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 www.northwoodhigh.org.


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.


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.