Nicole Joy Ledina, photo courtesy of her family
A passion for music and for being present for others defined Nicole Ledina’s life. A talented vocalist, she wanted to not only share her gifts with others, but use them to truly help those who were going through difficult times.
After she discovered the field of music therapy in high school, she came to Irvine Valley College determined to start a new chapter of a student club called Music to Heal. She enlisted her friends and classmates in the music department to start the club, which has the mission of using music performances to lift the spirits of patients and residents in local health facilities.
In May of 2017, Nicole graduated from IVC with a double major in music and psychology and she was planning to attend Berklee College of Music’s Spain campus in the fall. But her bright future was cut short when she died the following month from complications related to a rare autoimmune disease that she had been diagnosed with a year earlier.
Nicole was a focused student and committed to her music, both in the classroom and in service outside of the classroom. In addition to managing two demanding majors, she was a member of the IVC Master Chorale, the psychology honors society Psi Beta, acted as the Service Committee Leader for the Honors Program Student Council, and on the Dean’s List. She completed a study on clinical musical therapy and presented it at multiple conferences.
“Nicole was a keen and dedicated student who put her whole self into her work,” said Dr. Matthew Tresler, professor of choral and vocal music and chair of the music department at IVC. “She grew a lot as a musician during her time at IVC.”
One year after she began her education at Irvine Valley College, she was traveling in San Francisco for a music therapy conference when she fell ill. Her parents brought her home and took her to the hospital, where doctors determined she had developed an infection followed by a rare autoimmune disease.
Despite the difficult diagnosis and the physical effects she suffered over the next year, Nicole’s friends say that she rarely talked about it. In fact, they often forgot she was sick, because she always wore a smile on her face and was so determined to follow her passions.
“She was always very positive, very driven and very focused on her goals,” said Joanna Istrate, a fellow music major who was a part of the Music to Heal club with Nicole. “She didn’t just say she wanted to do things, she did them - even though she was just a student, and she felt sick.”
During the year she battled her illness, her father, Roger Ledina says that her mission to use music therapy was confirmed. “Nicole spent a lot of time in the hospital, weeks at a time, and it gets very dreary and depressing,” said Roger. “The times she would be happier in the hospital is when she was involved in music.”
Honoring Nicole’s Memory
When she passed in June of 2017, her IVC friends and peers were stunned. They poured themselves into creating a musical ensemble to play at her memorial services and then, around the one-year anniversary of her death, they were inspired to raise support for a scholarship that has been established at IVC in her name.
On Friday, August 10 at 1pm in the Performing Arts Center at Irvine Valley College, a scholarship fundraiser recital will be held. The event has been organized entirely by the students who knew and loved Nicole.
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the faculty, but this recital is a completely student-driven event,” said Joanna. “But that shows Nicole’s influence on us. She taught us the value of charity work. She was so self-motivated and figured out how to make things happen and we needed to do the same for her.”
While most participants are classical musicians, Joanna says, the program will not be a classical one, but very eclectic. “Nicole was never about a specific genre of music – she was always about performing the type of music that brings people the most joy,” said Joanna.
The program features ten diverse pieces performed by students in studio A311, in IVC’s Performing Arts Center.
“I am proud of our students for organizing this on their own, to honor their friend and her legacy”, said Dr. Tresler. “This scholarship will help to ensure that this positive difference continues on. Other students will benefit, and Nicole can continue to influence the world for the better.”
Roger Ledina is inspired by the generosity of students and faculty in creating the scholarship and fundraising for it. He knows Nicole would have loved to be a part of helping other students in need.
“Nicole and I talked a lot about what her goals were and what she wanted to do,” said Roger. “We were working on a number of projects that were just getting off the ground. She received scholarships that made a difference for her and she wanted other students to have the same opportunities.”
For more information about the scholarship, or to donate, please visit: https://foundation.ivc.edu/giving/nicole-ledina