Student musicians shine at 39th annual Donald Bren Honors Concert

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 Irvine Unified School District’s art, music and science education.

Before the show, students posed for pictures outside the concert hall with family and friends. Inside, they took the stage where greats such as Itzhak Perlman, Wynton Marsalis and philharmonic orchestras from around the world have performed.

“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, she said, “It was pretty intimidating.”

But her experience in the Portola High music program has changed her life.

“Choir is a place where I can calm down and de-stress from all the things that are going on,” she says. “It 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.