Setting the stage for success

Two brothers describe how IUSD’s music program shaped the trajectory of their careers.

Lawrence Kao runs The Narrative, a digital production company supplying original content to the BBC, MTV, MGM and Warner Bros.

His younger brother, Franklin, worked at Fox Sports, where he helped produce the World Series, and he now manages video content for Turner Sports’ award-winning NBA show.

The secret to their success? They both point to the love for music they acquired while attending Irvine Unified School District schools: Northwood Elementary, Sierra Vista and Northwood High.

“I feel so fortunate that I grew up in Irvine, having all these opportunities when I was really young,” Franklin says. “Arts are extremely important. It definitely shaped my life and my trajectory going forward.”

20-year, $45 million gift

The district’s nationally recognized music program is one reason that ranks IUSD the No. 1 school district in California. And the program benefits from a unique community partnership: Irvine Company’s 20-year, $45 million commitment to IUSD.

The Company’s “Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund,” launched in 2006, has helped the district provide highly specialized art, music and science teachers to every fourth grader through sixth grader.

These contributions have helped provide over 100,000 elementary students (including the Kao brothers) with classes usually only available in high schools.

“This commitment from Irvine Company and its Chairman Donald Bren really is a symbol of what makes our community great.” – IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker

“This commitment from Irvine Company and its Chairman Donald Bren really is a symbol of what makes our community great,” IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker says. “It’s a reminder of the partnerships we have. And this is one of the greatest examples of that in the state.”

Lifelong benefits

According to the National Association for Music Education, childhood music education fosters creativity, communication skills, reasoning, memorization, coordination and mental health, among other benefits.

Franklin agrees: “Funding for arts, music and science departments is key to help develop original ideas and broader thinking going forward as an adult. There’s something about understanding those subjects that will help you in any career path you end up taking.”

Lawrence Kao

Older brother Lawrence says he still relies on the musical training he received at Northwood High.

“In filmmaking, 70% is music and sound,” he says. “Even at the top level, the best editors are musicians. You might not realize this when you are learning a musical instrument, but one day it could help you in other fields.”