More than 650 of the best singers and musicians in the Irvine Unified School District performed recently at the 37th annual Donald Bren Honors Concert.
Led by world-class conductors, the fifth through 12th grade students performed musical arrangements usually reserved for older musicians.
“There’s no greater joy than seeing your child do something they truly love,” said a beaming Jill Huisken, hugging her son, Dean, after the Segerstrom Concert Hall performance.
Past participants have gone on to study at Harvard, Oxford and Sorbonne. They’ve become professional musicians, professors and Supreme Court clerks. One is now a director for SpaceX, in charge of launching the Falcon Heavy rocket.
The annual concert demonstrates Irvine’s commitment to arts education, which has been shown to improve aptitude in music, math and science and even improve behavior.
Many school districts have drastically cut arts education over the last two decades, but Irvine’s program has flourished, thanks to community support like that of Irvine Company and its Chairman Donald Bren.
Irvine Company created the Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund and made a 20-year commitment to provide significant financial support to fill the funding gap in providing art, music and science teachers to every fourth through sixth grader in IUSD.
As a result, IUSD has been named one of the nation’s Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation for seven consecutive years.
“Irvine’s the gold standard,” said Brad Van Patten, coordinator of visual and performing arts for IUSD. “I’ve traveled to different parts of the country, and this program is phenomenal.”
After the concert, Woodbridge senior Dean Huisken credited Irvine’s early music education for inspiring him to attend New York University to study music education.
“It’s incredible what Irvine schools do,” said Huisken, a percussionist and singer with his school’s honor chorus.
“The fact that the teachers all love what they do and all are qualified in what they do, it really helped me love music.”