OC Music & Dance celebrates groundbreaking for new performing arts center

OCMD groundbreaking ceremony: Irvine City Councilors Larry Agran and Charlie Zhang, Councilors Mike Carroll and Doug Freeman

Newport Beach resident Doug Freeman is always in motion. He’s been involved in so many arts projects in Orange County as a donor and arts leader that it’s hard to keep up.

In 1986, Freeman convinced then-President Ronald Reagan to establish National Philanthropy Day, which is celebrated every November in Orange County and other cities across the country.

Freeman serves on the boards of dozens of local charities, including the Pacific Symphony and CalArts.

His latest artistic venture: serving as executive chairman and CEO of Orange County Music & Dance, a nonprofit dedicated to providing arts education, performing arts training and music experiences to aspiring artists of all ages .

On May 7, OC Music & Dance and the City of Irvine celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony and “Open Day for the Great Park Development” at the Cultural Platform at the Irvine Great Park.

OCMD campus performance map

The site will be the new home of OCMD’s state-of-the-art 70,000-square-foot campus and 15,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center, doubling OCMD’s staff and serving more than 500 K-12 students and veterans weekly in arts education and performance programming .

“Nurturing and inspiring our students is at the center of what we do. When students come to the Orange County Conservatory of Music and Dance, we see them grow from reluctant and tentative beginners to confident young artists and capable As adults, it has a positive impact on their brain development, life skills and self-esteem,” Freeman said. “The new building is a place where our students can feel safe, secure and inspired, regardless of financial status.”

“We founded OCMD to help encourage students to dream bigger and unleash their greatest potential,” added Charlie Zhang, founder and chairman of OCMD. “The new OCMD campus will help ensure that the next generation achieves their musical dreams and life goals.”

OCMD building front rendering

OC Music & Dance is part of The Collaborative, a partnership of three nonprofit organizations: OCMD, Pretend City Children’s Museum, and the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. Freeman helped bring these organizations together to create a groundbreaking project that maximizes sustainable architecture and landscaping on a unified campus.

Founded in 2017, OCMD provides the highest quality education, training and performance opportunities to K-12 students and veterans, with a scholarship program ensuring that children who want to attend can do so, regardless of their financial circumstances. Nearly 40% of OCMD students receive financial aid. Over the next few years, OCMD will increase its endowment from $3.6 million to $5 million, significantly increasing the number of students able to participate.

OCMD building renderings

OCMD works with disadvantaged children, underserved adults, and veterans to inspire students to explore instrumental music, recording and sound engineering, and singing and vocal expression. Its scholarship program provides opportunities for all children regardless of financial status.

OCMD is also a Steinway Select School (the only non-profit organization in Orange County to hold such a designation) and a partner of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, providing free piano lessons to students in grades 3-6 at Title One schools.

The Great Park plan was approved in March 2024, with the City of Irvine providing OCMD with a $1 per year land lease for 50 years, with options to extend for a total of 75 years. The lease and the $91 million the city invested to prepare the land are among the largest gifts from any city in the United States

Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2025 and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2026.

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