Oakwood Schools Foundation: Community Helps Students “Flourish” Through the Arts


The new performing arts wing will provide an innovative rehearsal space for Oakwood High School’s band (shown above at Walt Disney World), choir and orchestra programs.

When the Oakwood Schools Foundation, a component fund of The Dayton Foundation, asked community members and alumni in 2018 to pinpoint areas of focus, they identified visual and performing arts experiences for students as a top priority. Although visual arts, band, choir, theater and orchestra are among the most popular extracurricular activities for students, the consensus showed that the facilities at the current junior high and high school building (now 114 years old) were in serious need of updates and expansion.

To help provide Oakwood students with improved arts experiences and the state-of-the-art facilities they need to remain competitive with other area school districts, OSF initiated FLOURISH: A Campaign for Oakwood’s Performing and Visual Arts.

It’s important for students to develop an appreciation for cultural differences and to know humans are more than just test scores.
– Adam Uhlenhake, band director, Oakwood High School

“The FLOURISH Campaign is a ‘game changer’ for the school district, the student body and faculty. Much-needed spaces dedicated to the different arts are essential to the educational experience at OHS,” said Kevin Jones, a 1982 graduate of OHS, vice chair of Oakwood Schools Foundation and chair of the FLOURISH steering committee. “Classes will be laid out better. For example, the band can practice in their wing during class hours, as opposed to playing in a classroom next to a math class taking an exam.”

The performing arts wing will feature new spaces for band, choir and orchestra, including practice rooms, additional storage and directors’ offices. Each room’s acoustics will be designed for its specific musical genre and nearly double the size of the current rooms, with higher ceilings to provide improved acoustics. The wing, which is on target to open in early 2024, also will be available as a space for school and Board of Education meetings, as well as a rehearsal and practice area for activities, such as speech, debate and theater.

New Oakwood Schools Superintendent Dr. Neil Gupta is excited about the opportunities and experiences that the FLOURISH Campaign will create for the district and the community as a whole. “A large reason for applying for the superintendent position was the emphasis on the arts in our schools and across the Oakwood community,” Dr. Gupta said. “Through the partnership with OSF, I am overjoyed by the commitment of our donors who are able to show their financial support through the FLOURISH Campaign.”


Future fundraising will support the creation of a Visual Arts Center and theatrical updates, among other arts-enhancing activities.

More than $6.6 million has been raised to date with the help of significant gifts from private donations. The $8.8 million project broke ground last December on the Rick and Jane Schwartz Performing Arts Wing, named after the 1967 alumni pair who made the lead gift in early 2020. This gift is the largest received to date to the OSF. Ongoing fundraising will support the next phase, which will include the creation of a Visual Arts Center with renovated classrooms and an open art gallery space, as well as audio, visual and theatrical updates to the school’s auditorium.

“The wonderful thing about this campaign is that the collective Oakwood community brought it to life. It has been incredible to watch the alumni and neighbors support this campaign by giving their private funds,” said Brandy McFall, executive director of OSF. “We are continuing to raise funds to hit our goal.”

OSF has relied on resources available to it through The Dayton Foundation to boost its efforts during the FLOURISH Campaign, which has been the largest campaign in the community’s history to date.

“The Dayton Foundation helps provide us with industry expertise and advice around some of the complexities we have encountered along this journey,” Brandy said. “The process not everyone sees in a campaign is the journey itself, from the seed of an idea, to forging partnerships and fundraising, and finally, seeing the project through to implementation. We are grateful to have had The Dayton Foundation’s support along the way, which helped us accomplish our goal of making this campaign and its vision a reality.”

We are grateful to have had The Dayton Foundation’s support…which helped us accomplish our goal of making this campaign and its vision a reality.
– Brandy McFall, executive director, Oakwood Schools Foundation

At the heart of these efforts are the students and educators who will be impacted daily by the new arts facilities and the opportunities that will be open to them to explore and nurture their creative and artistic passions.

“The new performing arts wing makes me really excited because it will provide a more comprehensive space to express our musical interests,” said Robert Einhorn, an OHS junior.

“Art and music help make kids into well-rounded human beings. It’s important for students to develop an appreciation for cultural differences and to know humans are more than just test scores. They need to know they are capable of creating things that are very beautiful and can touch other people,” said Adam Uhlenhake, band director for OHS. “This new space will allow us to spread appreciation to more students and give them a positive educational experience.”