Irvine high school students started Concerts for Charities and hope to expand it as a nonprofit


When Portola High School in Irvine first opened its doors in fall 2016, students were able to start their own clubs.

Justin Pai, now a 16-year old 11th grader, was talking to his friend, Zachary Smay, about a club for musicians. But this organization wouldn’t just be about playing music. They wanted to volunteer and serve a purpose outside of school.

With that, Concerts For Charities (Con4Char) was born. Musicians meet twice a month to play together and plan events. They contact local senior homes and Irvine’scommunity services department and offer to play for residents.


They will be performing during the City of Irvine’s Veterans Day Event at the Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11.

While some students are soloists, most are organized into mini performance groups such as a jazz trio, a guitar and voice group and a string quartet.

Word spread and soon musicians from Irvine’s Northwood High School and Woodbridge High School, as well as Santa Ana’s Orange County School of Arts, wanted to join the effort.

It’s important to Justin that the group welcomes students of varying abilities.

“It’s 100 percent a safe community because of common interests,” says Gabriel Chen, a 10th-grade vocalist from OCSA.

“No one will judge you on being too showy or not technically advanced,” says Justin.

Con4Char has held recent performances at the Irvine Global Village Festival, as well as the Atria Golden Creek, Sunrise at Tustin and Via Valencia senior homes.

At one senior center performance, Justin played a Rachmaninoff concerto movement on the piano. After the show, a veteran said the piece was one of his favorites and asked to see the sheet music.

“You could see the memories coming back in his eyes,” says Justin.

Madison Lee, a senior piano and bass player from Portola High, had a similar experience. She played a Chopin nocturne, and afterward an attendee reminisced about her mother playing the same song for her when she was a child.

“The elderly are the best and most adorable audience,” says Gabriel. “They are always smiling and clapping. They congratulate you. That feeling of being able to entertain, that pure joy that I’m able to put on their faces, that’s something I’m really proud doing.”

This year, Justin and Madison incorporated the club with the state of California so they can file for nonprofit 501c3 status. Justin hopes this will allow Con4Char to broaden their network and perform in more places.


What: City of Irvine’s Veterans Day Event

Where: Colonel Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park, 4 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA

When: 11 a.m to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 11

Cost: Free

Information: 949-724-6606;;

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