Established more than 80 years ago to provide local residents with the opportunity to secure a postsecondary education without having to leave home, MiraCosta College has grown into a regional hub of music, theatre, dance and art that is drawing performers from across the globe and audiences from throughout San Diego County and beyond. "The college really does provide the community some excellent cultural experiences," said Sara Kent, a North County resident whose daughter once played trumpet with the MiraCosta Oceanside Jazz Orchestra, more commonly referred to as MOJO, and is now looking at a possible career in music. David Nydegger agrees. The recently retired Oceanside Chamber of Commerce's president and chief executive officer has lived in town for almost all of his 71 years. "It's really remarkable how the college has grown and how its impact in the community has evolved over all these years," he said. Indeed. MiraCosta trains and provides countless house managers, stage crews, actors and actresses to theatres throughout the North County, and its students go on to perform throughout Southern California. Its musical legacy may be even more profound: MiraCosta College graduate Andy Powers is the master luthier at Taylor Guitars, where the celebrated craftsman has built a following that includes the likes of Taylor Swift, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Page. And MiraCosta College is home to the annual Oceanside Jazz Festival, and hosts performances ranging from school and community jazz bands to featured concerts by internationally recognized performing artists. "We provide an array of opportunities for the community to see some major artists in a beautiful concert facility that is probably the nicest concert hall in all of North County," said Steve Torok, who chairs the MiraCosta College Music Department and directs both MOJO (MiraCosta Oceanside Jazz Orchestra) and the Jazz Collective. Among the recent performers were guitar virtuoso and six-time Grammy nominee Mike Stern, who has played with Blood, Sweat & Tears and jazz icon Miles Davis; a cappella gospel music sextet Take 6, who have captured 10 Grammy awards since forming in 1980 on the campus of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala.; and Rajeev Taranath, who is perhaps the greatest sarod player on the planet. Best of all, visiting artists often work with students and members of the community to help them hone their craft. "I really like how MiraCosta offers these incredible opportunities to junior high and high school students to play with and learn from professionals," said Kent, whose daughter – while still in junior high school – had a chance to perform with recording artist Sheila E. during the Oceanside Jazz Festival. For the uninitiated, here are just some of the highlights of what MiraCosta College brings to the arts community.
MiraCosta College produces several plays annually, and every year, the members of the MiraCosta College Theatre Program participate in the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival. In addition, the Actor's Academy is an intensive, one-of-a-kind, five-week midsummer program for those interested in pursuing a career on the stage. The MiraCosta College Theatre itself on the Oceanside Campus is among the top performing arts venues in North County and seats 243.
"The MiraCosta College Theatre Department can compete with any four-year university in the United States on any given play, and the proof is in the pudding when you look at how they fare against the competition at the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival," said Larry Hatter, who has lived in Oceanside for 66 years and often takes area visitors to theatre and concert performances at the college.
MiraCosta College's Dance Department produces an annual fall extravaganza dubbed `Shapes and Reflections,' and an annual spring 'Dance Break' with performances choreographed by students and faculty. In addition, the MiraCosta College Dance Touring Ensemble performs throughout the community all year, and the Summer Dance Intensive engages participants in a rigorous dance-training program taught by internationally recognized artists.
In 2010, MiraCosta opened a state-of-the-art Concert Hall, and the 400-seat, 12,000-square-foot site now stands as the college's largest performance venue and one of the premiere performance sites in the region. "The acoustics in the concert hall they have over there and what the Music Department is producing are pretty incredible," Hatter says. The Oceanside Campus is also home to the MiraCosta College Symphony Orchestra, which today has some 70 musicians from throughout Southern California who contribute to the cultural life of the region.
The Kruglak Art Gallery in the Student Center at the Oceanside Campus is among the finest community college galleries in the region, and it offers a diverse range of contemporary exhibitions of interest to both students and the general public. In 2016, it presented a compelling exhibit entitled Conviction, which featured paintings by artists incarcerated at Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa.
From Black History Month to the annual Samoan Cultural Festival, MiraCosta College has long been home to community celebrations that have attracted several hundred students and residents from throughout the area. This past March, civil rights leader and best selling author Dr. Cornel West addressed huge crowds at the Oceanside Campus during a Town Hall event sponsored by the Student Equity Department. "From the Music Department to the incredible theatre programs, MiraCosta College is providing a wonderful service to the community," Hatter said. "You really have to marvel at what they're doing."