More than 650 of the best singers and musicians in the Irvine Unified School District wowed a packed house of music lovers at the 39th annual Donald Bren Honors Concert.
The sold-out crowd at the Segerstrom Concert Hall heard Irvine students from grades 5-12 perform complex musical selections normally reserved for older musicians.
“It feels amazing – like we’re one huge family,” Portola High senior and choir member Val Estrada said after the show. “We’ve learned so much, and we truly feel unified here tonight as students doing what we love.”
The annual concert is a demonstration of Irvine’s thriving music program, which has remained robust despite budget cuts across the country. It is named for Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren for his commitment of nearly $50 million over 20 years to IUSD’s art, music and science education.
Before the show, students posed for pictures with family and friends outside the concert hall. Inside, they took the stage where greats such as Itzhak Perlman, Wynton Marsalis and philharmonic orchestras from around the world have performed.
“I used to play the flute. I’m really excited to show my parents and grandma what I’ve been working on and show them how I play,” said Jeffrey Trail Middle School student Yuna Kwon, carrying her tuba to the stage.
The first time that Portola High senior Aryan Dahiya performed here, he said, “It was pretty intimidating.”
But his experience in the Portola High music program has changed his life.
“Choir is a place where I can calm down and de-stress from all the things that are going on,” he said. “And that allows me to focus more on my academics.”
Irvine is renowned for its music program, 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 10 consecutive years.