Five IUSD students picked for national ensembles, will perform at the Grand Ole Opry

Five IUSD high schoolers have been selected to perform at the venerable Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as members of the 2014 National Association for Music Education All-National Honor Ensembles.

Melissa Chang of University High School and Ryan Lim of Northwood High were both selected to join the NAfME All-National Honor Concert Band, while Grace Gee of Woodbridge High School and Northwood’s Claire Lee and Michael Suh earned spots on the NAfME All-National Honor Symphony Orchestra.

In fact, Irvine is sending the most participants to Nashville from any district in the state, according to Brad Van Patten, IUSD’s coordinator of visual and performing arts.

“I would like to thank the teachers from our music program for encouraging Irvine’s finest young music students to successfully audition for these high-profile national ensembles,” he said.

The ensembles will perform on Oct. 29 at the Opry as part of the NAfME National In-Service Conference. You can find more information here.

South Lake Middle School students bring ‘Aladdin Jr.’ to the stage for two performances

South Lake to perform 'Aladdin Jr.'

Following 10 weeks of rehearsals, South Lake Middle School students brought “Aladdin Jr.” to the stage for a pair of performances on June 10 and June 11.

“Aladdin Jr” is the middle school version of the popular Disney film that follows the adventures of Princess Jasmine, Aladdin and a certain wisecracking Genie. The South Lake show was directed by Ingrid Green in collaboration with the school’s choral program, which is led by music teacher Jason Grenier.

Both performances were held in the multipurpose room.

Woodbridge High vocal music director a quarterfinalist for national Music Educator Award

Woodbridge High Vocal Music Director Rob Blaney has been named a quarterfinalist for the prestigious Music Educator Award presented annually by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

Rob BlaneyMore than 7,000 nominations were submitted for the national honor, which was established to spotlight K-12 teachers and college instructors who have made significant contributions to music education while helping to preserve its place in our schools. The 222 candidates who were announced as quarterfinalists this week are from 208 cities, fanned out across 41 states.

“This is an incredible honor, and I am blessed to be a part of a community that places such a high value on music education,” Blaney told the NewsFlash. “I love the diversity of our music program at Woodbridge and am grateful for our administration and parents, who have allowed me to create a vocal music program that provides students with opportunities to create, discover, and, as cliché as it sounds, find their voice.”

“The students and faculty that I collaborate with each day are simply the best,” he said, “and they inspire me to be the best that I can be.”

According to the official news release, semifinalists will be announced in September, and the field will later be narrowed to 10 finalists. One of them will pick up The Music Educator Award and a $10,000 honorarium in L.A., but that’s not all; he or she will also get to attend the 2015 Grammy Awards.

The other nine finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists are set to receive matching grants. All grants and honorariums are made possible by Converse, Disney Performing Arts, the Ford Motor Company Fund and Journeys.

Irvine High raises money for charity with first ‘Dancing with the Staff’ competition

Unfortunately, we don’t have any incriminating photos from Irvine High School’s first-ever “Dancing with the Staff” competition. But we do have these rehearsal shots, courtesy of student-journalist Jenny Seo.

IHS Dance Director Sheryl Sloate tells the NewsFlash that more than a dozen teachers, administrators and staff members recently paired up for a dance contest not unlike a certain television show featuring gyrating B-list celebrities.

Monica Colunga and Susan WexlerBut there was one added twist (pun intended): The Irvine High teams all performed moves choreographed by the school’s Dance Ensemble, which varied genres including hip hop, jazz, hula, zumba and country.

The photo above shows Principal Monica Colunga getting in sync — almost — with Spanish teacher Susan Wexler. The one below features IHS football coach Erik Terry and English teacher Morgan Rosser holding for applause.

Erik Terry and Morgan RosserThe idea for “Dancing with the Staff” came from dance Captain Rachel Blevins-Boor, but it took the entire ensemble collaborating with the Irvine High staff and ITV, the school’s broadcast station, to pull it off. The show was ultimately staged on April 25 in a gymnasium that was transformed into a studio with black curtains, spotlights and video clips.

Proceeds from the competition benefited a charity called The Wooden Floor, which aims to improve the lives of underserved students through dance.

“We wanted to spread our love of dance to others,” Sloate said. “That is our hope.”

Northwood High principal receives county honors for outstanding arts education

Northwood High School Principal Leslie Roach earned double honors this week at the 2014 Orange County Music and Arts Educators Awards.

DSC_1772In addition to being named one of 43 Outstanding Arts Educators at Wednesday’s special ceremony in Costa Mesa, Roach was presented with a Music and Arts Award, recognizing her contributions as one of the county’s top arts administrators.

Both are fitting honors for a principal whose campus has received a sleu of recent arts accolades.

Last year, Northwood was among 13 recipients of the state’s new Exemplary Arts Program Award just weeks after being announced as a California Distinguished School. In addition, Choir Director Zach Halop was named a quarterfinalist for the national Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

And Northwood was selected in March as a Grammy Signature School for the second straight year — and the fifth time since 1999.

“It is always nice to be recognized as a representative of the many hours and hard work that all educators put into making schools run effectively and efficiently,” said Roach, who’s pictured above with Dr. Jeff Hittenberger, chief academic officer for the Orange County Department of Education.

“Northwood High School is lucky that there was a strong foundation of visual and performing arts education built into the fabric of the school,” she added, “and I have been lucky enough to be part of helping support this strong tradition.”

Sponsored by Orange County Music and Arts Administrators, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and OCDE, the Orange County Music and Arts Educators Awards program annually spotlights exemplary teachers and administrators who oversee instrumental, vocal, theater, dance and visual arts programs at schools throughout the county.

This year’s ceremony was staged in the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center.

Irvine High jazz band places third at Reno Jazz Festival, tunes up for Great Park performance

2014 Jazz I Reno

Last month, Irvine High School’s jazz bands attended the 52nd annual Reno Jazz Festival at the University of Nevada, Reno.

And once again, the Jazz I ensemble showed why it’s one of the best in the west.

Competing against some 30 bands from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington at the April 10-12 festival, Irvine High’s top jazz musicians received unanimous superior ratings and placed third overall.

The Jazz I combo also placed third, and lead trombonist Christian Suh was selected as the top high school trombonist.

Next up, Jazz I will get to perform a little closer to home. The group will be one of 10 ensembles from IUSD’s middle and high schools to take the stage during the Jazz at the Palm Court concert, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 10 at the Palm Court Arts Complex in the Great Park.

For a schedule of Irvine High jazz ensemble events, click here.

IUSD jazz ensembles to perform under the palms at the Orange County Great Park

Ten jazz ensembles from IUSD’s middle and high schools will perform in the Palm Court Arts Complex at the Orange County Great Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 10.

thumb“Jazz at the Palm Court,” featuring some very talented student-musicians and perhaps a special guest or two, represents a unique collaboration between the district’s music programs and the City of Irvine.

Folding chairs and picnic blankets are welcome. For more information, click here.

Irvine High choirs to premier three new songs at upcoming ‘Concert in Spring’

The Irvine High School Choral Department plans to premier three original songs at this week’s “Concert in Spring.”

Irvine High Concert in SpringThe show, set to start at 7 p.m. Thursday at Irvine Presbyterian Church, will feature all five Irvine High choirs, as well as the Venado Middle School choir, performing works by living composers.

One of those songs, Thomas Cabaniss’ “Celestial Fire,” was originally commissioned for an ensemble in New York City. But the piece was sent out west on the reputation of Irvine High’s vocalists, according to Choral Director Tina Glander Peterson. You can read more in this Orange County Register feature. (Subscription required.)

Two other original songs will also make their debut, one composed by Irvine High sophomore Sean McNamara and another written by retired Woodbridge High Choir Director Ron Soderwall.

Concert tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the venue, which is located at 4445 Alton Parkway, Irvine. For more information, visit

BryWorld Multicultural Festival to celebrate student diversity with music, food and fun

April is upon us, and that means Brywood Elementary School is gearing up for its annual BryWorld Multicultural Festival.

Billed as a vibrant celebration of student diversity, the free and open-to-the-public festival will take over the campus from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 25. “It Takes a Village” is this year’s theme.

If you’ve never been, BryWorld has become a signature event for the Brywood community, and 2014 just happens to mark the 10th anniversary. Organizers are again anticipating a crowd of more than 1,500 to descend on a playground that’s been transformed into an international bazaar, with booths representing more than 20 countries.

The festival will kick off with a “Parade of Nations,” featuring students in traditional costumes from around the world. That will be followed by entertainment on the main stage, where kids will perform the songs and dances of their heritages.

There will also be a raffle, a silent auction, face-painting and a cake-walk, along with goodies that can be purchased from Old World Kettle Korn, Yogurtland, South Bay Italian Ice and Ray’s Shaved Ice.

Admission is free, and tickets for the booths and attractions can be bought at the festival.

Brywood is located at 1 Westwood in Irvine. For more information, click here.

Irvine named among ‘Best Communities for Music Education’ by NAMM Foundation

For the second year in a row, IUSD has been named one of the nation’s Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation.

The official announcement came Friday, as 376 school districts learned they had received the highly regarded designation for their efforts to provide exceptional music opportunities for students. You can read the news release here.

Now in its 15th year, the Best Communities program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards and overall access to music instruction. Irvine also received the honor in 2010 and 2013.

“This recognition is further evidence of our district’s commitment to the arts, which has endured despite inadequate funding at the state level,” Sharon Wallin, president of IUSD’s Board of Education, said Friday.

“Our staff, our families and this board have consistently demonstrated support for music education, recognizing its impact on academic achievement, and we are incredibly grateful for the added resources provided by the Irvine Company and the Irvine Public Schools Foundation,” Wallin said. “As a result of the collaboration that occurs in Irvine, music education is alive and well in our community, benefiting thousands of students.”

The basis for the Best Communities awards is the annual NAMM Foundation survey, and this year more than 2,000 schools and districts participated. Each was asked specifically about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and opportunities to make music in the community.

Responses were later verified with school officials and reviewed by The Institute for Educational Research and Public Service, an affiliate of the University of Kansas.

The Best Communities program is among the advocacy efforts of the NAMM Foundation, which cites a raft of studies linking music education with higher student achievement.

“These schools and districts make a strong commitment to music education in the core curriculum supporting its essential value to a well-rounded education for every child,” said Mary Luehrsen, NAMM Foundation executive director. “Strong, engaging programs that offer students access to music cannot thrive in a vacuum. The Best Communities designation and the SupportMusic Merit Award bring hard-won visibility to music classes, programs and departments that are keeping music education alive in our schools.”