The Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) has been named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a non-profit organization with the aim of “advancing active participation in music” within schools and communities.
The Irvine community has long acknowledged music and the arts as an essential aspect of education. However, budget issues have prompted IUSD to be mindful of where the funds are being spent. Gavin Huntley-Fenner, the President of the IUSD Board of Education, said, “We still are not able to provide as much as I would like in terms of support for writing instruction, art, science and music, smaller math class sizes etc. From that perspective IUSD are woefully under budget.”
Despite funding issues, however, IUSD has succeeded in providing various opportunities for music education. Fortunately, the Irvine Company has also helped by spending $200 million over the last ten years to support arts, music and science programs at IUSD.
IUSD strives to give music education to students in their early years. Students in fourth to sixth grades are able to choose from wind instruments, string instruments or vocals. At this year’s Cello Extravaganza event, approximately 200 fourth, fifth and sixth-graders gathered to participate in the largest cello orchestra in the country. Ian McKinnell, a member of the Pacific Symphony, served as the clinician for this event. He worked with beginner and advanced cello students, and the students were given a taste of orchestra performance.
For high school students, there are numerous performance opportunities. Interest in classes such as AP Music Theory and Music Technology has also grown.
Brad Van Patten, the IUSD Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, said, “I believe that IUSD strives for quality programs that are equitable at all schools that provide access to all students. The belief that all students can benefit from a music and arts education is an important element in all of our programs.”
Mary Luehrsen, the NAMM Foundation Executive Director, said, “There is overwhelming research tying music education to higher overall student success in school and in life.”