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October 2021 VAPA SOM Winners

ACNV Names First Visual and Performing Arts Students of the Month for the 21/22 School Year

Arts Council Napa Valley recognizes 10 students for excellence in the arts for the month of October, the first month of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Recognition Program for the 2021/22 school year. The VAPA Annual Arts Recognition & Scholarship Program honors exemplary students in all creative arts disciplines on a monthly basis culminating with a Scholarship Awards Ceremony in the spring. Students elementary-high school level are recognized county-wide

Each month, Napa Valley educators nominate exceptional VAPA students for Student of the Month recognition by ACNV. October’s recipients include five high school and five middle/elementary VAPA students from nine different schools. Following a challenging year of online learning, ACNV Executive Director Chris DeNatale said, “It is so exciting to see teachers and students back in the classroom together,” adding, “ it is so impressive to see how all disciplines are thriving now that they are able to sing, perform, dance and create together.” 

Last year, sixty students were honored with the ACNV VAPA Student of the Month award, while 20 went on to win special recognition with scholarships in four different categories–Overall Student of the Year ($1500), Festival Napa Valley Music Students of the Year (Instrumental $1000, Vocal $1000), Distinguished Music students ($250), and  Discipline Honor students ($200),  equaling $3,600. This year ACNV hopes to increase both recognition awards and scholarships. 

Arts Council Napa Valley launched its Visual and Performing Arts Student of the Month Awards Initiative in the fall of 2019. As the program’s third year begins, ACNV is grateful for the continued support of our partners at the SOTA Family Foundation, Napa Valley Community Foundation, and Festival Napa Valley. ACNV is currently seeking nominees for Niovember. Please go to the Arts Council Napa Valley Website to learn more about the program and access the Call for Nominees Entry Form

Here are October’s winners…

High School Level Winners

Choir: Ishi Saborrido, American Canyon High School Senior

Speak to any individual (staff or student) about Ishi Saborrido, and you will find her to be described as an exceptional and inspiring human being.  Jamie Butler, her choir director at ACHS says Ishi is “ a multi-talented young woman” who is one of the most gifted vocal students he’s had. He also speaks of her leadership in the classroom when, ”recently the Chamber Choir was trying to stage a song (Sing Gently) about coming out of pandemic isolation back into the community.  Ishi stepped forward with a wonderful idea that made the song not only come together but come alive!”  If this wasn’t enough to be impressed,  Ishi also leads a small group of passionate students called the Active Minds Club who develop effective strategies to increase awareness about mental illnesses, provide resources, inspire action, and reduce stigma and discrimination through open dialogue and inclusiveness.   Butler finished by saying that, “ Ishi is one of the most thoughtful, articulate and empathic students I have ever taught.” He feels beyond lucky to teach this amazing creative talent and a student leader.

Photo/Film: Graeme Ceballos, Napa High School Senior

When you look at Graeme’s work, you see a master of patience and a clear knack for timing.  His photography teacher Karla Palmer at NHS, says that he has an “excellent eye for composition,” and further compliments his professionalism. This ideal student is always ready to learn and create in new and different ways daily. Palmer finishes by saying, “ I’m always excited to see what he will turn in next. He always comes to class prepared with his work and is open to feedback on how to improve.”

Photo/Film: Tanner Medina, New Tech High School Senior

Every teacher hopes for a student filled with that coveted “zeal”, and in Tanner, Lisa Gottfried has found her rare gem.  With pride, she explains that while Tanner hopes to go to film school, his drive and ability to seek out his own personal learning have already created that higher level of education. He is ambitious, driven, and wonderful in specific skill sets such as dialog, special effects, and staging. Gottfried praises his work by saying, ”“He’s such a deeply involved learner”  who “ makes incredible films that are worthy of professional consideration.”   Tanner has also taken on a leadership role, mentoring a handful of 9th graders in his class. To see his work go to:

Studio Art: Arden Lloyd, Justin-Siena Senior

Monica Jacobson, the Studio Art teacher at Justin-Siena has had the pleasure of mentoring Arden for the past 4 years. When Arden was a freshman, her natural skills and talents were instantly recognized by Jacobson, who encouraged her to pursue her artistic path.  Since, she has grown deeply, both personally and artistically, using her “personal hardships,” in her work “to navigate and explore life.” As Arden’s personal artistic voice continues to sharpen and develop, Jacobson finishes by stating that her “curiosity is coupled with her care of others and her place in a complex world. She is genuine and passionate in making a mark for herself while truly caring for others. Taking risks, expanding her knowledge, learning from her mistakes, have all contributed to her success.” 

3D Art: Cecily Greenberg, Vintage High School Senior

According to Crystal Clark, the Studio Arts teacher at VHS, “Cecily  lives and breathes art!”  Cecily is currently working towards her submission in the 3D AP Art portfolio but is also enrolled in Digital Design and Graphics. Additionally, Cecily has become a true inspiration to her peers through her exuberance for the arts. Cecily is vice president of VHS’s Art Club and a business owner. Her business, BottleArt, showcases other student artists through sticker labels.  Her idea stemmed from her desire to use these stickers as a means to expand exposure to the arts and student artists. Clark says, “Cecily inspires [me] and her peers with her strong work ethic and her dedication and creativity.”  Clark says Cecily has hopes of attending the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle after graduation. 

Middle & Elementary Level Winners

Band & Orchestra (TIE): Jose Crespo, Redwood Middle School 7th Grade

Jose is a born musician, Alan U’Ren the music teacher at RMS, explains, “He has a great musical ear and perfect pitch.”  These innate skills have come in handy during a tough year of online learning during which Jose independently built his abilities to staggering heights.  U’Ren said that when Jose returned for in-person learning he absolutely shined as a cellist and that his skill level is “well beyond his own 7th grade.” Jose has also become a true leader to his peers, offering encouragement and helpful creative notes. He is also known to play his most recently mastered compositions to his class. According to U’Ren  students will, “stay to listen long into morning break.” U’Ren further  adds “he plays with such a feeling that others around him become more musical as a result of his lead.” Jose is currently composing a cello solo, meant to be played at the orchestra’s next performance. Whatever he creates, his work will surely inspire. 

Band & Orchestra (TIE): Michelle Villafana, American Canyon Middle School 8th Grade

This mature and helpful young lady has been a true asset to her teacher Debrah Walden at ACMS. Michelle is a 3rd-year member of the Band.  Walden points out that while Michelle has made great advances in her musical skills every year,  this year she has also become a student leader. She says, “Michelle’s confidence in her knowledge of music and her ability on her clarinet have given her the opportunity to teach others who haven’t advanced as quickly as she has done.” As the Clarinet section leader, with budding confidence, she has begun approaching Walden with suggestions for music pieces or bringing attention to things that need a bit more care. Walden says “her gentle and kind ways make it easy for her peers [and teachers] to take instruction from her.” She has clearly become an indispensable asset to her class.

Studio Art (TIE): Xochitl Gonzalez, American Canyon Middle School 8th Grade

Xochitl’s artwork is clean and compositionally balanced, revealing great artistic versatility. Jenifer Leahy, ACMS Arts teacher, explains that “She has a soft graphite style, a bold oil pastel vibe, a creative marker eye-catching pop, and a sense of style that is beyond her age group.”This sense of “style” caught Leahy’s  and Xochiltl’s peers’ attention early in the year, causing students to “gravitate to her table.” Further,  Leahy observes that Xochiltl is incredibly kind to her classmates. Xochitl is a true artist who is exhilarating to watch as she creates, and grows in her personal style.  Leahy concludes, “The flow of creativity from her utensils is a joy!”

Studio Art (TIE): Naomi Matthews, River Middle School –  Hollie Hardwick

This “quiet and reserved” young artist speaks loudly and confidently through her work, says Hollie Hardwick, Art teacher at River. Hardwick adds that Naomi’s artistic skills have been matched this year with a ”step into a leadership role as an 8th grader.”  Naomi has been a real help to first-year students. Simply put, Hardwick says Naomi, “has a quiet purposefulness in her help to others.”  A true leader indeed. Naomi is a prolific painter of acrylics.  While most of this work is done at home on her own time, Hardwick observes these skills have translated into success with every other medium practiced in the classroom, especially watercolor. With her skillset, hard work ethic and, “creative imagination,” Naomi is a true talent. 

Studio Art: Zoe Nylander, Willow 4th Grade

Young Zoe is absolutely bursting at the seams with creativity according to her teacher Shannon Hattyar, 4th-grade teacher at Willow. She is, “a reflective artist,” who, “uses all that she has learned about the Elements of Art and various art-making techniques to craft beautiful compositions.” Zoe is said to purposefully create her work, taking her time to add thoughtful “eye-catching” elements to complete her creations. All of her work demonstrates a natural understanding of artistic skills while emanating true joy!