Irvine Talks Chapter VI: “Becoming”



The Irvine Talks Board and performers pose for a group photo at Woodbridge High School.

Nikki Piedad, Staff Writer

The sixth annual Irvine Talks, an event in which high school students across Irvine perform and showcase their work in various artistic mediums, took place on April 15 at Woodbridge High. Chapter VI aimed to celebrate human connection, with this year’s theme being “Becoming.” Out of the 21 student performers and board members, several UHS students shared their stories and served as event organizers.

As part of the main event, juniors D’artagnan Osier, Julia Shabanie, Milla De Villiers and Abby Weiland wrote and performed speeches about their life experiences as they reflected on personal growth and who they would become in the future.

“I have no experience in performing, but [the] Irvine Talks Board was so, so supportive,” Shabanie said. “Preparation was super simple, just rehearsals on Sundays where we would work on memorization as well as presentation.”

The first half of the evening featured live music, including acapella groups, Vocal Eclipse and the Undertones, a duet performance from UHS students Janice Fang and Brinda Samula and Ardently, which featured instrumental and vocal musicians from UHS and nearby schools.

“[The Undertones] sang two songs which we have been working on throughout the year, so it was good to listen to how we’ve improved and grown as a group,” sophomore Takashi Nishida said.

One of these songs was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” which featured Nishida as a lead vocalist. The message of the song reflected the themes of personal growth throughout the night.

“I really liked the theme this year, especially since a lot has changed for me throughout my junior year, and I’m becoming the person that I’m meant to be,” De Villiers said.

As the music played, students engaged in interactive activities such as a Polaroid wall and jars students could fill with stones to show which school they had come from. Visual art lined boards and canvases were displayed outside of the Woodbridge Performing Arts Center, including photography, paintings and digitally produced pieces.

“All made by high school students, each piece was beautifully unique, displaying again the diversity of our community and schools,” Nishida said.

The night went on with each performer sharing their story on stage. De Villiers, in addition to a speech, performed an original song centered around her experience living apart from her twin sister.

“I chose that topic because it was a pivotal moment, and finding myself without my sister has definitely been an overruling aspect of my year so far,” De Villiers said. “I think it’s really important for people to share their experiences because it can let other people know that they’re not alone.”

Many students explored heavy topics, talking about mental health struggles, sexual assault, homelessness and how their unique experiences have affected their identity.

“The more time I put into my speech, the more and more I [became] emotionally attached and drawn to Irvine Talks as a whole,” Shabanie said. “It’s become a huge part of how I define myself, and the process of writing my speech has a hundred percent helped me develop my self-perception.”

Irvine Talks is a student-organized and student-led event. From its founding members, who were also local high school students, the event’s focus has been placed on how young people experience the world and is an important community platform for teenagers to grow from each other’s stories.

“It is always the ‘experts’ who are listened to in terms of the teenage experience and its issues, but so rarely do people listen to the teenagers themselves,” Shabanie said. “Irvine Talks is such a beautiful example of youth learning to acknowledge the hardships of our past and present and [talking] about their effects on us, without the threat of stigma or stereotypes.”

The atmosphere throughout the night was incredibly supportive. Many students and audience members could empathize with the message of overcoming hardships and trauma, as well as celebrating the beauty of the creative expression that Irvine Talks facilitates.

“The event truly brings a new perspective to my life each year,” Nishida said. “Hearing the stories of so many diverse high schoolers, some that I have passed by and others I have just heard of, truly shows me how many people relate to struggles and difficulties that we all may go through. It is truly an inspirational night and one that I look forward to [in] my junior and senior years of high school.”

Videos of the performances are available on the Irvine Talks YouTube channel at