Culverdale Students to Perform Original Play at UCI

Culverdale 3rd-6th grade students will perform Our Stories, an original theatrical performance at UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts in Studio 5 on Friday, November 20 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, November 21 at 1 p.m. This free performance features original work and performances by students. Culverdale Our Stories

Through storytelling, improvisation, puppetry, creative writing and dance, Culverdale students answered questions like, “What makes me special?” and “What is home?”  This process provided students the opportunity to express themselves and to find their own voice.

The public is invited to join Culverdale students, the UCI Drama Department and UCI Illuminations for an informal performance of Our Stories.

All Four IUSD High Schools Named 2016 GRAMMY Signature School Semifinalists

The GRAMMY Foundation announced, Friday, November 13 that the Irvine Unified School District’s four comprehensive high schools have been named 2016 GRAMMY Signature School Semifinalists, making IUSD the district with the most schools to receive this prestigious national designation.  Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools are among 119 schools nationwide selected as semifinalists and will move forward in this process, which culminates in March 2016 with the announcement of the finalist schools. Ben Case 2

“This is a very important and prestigious honor for our students, staff and community,” said Brad Van Patten, Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts.  “It is a testament to the entire K-12 program that allows for a quality music education with access and equity for every child in IUSD to help develop their individual talents in a collaborative ensemble that will be a part of their college and career skillset.”

IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools have won 11 GRAMMY awards, with half of those going to Northwood High School.  Earlier this year, Northwood High School music teacher Ben Case was selected as a semifinalist for the Music Educator Award, also presented by the GRAMMY Foundation.

Established in 1988, the GRAMMY Foundation promotes the impact of recorded music on American culture and recognizes schools that provide exceptional music opportunities for students. Each year, more than 20,000 public high schools have an opportunity to apply to become GRAMMY Signature Schools, but only a small number earn the honor.

In March 2016, an independent committee of top music educators and professionals, will decide which schools merit the finalist designation.  Selected schools will receive grant money ranging between $1,000 and $6,000 to benefit their music program.

IUSD’s Marching Bands to Perform Together for ‘Band Spectacular’

After taking the field for separate performances, marching bands from IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools will join forces for a big finale during “Band Spectacular” tonight.  More than 1,200 students, including middle school musicians, will participate in this exciting mega concert.  Band Spectacular

This fun family event will be held at the Irvine High School Stadium at 7 p.m. tonight, October 21.  Parking is free; admission is $5 for individuals and $10 for families.  Proceeds will support instrumental music throughout the District.

For more information on IUSD’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, click here.


Northwood’s Ben Case Named a Grammy Music Educator Semifinalist

Congratulations to Ben Case, music teacher at Northwood High School, for his designation as semifinalist for the Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.  Ben is one of 25 semifinalists selected from 4,500 nominations from all U.S. states.  His nomination and the gold award presented to Northwood High School as a Grammy Signature School last May represent Northwood’s outstanding music program and Ben’s skill and dedication as a teacher. Ben Case and Students

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators (K through college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.  A joint partnership and presentation of The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation, this special award will be presented at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception.

In December, one recipient will be selected from 10 finalists, and will be recognized for his/her remarkable impact on students’ lives. The winner will be in Los Angeles during GRAMMY week to accept the award, attend the GRAMMY Awards ceremony and receive a $10,000 honorarium. The nine other finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants.

Click here to read CBS’ coverage of this prestigious honor.

Six Irvine Students to Join All-National Honor Ensembles

Six Irvine Unified School District students have been selected as members of the prestigious National Association for Music Education’s 2015 All-National Honor Ensembles.  Performance categories include Honor Band, Mixed Choir, Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Band.  Irvine will send six of the 30 California students to participate in this year’s concert.National Ensembles

Eliott Chung, University High School and Eric Li, Northwood High School will perform in the All-National Honor Concert Band.  Elysia Ouyang and Mina Rhee from University High School and Michael Suh and Andrew Yang from Northwood High School will perform in the All-National Honor Symphony Orchestra.

The concert is October 28, 2015 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee and is part of the National In-Service Conference.  This is an exciting opportunity for our talented musicians to work with other young musicians and prestigious conductors from across the nation.

For more information, visit and click on the video at the top of the webpage.

Congratulations to our Irvine students and best wishes as they prepare for this exciting concert!

Uni High theater department to bring ‘Stardust’ to the stage Nov. 19-22

Uni showThe University High School Theatre Arts Department will present “Stardust,” a comedy written by Walter Kerr, Nov. 19 through Nov. 22 in the big theater. All shows are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Set in 1946, “Stardust” is considered a spoof of method acting and the Actor’s Studio, following students at the Dramatic and Allied Arts as they wait for the arrival of a well-known Broadway actress who’s set to guest star in their summer repertory production.

Uni drama teacher Ranae Bettger tells us more than 50 Uni students in the cast and crew are currently working to bring the show to the stage.

Tickets are $20 for orchestra seats, $13 for general admission, $10 for Uni students with ASB cards and $7 for senior citizens and children.

You can secure your seats now at or by visiting the little theater — also known as Room 223 — weekdays during snack and lunchtime. Guests may also purchase tickets from the box office on the night of each show.

Northwood High orchestra entertains, educates young musicians at Segerstrom Hall

The Northwood High School Chamber Orchestra was recently invited to perform for elementary-age kids and their families during a pair of interactive shows at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

NHS Chamber Orchestra 1Family Musical Mornings is an ongoing concert series at the hall that introduces young audiences to the Pacific Symphony. The Northwood musicians were on the bill for two shows there on Saturday, Oct. 25, participating during the Music Carnival portion of the program.

Not only did they play music for hundreds of elementary students, members of the Northwood High orchestra also demonstrated different styles and techniques, and they gave more than 50 young maestros an opportunity to conduct, according to Ben Case, one of NHS’s instrumental music directors.

“It was truly a great experience all around,” Case told the NewsFlash.

Northwood High School drama students to perform ‘The Ash Girl’ this week

Northwood High’s drama department is getting ready to stage a fall production of “The Ash Girl” Oct. 21 through Oct. 25 in the school’s theater. All shows start at 7 p.m.

Tickets, which can be purchased at the box office during lunch or before each performance, are $12 for students and senior citizens and $15 for adults. The Oct. 21 show is considered a preview performance, so those tickets are only $10 each.

Here’s a brief teaser of the plot, courtesy of the Northwood High website:

If you think this is just another reworking of the Cinderella fairy tale, think again. Our story begins in a big old house, with a girl who lives huddled deep in the protection of an ashy hearth. When the invitation to the ball arrives from the prince, Ashgirl must fight the monsters that have slithered and insinuated their way into her heart and mind.

FullSizeRenderDanyelle Dunavold, Northwood’s theater arts director, says her cast and crew have been particularly invested in bringing this story to life.

“The process of designing and creating this show has been incredibly powerful not only because the many students involved were engaged in the process from day one, but because of the empowerment of our student designers,” Dunavold said. “The play is entirely student run. The sets were designed by students using Vectorworks, an architectural drafting software. The costume design, marketing and publicity design, makeup design, props, running crew, box office, house manager, light board operator, sound, stage management – all performed by students.”

Be advised that a strobe light is used in the performance. For more information, call 949-936-7276 or visit the school’s website at

Portola High groundbreaking celebrated as a testament to collaboration, perseverance

In less than two years, a state-of-the-art high school is expected to occupy this vast stretch of undeveloped land south of Irvine Boulevard. There will be classrooms, a 720-seat theater, a gymnasium, a building to house elective courses, and the kind of student center you might find on a college campus.

But IUSD school board President Sharon Wallin sees more than the promise of new facilities. She sees memories waiting to be made.

“I see pep rallies, homecoming dances, basketball games,” said Wallin, flanked by blue and white balloons. “I see band performances, spring musicals and campus clubs. I see the first encounters between students, and the lifelong friendships being made. That to me is what this project is all about.”

Portola High groundbreaking 3Joined by local dignitaries and community members, IUSD ceremoniously broke ground on Portola High School Thursday afternoon, marking the start of construction on the district’s fifth comprehensive high school after years of diligent planning, collaborative negotiations and rigorous environmental reviews. The event was held just three weeks after a groundbreaking celebration for the similarly named Portola Springs Elementary School.

“You know, they say that the best things in life don’t come easy,” Superintendent Terry Walker said during his introductory remarks. “So if that is true, then I have no doubt that this high school is going to be the greatest high school in the world.”

Along with Wallin and Walker, ceremony speakers included state Assemblyman Don Wagner, Irvine Company Senior Vice President Mike LeBlanc, FivePoint Communities Executive Vice President Lynn Jochim, Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway and representatives from the offices of Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer and state Senator Mimi Walters.

Portola High groundbreakingFEATUREDIUSD Board of Education members Paul Bokota, Lauren Brooks, Ira Glasky and Michael Parham were also on hand, as was former trustee Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner. And the Northwood High School band, led by music teachers Ben Case and Whitney Tavlarides, cheerfully loaned school spirit to the ceremony with a setlist of contemporary songs, including Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Both were fitting.

Naturally, there were photos to commemorate the occasion, featuring board members, staff and others breaking ground with shiny silver shovels near what will become home plate on Portola High’s future baseball diamond. (“So all kinds of references to hitting home runs would be very relevant to today’s events,” noted Walker.) But first it was time to acknowledge the moment’s significance — and to recognize those responsible for getting Portola High to this point.

“The story of this school, like most of the great stories, is one about people,” Walker said, “and in this case their selfless dedication to serving our students and this community.”

“The people responsible for making this school a reality … embody the same characteristics we aspire to cultivate in our students — courage and resilience and perseverance and grit, as well as thoughtful planning,” the superintendent said.

Portola High groundbreaking 2Indeed, planning had been long underway before IUSD and its developer partners reached agreement on the school’s location in 2011, kicking off an exhaustive evaluation and testing process that culminated with approvals from the California Department of Education and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. In May, the Board of Education passed a resolution formally selecting the more-than-40-acre site along Irvine Boulevard and west of Alton Parkway, and the school was given a name nine days before Thursday’s ceremony. Portola High School, designed by HMC Architects, is now set to open in August 2016 with an inaugural class of freshman students.

“Here’s an understatement for you: This is a big day for our school district,” board President Wallin said, drawing an enthusiastic round of applause.

“Though our groundbreaking ceremonies traditionally mark the beginning of construction, our district’s vision is long-term,” she said. “Our commitment extends to many generations who will go on to shape this campus and establish its own identity, ensuring that Portola High is indeed synonymous with all that’s great in Irvine.”

Photos by IUSD Webmaster Shane Cline

IUSD in the News: Irvine High junior assists fellow student-musicians in Costa Rica

The altruism of an accomplished young musician from Irvine High School is the subject of this story on the Orange County Register’s website.

newspaperUpon visiting a music school in Costa Rica in 2013, junior Justin Koga was inspired by the passion of the local students — and concerned that there were too few instruments in good repair. So he took matters into his own hands, organizing a pair of concert fundraisers in Orange County and New York.

The money he helped raise paid for eight violins, three violas, three cellos and much-needed supplies, according to the Register.

“Sometimes you really need to go far to look at what you really have back at home,” Justin, 15, told the newspaper. “Music has played such a huge role in my life. It’s given me a lot; allowed me to travel, meet new people. And these kids, they wanted to play music and they couldn’t just because they didn’t have the instruments to play it.”

O.C. Register contributing writer Kiran Kazalbash has the story here.