Over the past several years, my wife and I have seen some amazing talent through the many performances we’ve attended at Irvine’s college arts venues. These programs have become a source of tremendous enjoyment for us.
Irvine’s academic arts venues — ranging from theaters to concert halls — include six at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and four at Irvine Valley College (IVC). There will be five venues at Concordia University in Irvine (CUI) once construction is completed at the new Borland-Manske Center, which is scheduled to open this coming fall. That’s 15 opportunities to enjoy academic arts performances right here in Irvine!
Best of all, these venues are separated by only a couple of miles, which is why they’ve become our Irvine “theatre district.” Unlike commercial productions, many of the college performances are free while others charge a nominal fee, making these wonderful programs accessible to the entire community.
However, I’ve discovered that the performing arts season at colleges follows the academic calendar. In late September, you’ll find events featuring music of all types — full orchestras, jazz, choral groups, international troupes, and experimental programs. You’ll also find dramas of all varieties and modern dance.
The first performances of the season — before the students have had a chance to “tune up” — will often include a reunion of alumni presenting a concert or faculty members handling the solos. The students comfortably settle into the lead roles as the season hits its stride in November and December. During those months, my wife and I attend as many as four events each week. Frequently, there are competing choices between several venues for the same day.
Unfortunately for those of us in the audience, by late December, it’s “Bah Humbug” as students and teachers leave for their well-deserved holiday break. The curtains come down and we’re left feeling bored for a few weeks. Commercial stages are open during the holidays, but how many times can you see “The Nutcracker” or “A Christmas Carol” — even though I admit both are timeless treasures?
I’ve come to think of the academic arts departments as gardens. Musicians, actors, dancers, composers, choreographers, and stage managers all begin the season with seeds of raw talent that is driven by each student’s personal commitment to their craft and nurtured by their teachers.
In mid-January, life returns to these gardens. “Upcoming Events” fill the college art department calendars (links provided below). As we progress towards June, the garden is in full bloom. By harvest time, the students are ready to thrill current and future audiences on modern stages and in concert halls here in Irvine and across the country. Then, abruptly, summer is upon us and the lights go out until next season.
Fortunately, the Barclay Theatre at UCI – which attracts both national and international entertainers – provides events through most of the summer.
If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending a “Masters Class.” These events feature a recognized performer – perhaps the lead cello from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra – joining selected students on stage. The seasoned performers work individually with each student, offering pointers, explaining the artist’s intent, and playing in sequence. If you enjoy concerts, these master classes are delicacies. The finesse of each student appears to grow right before your eyes. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend master classes for piano, cello, acapella groups, and dance.
Although I still enjoy watching certain TV shows, nothing compares to a live performance by aspiring, talented young artists, right here in Irvine. I urge you to turn off the television every now and then, and join me in the audience. You’ll be glad you did.
Below are links to upcoming events for Irvine’s academic performing arts:
Irvine Valley College Calendar
Concordia University in Irvine (Music Calendar)
Concordia University in Irvine (Theatre Calendar)
For a list of master classes hosted by Chamber Music OC, click here.
NOTE: They offer more than just chamber music.