Arts Advocates: Reza Jahangiri


Q&A with Reza Jahangiri

Reza Jahangiri ’00 is the founder of American Advisors Group, a pioneer in the reverse mortgage industry. A lifelong music lover, he serves on the Dean’s Arts Board in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts as well as the board of the Pacific Symphony. He is also a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board in the Paul Merage School of Business and the UCI Chief Executive Roundtable.

Q. How have the arts played a role in your life personally?

RJ: Music was a big part of my life growing up. My first love was a guitar at age 12, and it never left my hands after that. I taught myself to play classic rock, alt rock, punk rock, folk and spent many nights playing in bands or holding jam sessions with friends. When I came to UCI, I even took some classes and briefly majored in music; but I knew I would not pursue it as a career so I decided to graduate early with a major in economics.

Q. With “risk takers” being the theme of this issue, what lessons can artists learn from the risks you took on your path to entrepreneurship?

RJ: What’s funny to me is the polarity. I knew the path to career success in music was not necessarily predictable, and I was risk-averse about that. My wife had a very successful career on Broadway and television, and I envied people like her who had the guts to pursue it. On the other hand, I was really risk-on when it came to business — as long as I was betting on myself.
Part of the process in becoming a risk-taker is figuring out who you authentically are, so you can make that bet on yourself. That’s an analog to creativity, too. As part of exploring who you are or, when you know who you are — when you’re in the pocket, that’s where amazing and original art can be created.

Q. How do you see CTSA preparing students to take on risks as creative leaders?

RJ: As an extremely well-respected academic institution, UCI prepares students no matter what the discipline when it comes to theory. What CTSA excels at is also preparing students with the practical application, giving them the confidence to go out to Broadway for example. CTSA marries theory and practice exceptionally well and proves that with its output of incredible artists and where they land — my wife and I see alumni every time we go to productions in New York. 

Q. What do you think is CTSA’s biggest contribution to OC’s creative economy?

RJ: UCI is a leading academic institution, and we’re a leader in arts, too. Arts are a very important facet of any thriving community. We are in the business of stewarding and catalyzing amazing artists right in our own back yard. Seeing UCI musicians recently collaborate with the Pacific Symphony is a great example of what local partnerships can do, creating opportunities and experiences for our students to play with a world-class orchestra. Plus, it has the reciprocal benefit of nurturing a talent pipeline of world class musicians right here in OC.

Q. What have you enjoyed most about your participation in the Dean’s Arts Board?

RJ: I’ve been on the Dean’s Arts Board for three years and really enjoy working hand in hand with Dean Tiffany Ana López and her team. She has an amazing spirit and energy and a great vision for building a world-class program.

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CONNECT - Spring 2024

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Posted Date: 
Friday, May 3, 2024