Irvine Valley College’s New Arts Village Creates Community and Career Opportunities Feature Story

March 15, 2024
Fine Arts & Gallery and Visual Arts Buildings

When pianist Anna Audenis decided to study music to become a professional concert performer and a teacher, Irvine Valley College (IVC) was an ideal choice. While other students might be wooed by more high-profile and expensive colleges, Audenis has found  IVC, and its newly opened Arts Village, home of the School of the Arts, is providing her with the education, experience, and resources she needed to excel in the field of music.  

“I visited other schools, and I can say the buildings and the teachers here are really high quality. It’s amazing,” said Audenis, a piano performance music major at IVC.

“It has beautiful halls and performance spaces, beautiful pianos, great teachers, motivated students, and it’s affordable. Now that we are in one building, we can build stronger connections with other students.”

IVC’s Arts Village allowed Audenis to remain in Orange County, and she is overjoyed that she made the right decision.

“The Arts Village is changing students’ perspective of attending a community college, especially in music,” said Dr. Susan Boettger, director of music and piano in the IVC School of the Arts.

“You don’t necessarily have to go to expensive, faraway schools. My job is to ensure our students have a great learning experience and can transfer to these schools or be prepared to start a career.”

Like many fields in the arts, music jobs are almost always audition-based and very competitive. Because of this, it’s essential that students learn, practice, and perform in superior venues and on quality instruments.

To solidify its ability to compete with the best arts programs, IVC recently invested $61 million to create a new Arts Village. It has three main structures: a Music and Dance building, a Visual Arts building, and a Fine Arts and Gallery building, all totaling 62,471 gross square feet of new space. The college is planning an official opening celebration on April 3.

IVC also purchased 19 Steinway pianos, including 12 Steinway & Sons grand pianos and seven uprights, for $1.2 million. This move earned IVC the impressive distinction of being an All-Steinway School.

“The sky is the limit with a Steinway,” Audenis said. “You can create such a beautiful sound. The sound just blossoms. It’s so warm. You just hear the quality.”

“When you are performing on stage or when you are applying to a school or in auditions or competitions, they are using all Steinways,” said Rong Pan, a piano performance music major. “Having access to these types of pianos helps us prepare for those moments.”

For Pan, IVC’s new Arts Village inspired her to return to school and change careers.

Pan is a graduate of IVC who previously transferred to the University of California at Berkeley where she earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. While she has always loved music, she was discouraged from pursuing a career in music. But IVC’s new facilities inspired her to change course. Her immediate plan is to transfer and eventually earn a master’s degree so she can follow her passion and teach music.

“So many music schools and so many students are looking for strong teachers, the teaching profession is rising and becoming a great career choice,” said Boettger, who is a graduate of USC, Rice University, and  The Juilliard School. 

Another important function of this new Arts Village is to provide students with professional-level studios and performance spaces to rehearse and practice.

“Before, people couldn’t meet on campus to work together,” Boettger said. “They came and left and didn’t have access to a space to work here.” 

According to Boettger, the music industry is rife with career opportunities, especially in Southern California. Students can become performers, composers, instrument repairers, or sound mixers, to name a few. Boettger sees a growing demand for composers of music for podcasts, video games, websites, as well as television and film.

“Irvine is one of the most arts-rich cities. So much is happening here and in the region,” she said, noting Irvine’s proximity to Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.

To serve this need, IVC offers a wide variety of courses and programs in the arts and music, including programs in art, dance, live entertainment management and technology, music, and theater.

As a community college, IVC also attracts established professionals who are taking music classes for enjoyment.

“What’s special is that not only do we have some really strong majors, we also have a phenomenal class of older adults who are musicians,” Boettger said. These musicians include a dentist, an anesthesiologist, a financial planner, and an engineer.

“These are incredibly bright and wonderful people who love playing piano, even though it is not how they make their living. It is such a beautiful addition to the class. It helps my students who are majors. Sometimes, they are overwhelmed with the work, the practice, and the stress, and then they see these community members playing for no reason other than that they love it. That helps them keep their perspective.”

Even with all of these opportunities and options, one of the things Pan still appreciates most is the wonderful arts community at IVC, especially among the music students.

“I feel like the Music Department is very close and the atmosphere among the students and professors is great. Everyone is very friendly and very encouraging,” said Pan. “It’s a really great place to be.”

Photo credit: Abner Caguioa, Irvine Valley College