness. She continues to grow technically and academically despite our current challenges.

Middle and Elementary Level Winners

Studio Art: Morgan Santiago, American Canyon Middle School, seventh grade (tie)

Morgan Santiago

Art work by Morgan Santiago

Morgan Santiago is a prolific artist, devoting hours of time beyond the classroom assignments to express herself in various mediums. Her teacher Jenifer Leahy recognized Santiago for pushing herself to do her best. “You can tell she has a deep passion for art in her life. It emanates through her work.”

Studio Art: Giada Parise, River Middle School, sixth grade (tie)

Giada Parise

Art work by Giada Parise

Giada Parise is an impressive student with a strong personal drive to learn. Her teacher Hollie Hardwick said, “She has not only produced very skilled 2D works of art, but she has also participated in the Zoom portion of class with enthusiasm, humor, and leadership.”

Parise recently led fellow students through a live art activity on Zoom, where her confidence and natural friendliness shone as bright as her drawing activity.

Hardwick said, “It is evident that Parise enjoys all aspects of school, is making the best of difficult times, and has strong artistic skills and a creative outlook which makes her stand out in the Visual Arts program.”

Choir: Maia Medalle, American Canyon Middle School, seventh grade

Maia Medalle

Maia Medalle

Music teacher Deb Walden recognized Maia Medalle for her enthusiasm despite the challenges facing choir programs this year. “Maia is always willing to speak up during Zoom classes, answering questions, giving her opinion when asked, and letting me know if something in our virtual class isn’t working correctly.”

Medalle is consistent in turning in all her assignments and repeatedly does exceptional work. Walden points out many things are missing this year, “no live rehearsals, no singing in person with a community of friends, no performances, no festivals, no choir trips.” Yet, Walden said, Medalle “continues to bring a sense of hope and community to each Zoom class. She is always supporting me as her teacher and supporting us as a choir.”

Instrumental: Elisa Flaviano, River Middle School, Seventh Grade

Elisa Flaviano

Elisa Flaviano

Elisa Flaviano has not let distance learning slow her down. During this time, her teacher Nicole Birkland-Long said, “She takes the initiative and finds music that she wants to learn and play outside of class.” Birkland-Long has also recognized her for helping others, especially during hybrid instruction.

Digital Media: Yaretzi Anguiano, Phillips Magnet School, Second Grade

Yaretzi Anguiano

Art by Yaretzi Anguiano

Teacher Sheri Blades said Yaretzi Anguiano is creative and thoughtful. “Without prompting or having a required assignment, she chooses to experiment and learn tools in Seesaw.”

Anguiano is improving her skills with drawing tools including a stylus. Blades added, “Yaretzi is one of the few students who have realized the potential of the program beyond just teacher-assigned activities. Her drawings and video messages brighten my day regularly.”

ACNV is currently reaching out to teachers throughout the county seeking nominees for February 2021. All winners will be recognized with a certificate and invited to an award and scholarship ceremony in the spring. If you know someone, a teacher, or a student who deserves recognition, direct them to the ACNV website, for full details, including the Call for Nominees document. Only teachers and educators may nominate students for recognition. Nominations for January are due by 5 p.m., Feb. 21.


Follow these tips on supporting self expression using art as a tool to promote and support mental health. Veuer’s Chloe Hurst has the story!


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