Study after study shows the benefits of teaching music in school – including discipline, teamwork and even better test scores.
What’s harder to measure is the joy.
Yet joy was on full display at the Segerstrom Concert Hall on March 14, as more than 400 students, representing grades 5-12 from the Irvine Unified School District, belted out “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
It was the finale of the 38th annual Donald Bren Honors Concert and a fitting tribute to IUSD’s 50th anniversary. At a time when music and arts classes are in sharp decline due to budget cuts throughout the United States – and particularly in California – they remain robust in Irvine.
“There is much to celebrate tonight,” noted Superintendent Terry Walker at the sold-out event, during which he accepted a $2 million contribution from the Irvine Company. The Company has committed $45 million over 20 years to IUSD’s art, music and science education.
Despite the budget cuts affecting other schools, “Irvine’s program has flourished, thanks to community support like that of Irvine Company and its Chairman Donald Bren,” Walker said. “Tonight’s concert is a demonstration of this commitment.”
“I don’t know if any other district is doing something like this now, with students from elementary to high school taking part,” said IUSD Director of Arts Education Brad Van Patten.
The annual concert began in 1982 but was postponed over the last two years of the pandemic.
Northwood High senior Kathy Chun, a bassist who has been accepted at Yale University, said she was thrilled to take part in one of IUSD’s oldest traditions.
“To hear the blending of all the instruments and all the voices, with the elementary and middle school students all coming together too, it was amazing,” she said. “It’s really an honor to be here.”
Flutist Kaya Baird, a sixth grader at Plaza Vista, put it this way: “I was surprised at how big it is here. When I go back to my school, I could be famous!”
A first-in-its-class music curriculum
Irvine’s music program is renowned, having been named one of the nation’s Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation, a supporting organization of the National Association of Music Merchants, for nine consecutive years.
Officials credit Irvine Company’s Excellence in Education Enrichment Fund, now in its 16th year, for much of this success.
The program helps provide art, music and science teachers to every fourth through sixth grader in the district. Since 2006, it has helped over 100,000 elementary students and propelled them to consistently outperform their peers in California and the nation in many of these subjects.
“Education has always been at the core of our planning efforts in Irvine,” Irvine Company Vice President Jeff Davis said after the concert. “Today’s contribution continues our Company’s decades-long partnership with IUSD, students and families to support enrichment programs in science, art and music.”