Oakland is famous for its blues and jazz scene and, more recently, for hip hop and rap. But it's a teen a cappella group from Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) that's getting the buzz these days, thanks to the TV show "The Sing-Off."
Vocal Rush has been powering its way through the competition on the NBC talent show, which airs its season finale at 11 p.m. PST Dec. 28. At press time, the group is still in the running, but you'll have to tune in to see if they advance. The winners get a recording contract and $100,000.
One thing I can tell you is that Vocal Rush is incredibly talented. When they were shooting "The Sing-Off" in Hollywood, singer Eivind Limon says they worked 14-hour days preparing new music and choreography for each show. Their rendition of the Delta Rae song "Bottom of the River" is already a best-seller on iTunes and has had 60,000-plus views on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erUaJtVtzbM.
Around town: Two local leaders are co-chairing the Montclair Village Association, and already their reign is the talk of the town. Attorney Howard Neal and Farmstead Cheeses & Wines owner Jeff Diamond make up -- are you ready for this -- the Neal-Diamond administration. Let's make a toast with a bottle of "Cracklin' Rosie."
One of Safeway's longtime checkers is back at the Montclair store while the Rockridge shop is being rebuilt. Eugene Foster has always done a great job of making customers feel welcome, and he was sorely missed when he transferred to the College Avenue store. Now that he's back, he's going to have to remember a whole lot of hills folks' names again.
And, it seems copper thieves will stop at nothing to steal the precious metal. They even pried loose the copper inlay on one of Montclair's mosaic planters. Still, the ceramic planters have held up well with relatively no vandalism -- and they're a beautiful addition to the Village.
Rising star: Disney's hit movie "Frozen" has a local connection. A Bishop O'Dowd grad, Josh Staub, was the lighting supervisor for the animated film that's being called the best Disney offering since "The Lion King." Staub graduated from O'Dowd in 1993 and worked in the video game industry before joining Disney in 2007. His own solo film project "The Mantis Parable" has won 18 top awards including Best Animation at the Palm Springs Festival of Short Films.
Night lights: A neighborhood redwood tree is decked in baubles and balls at the corner of Mandana and Paloma. The Trestle Glen tradition started in 2009 when then 6-year-old Francesca Bauldry put up some ornaments and invited others to join in the fun. It's even easier to decorate this year with a box of donated ornaments under the boughs.
Animal tales: Scrub jays have always been annoying to cats -- but to honey bees? Reader Elaine Hofmann blames at least one aggressive jay for eating enough of her bees to kill a whole colony. The squawkers sat outside the hive and gobbled bees whole as they ventured out -- leaving the colony decimated. "The birds are unconscionable," says Hofmann, who even tried hanging a paper hawk over the hive.