Posted in History, Other

Audrey Lucinda Robinson

Audrey Lucinda Robinson – 1915-2008

Audrey Robinson was the first African American teacher at Thornhill Elementary School in Oakland Ca.

Mrs Robinson 1966 thornhill
Thornhill School 1966-1967

Early Years

Audrey Lucinda Robinson was the daughter of Charles Nelson and Maude Gibson.  She was born in 1915 in Oakland. She attended Peralta School and graduated from Claremont in 1930 and University High in 1933. The family lived at 6148 Colby Street.

Oakland Tribune 1928

She was a member of the Colored YWCA at 8th and Linden in West Oakland.  She was a member of a club that included Lionel Wilson the former Mayor of Oakland.

Audrey married Frederick D. Robinson, a Washington, D.C. police officer in 1941 shortly before he was deployed to fight in World War II. In 1944 Robinson died during combat in Italy.

Oakland Tribune April 1942


Thornhill Elementary School

She was the first African American teacher at Thornhill School in the Montclair District of Oakland. She taught kindergarten for 10 years from 1966-1976. She said that she never experienced any form of racism from the children, staff or parents. She said about one African American child would join her class every year. She loved her time at Thornhill and love the children. She was loved by the children.


Audrey was dedicated to preserving the history of African Americans in the City of Oakland and she volunteered with the African American Museum and Library of Oakland (AAMLO). She also became very active at the Oakland Museum, serving as Docent Chairman for the History Department. She also served as Vice President of Administration for the Cameron-Stanford House Preservation Association.

Audrey passed away in June of 2008 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.  Audrey was predeceased by her husband, a WW II fatality, and her son. She is survived by her daughter, Jeri, her grandson Frederick and two great-grandsons.


Posted in History

Calvin Simmons – 1950-1982

A special edition of my blog, in honor of Black History Month and a wonderful man.

I was lucky enough to know Clavin Simmons personally.  He was the conductor of Oakland Symphony when I worked there.

Calvin Simmons Conductor

Calvin Simmons Conductor

Let me back up a little bit my mom Sarah Chambers started working at the Oakland Symphony in 1977 when I was still high school.  She started as the receptionist and worked her way up the ladder to the Director of Education.  During the summer she would volunteer me to hand out flyers at lunchtime events.  One of our board members would do the same of her daughter Libby Schaff, now the Mayor of Oakland.  I was hired in 1980 as the receptionist and I also worked my way up the ladder to Box Office/Marketing Assistant.   We both worked for the symphony until September 1986 when they filed for bankruptcy.


Before the Oakland Symphony

Calvin was born in San Francisco in 1950.  Music was apart of his life from the beginning.  His Mother taught him the piano.  By age 11, he was conducting the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

SF Examiner Sept 19, 1969

The Maestro Kid

He was the assistant conductor with the San Francisco Opera from 1972 to 1975, winning the Kurt Herbert Adler Award.

He remained active at the San Francisco Opera for all his adult life, supporting General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, first as a repetiteur and then as a member of the conducting staff. He made his formal debut conducting Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème with Ileana Cotrubas. His later work on a production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District drew national attention.  In 1979 he conducted the premiere of Menotti’s La Loca at San Diego.



SF Examiner 1972

He was also the assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta.



LA Times Feb 01, 1975


Conductors Simon Rattle and Calvin Simmons, who both worked with Glyndebourne early in their careers in the mid-1970s.


Photograph Roy Jones Hulton-Deutsch Collection CORBIS

Photograph: Roy Jones/ Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS


He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera conducting Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, returning the following year. He was on the musical staff at Glyndebourne from 1974 to 1978 and conducted the Glyndebourne Touring Opera.


The_Los_Angeles_Times_Tue__Jan_20__1976_ (3)



His final concerts were three performances of the Requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the summer of 1982 with the Masterworks Chorale and the Midsummer Mozart Festival Orchestra.


Oakland Symphony

Simmons became musical director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra at age 28 in 1978.  He was one of the early African-American conductors of a major orchestra.

His debut or audition was in early 1978.


SF Examiner April 1978


SF Examiner April 1978




A wordless Maestro – September 1978



Finale – 1982

On Sunday, August 22, 1982, I was at next door helping my husband who was repairing our neighbor’s roof.  All of a sudden my Mom screams out the window that Calvin has died.   Such a sad day.  It took another week to find his body.  It was such a loss to Oakland and to the music world.  He was on his way to greatness.

Calvin was visiting friends in Upper State New York.  Connery Pond was a place he went to a lot to unwind and regroup.  While waiting for dinner he decided to take a canoe ride out in the.  He was by himself about 150 feet from the shore, he was a good swimmer.  A woman was taking pictures of the sunset from the shore.  She pointed her camera towards Calvin and he must have noticed that and being the ham he was, he stood up to pose. He then fell into the water.

A memorial service was held on Sept 07, 1982 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, more than 2200 people attended.

A memorial concert was held on Sept 20, 1982, at the Paramount Theatre the home of the Oakland Symphony.  


Various articles from August 1982The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Mon__Aug_23__1982_

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Mon__Aug_23__1982_ (1)





A Final Tribute

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Sep_7__1982_ (1)

The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Sep_7__1982_The_San_Francisco_Examiner_Tue__Sep_7__1982_ (2)


For more on Calvin:




Calvin joined the Youth Orchestras tour in July of 1982