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History of Arcadia Orchestras

Since 1954, the Arcadia Orchestras have stood as a strong performing arts force on campus––that is, the Arcadia Orchestras were part of the Arcadia High School since the school’s founding. Ms. Chen, one of the current orchestra directors, states “‘Many Southern CA school orchestra programs had been cut when state budget cuts happened and were brought back later, but Arcadia has always valued orchestra.’”

Up until the 1990s, the school simply had one orchestra. However, as the school population increased and more musicians were interesting in joining the Orchestras, two additional orchestras were introduced. As of now, there are four separate orchestras, divided by grade and skill level.

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Throughout the history of AHS, there have been many different directors for the Arcadia Orchestras. These are the approximated dates of the activity of each director:

Mr. Francis Boyer (early 1950s)

Frankie Andrade (possibly around the mid 50’s)

Gordon Sanford - mid 50’s to about 1967

Wayne Reinecke - 1967 - 1973

Bruce Polay - 1973 - 1980

David Aldstade - 1980 - 1982

Dennis Davies - 1982 - 1990

Byron (Tom) Barnes - 1990 - 1991

Thomas (Tom) Forbes - 1991 - 2019

Art Farr - 2005 - 20

Rick England 2002- 2010

Pin Chen - 2010 - present

Amanda Svetich 2019 - present

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In the 1950s, the first orchestra wasn’t that large; the orchestras were much smaller than our current Symphony Orchestra. In fact, a junior and senior orchestra wasn’t introduced until around the 1960s. Eventually, the Arcadia Orchestras further stemmed to three different tiers: Orchestra 1, the freshman orchestra, Orchestra 2, and Orchestra 3, the most advanced orchestra. Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, the directors established four separate orchestras: Premier Orchestra, String Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, and Symphony Orchestra; the Symphony Orchestra remains as the most advanced tier, exclusive to only sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Along with the four new orchestras, the new format established that all musicians had to audition into the program before being placed into appropriate orchestras, ensuring that each musician would thrive.

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The school year entails many formal performance opportunities for Arcadia Orchestras’ young musicians.

Music Camp, Violins playing for daily recitals, 2019

Music Camp is also one of the most notable off-campus orchestral events; implemented in the late 1950s, Music Camp marks the beginning of a fresh Arcadia Orchestras group, while also forming the friendships that blossom later in the year. This exciting and adventurous week-long trip was established in AHS’s early years; surprisingly, orchestra’s schedule during Camp hasn’t changed much from its beginnings. Davies states that Music Camp was implemented to “foster a sense of belonging, developing ownership in the program, [and meeting] other new students.” The music aspect of the trip provided students a chance to sight read and practice various types of orchestral pieces, playing alongside all levels of musicians.

Promptly after Music Camp, the school year begins-–meaning rehearsals for the school years’ concerts also begins. In Arcadia High School’s early years, there are a few noteworthy remnants depicting the schools’ orchestra-related events; notably, the orchestras performed Handel’s “Messiah”––in fact, almost every AHS yearbook from this decade includes a photo of the orchestra playing this piece alongside the choir.

Orchestra Benefit Dinner, students playing at the Benefit Dinner finale, 2020

Another important orchestra event is the Orchestra Benefit Dinner––an annual banquet established 26 years ago, when a group of orchestra parents decided to implement a new event to raise money for the orchestra program. Every year, orchestra students, parents, and Music Club members come together to build the event. Guests can actively listen to guest performers and chamber group performances containing Arcadia Orchestras members as they joyously eat food from the Dinner’s vast banquet. All of the financial contributions from the Silent Auction, guest seats, and donations all help fund the orchestra program––especially the highly anticipated Orchestras Spring trips.

Florida Trip, Orchestra 3 playing at Disney Springs, 2019

The Orchestras also have the annual opportunity to visit another location and perform, while also building new friendships and exploring different cities or theme parks. Every four years, all orchestra students are invited to the Disney and Universal festival trip in Florida; this event began when Thomas Forbes was an orchestra director. While the performance or orchestra-related opportunities changed over the years, the musicians’ instruments are still driven over from the other side of the country so students can display their musical talents to new audiences. Of course, the musicians are able to explore the various attractions at Disney World and Universal Orlando, staying in delightful hotels with pools and in-hotel meals.

Pops Concert, held at the LA Arboretum, 2018

In 1957, “Frankie Andrade and his orchestra” formed an exclusive event for the school. Other orchestra events from the 50s to now is the end-of-year Pops Concert, which was initially held in the North Gym before the event was expanded to the beautiful Los Angeles County Arboretum; after the Arboretum requested to hold the Arcadia Orchestras’ Pops Concert around the 2000s to 2010s, students and audience members alike enjoyed immersing themselves in the botanical environment, lacing the atmosphere with popular, charming melodies.

Besides this annual concert, the orchestras also perform in other concerts such as the Fall String Concert. Here is Orchestra 3’s performance during the Fall String Concert.

Additionally, there are records of Arcadia Orchestras students playing at Graduation, in chamber groups for school-related events, and even forming a pit orchestra to play for the schools’ drama productions. As the orchestra grew, more events stemmed from the Arcadia Orchestras. These concerts, which are still annually performed, are tangible checkpoints of the Orchestras progress throughout the year; each performance exhibits the development of the Orchestras’ musical and socially harmonious communities, also providing an evening filled with engaging music for all who attend. The concerts also allow the musicians to formally perform together, providing these young musicians with memorable experiences with friends and fellow musicians.

World Strides Awards, 2019 Florida Trip

Whether the musicians perform in festivals across the country or locally in California, each orchestra has received notable awards, which are proudly displayed around the “Orchestra Room” at the Arcadia High School. The Orchestras have consistently received the ‘Superior Ranking’ at SCSBOA, and ‘Gold Award’ and ‘Adjudicator’s Award’ at the Heritage Festival, among others. The formally highest tier orchestra, Orchestra 3, was acknowledged as a nationally high ranking orchestra, winning the highest awards at festivals and competitions, many included those listed above. Davies asserts that he is “equally proud of the work and accomplishments that other directors have brought to the finest students in the country.”

Here is a Symphony Orchestra performance of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony from 2011.


From its roots, the Arcadia Orchestras are a group of skilled and meticulous musicians, performing locally and nationally as representatives of the Arcadia High School’s musical prowess.

Huge thanks to Pin Chen and Dennis Davies for contributing to the research process with their knowledge regarding and experience directing the Arcadia Orchestras.

Pin Chen

Dennis Davies, 1986

Research: Nicole Klatt, Jessie Zhu

Writing: Nicole Klatt

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