The Oakland Active Orchestra is comprised of some of the most innovative and unique instrumentalists in the bay area. Formed in 2009, they continue the rich tradition of large ensembles that have existed over the past 30 years in the Bay Area creative music scene. The Oakland Active Orchestra focuses on new and original works composed by members of the ensemble to explore various innovative and traditional techniques in composition and incorporate improvisation to highlight the individual voices of the performers.
The Oakland Active Orchestra began with a monthly residence at the Uptown in 2010. Aram Shelton was asked by the Uptown to curate a monthly series, and after considering the size of the venue, he took the opportunity to initiate a recurring large group of local improvisers and composers. In talking to several musicians, including Damon Smith, Lisa Mezzacappa, and Weasel Walter, a lineup was determined, and the Oakland Active Orchestra was formed as an outlet for the members to perform and premiere their own works. This period was vital for developing a group aesthetic and give the individual composers an outlet to try new ideas. In 2011 the group held quarterly concerts and celebrated their second birthday with a concert that showcased short works from all the members. Other notable performances of the OAO include the 2012 Soundwave Festival, held at at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, a collaboration with Jon Raskin of ROVA, performances of works by the Vienna based saxophonist Marco Eneidi, and an improvised performances with legendary bassist Henry Grimes in October of 2010.
Current members of the OAO include: Aaron Bennett: alto & tenor saxophones ; Aram Shelton: clarinet, soprano & alto saxophones; Cory Wright: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet ; Theo Padouvas: trumpet; Darren Johnston: trumpet; Rob Ewing: trombone ; Crystal Pascucci, cello; Doug Stuart: bass ; Mark Clifford: vibraphone; Jordan Glenn, percussion; Sam Ospovat: percussion ; Robert Lopez, percussion.
Past and recurring members include: Hillary Overberg, Damon Smith, Weasel Walter, Tom Djll, Phillip Greenlief, Agnes Szelag, Marielle Jakobsons, Kristian Aspelin, Kjell Nordeson, Andy Strain, Doug Stuart, Scott Brown, Lisa Mezzacappa, Eriki Jekabson, and Henry Hung.