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Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

On March 29-30, Ocean Institute will host its largest fundraiser of the year — an event that subsidizes the Adopt-a-Class program and assists underserved students to experience hands-on STEM programs offered at Ocean Institute.

Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Deniece Williams has been announced as the featured performer for the fundraiser. Musicians Gregg Karukas and Michael Paulo will perform, as well as Spencer Day, a jazz singer and songwriter who appeared on CBS-TV’s Star Search in 2002-2003.

Proceeds from the two-night event directly support the Adopt-a-Class program, says Emma Opie, a spokesperson for Ocean Institute.

“For many Title I students, Adopt-a-Class helps them see the ocean or be out on a vessel for the first time in their life,” Opie said. “These kids get to experience the ocean as a classroom thanks to what we’re able to fundraise.”

Title I schools receive federal funding in order to serve low-income families.

The Ocean Institute brings together science, education, and conservation under one roof, where people from across the community come together for ocean-focused inspiration and education, said Ocean Institute president and CEO Dan Pingaro.

“The 2019 Ocean Institute Jazz Festival allows for the entire Ocean Institute community of friends and donors to celebrate Ocean-based education and community engagement at the unique and beautiful waterfront Samueli Hall on the Ocean Institute campus in Dana Point,” Pingaro said.

In an interview with Dana Point Times guest columnist Anthony Small, Pingaro said the Adopt-a-Class program has provided funding to more than 10,000 Title I students in the past year.

“Our team works closely with schools to align and incorporate Ocean Institute STEM-based programs that meet Next Generation Science Standards into school programs,” Pingaro said. “Ocean institute will also be increasing our public programs on weekends to include more opportunities for the public.”

The institute will expand public access to sail aboard the Spirit of Dana Point sailboat. There will also be more opportunities to go behind the scenes at Ocean Institute to learn about whales and board the R/V Sea Explorer to view whales in their natural habitat. To read Small’s column on the Jazz Festival and a Q&A with Pingaro, go to page 6.

Ocean Institute’s “Taste of Jazz” event on Friday, March 29 includes music, small plates from local restaurants, hosted bars, and silent and live auctions. Saturday showcases a gala performance featuring a four-course dinner curated by Monarch Beach Resort’s Executive Chef Collin Thornton, and chefs from The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Montage Laguna Beach and Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa.

Reservations can be made by visiting or by phone. The event does typically sell out, according to a press release issued by Ocean Institute. For more information and tickets, visit or call 949.496.2274, ext. 345.

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