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WorldStrides Heritage Festival: San Francisco

Written by Sophie Choi and Juliette Fang

Every year, the Arcadia High School Orchestra & Choir Programs get the unique opportunity to travel to perform at the WorldStrides Heritage Festival. This year, the student musicians spent March 21-24 in San Francisco, taking in the sights and sounds of the Golden Gate City. Students were able to explore iconic locations around the Bay Area, have fun at Great America amusement park, and bond with their fellow musicians while competing with schools from all over the state. Each day, the Spring Tour was packed full of exciting activities and students left with fond memories of their experiences! 

Day 1

Students gathered at the AHS Performing Arts Center early in the morning of March 21, ready to board tour buses to take to San Francisco. While there was a slight hiccup when the buses arrived late, everybody was able to load their luggage and board smoothly thanks to the hard work of Orchestra Council, parent chaperones, and our directors. After a brief stop at Kettleman City for lunch and hours of driving, the four buses arrived at San Francisco’s iconic Fisherman’s Wharf, where students shopped and ate along Pier 39, catching glimpses of the infamous Alcatraz Island and playful sea lions. Finally, after an exhausting six hours of bus riding, everybody settled down for the night at the Delta Hotel by Marriott. 

Preparing for departure!

Day 2

In the morning of the second day, students awoke to sunny, pleasant weather as they arrived at the famous Stanford University. As the Chanteurs performed at another site, the Orchestra students walked the prestigious university campus, taking in the beautiful landscape and visiting locations such as the stunning Stanford Memorial Church. 

In the afternoon, it was the Orchestra's turn to perform at the nearby College of San Mateo. A combined orchestra of Premier String Orchestra went first, playing Fiddle Dance by Percy Fletcher (String only), Steampunk by Richard Meyer, and Morning Song by Edward Elgar. Concert Symphony Orchestra’s performance soon followed, playing Ases Tod by Edvard Grieg, and movements I and III of Moorside Suite by Gustav Holst. After each ensemble’s performance, one of the three adjudicators led a brief clinic, guiding them through the style and articulation of each piece. Students were able to watch and compete alongside other orchestras including: South Pasadena High School, Woodrow Wilson High School, and our eternal rival Crescenta Valley High School. 

Once both performances were over, students rushed to change into their snazzy smart-formal attire and explored the marketplace around Pier 3, sheltering from the frigid rain outside. Students then boarded the San Francisco Spirit Cruise, enjoying dinner and dance music throughout the night. Many students enjoyed their own version of Homecoming on a boat! As the day came to a close, the cruise passed under San Francisco’s most recognizable feature, the one and only Golden Gate Bridge. Although the gusts of wind and rain aggressively blew onto the students, that did not stop them from having fun during this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Orchestra students performing at the College of San Mateo!

Students having a blast on the San Francisco Spirit Cruise!

Day 3

All four tour buses left for The Great America amusement park in the morning. The Orchestra students’ and Chanteurs’ day was filled to the brim with rides, food, and games. Students had a blast riding roller coasters, wandering the park, and simply having fun with friends, despite early bouts of rain.

After a long day of fun, the evening became even more exciting at the WorldStrides dinner and awards festival, which featured Snoopy as a special guest! Thunderous applause enveloped the room as Premier String Orchestra, Concert Symphony Orchestra, and Chanteurs earned a gold rating, with Concert Symphony also winning first place in Division 3A and the Outstanding Orchestra award. Additionally, both orchestras won an Adjudicator Award (given to six ensembles with a score of 92 or above), Instrumental Sweepstakes (for schools with two or more bands or orchestras and the closest to a cumulative perfect score). The ultimate highlight of the night was when all the Arcadia Orchestras and Chanteurs won the 2024 Overall Sweepstakes award, which is awarded to the high school with the highest overall score of three ensembles! 

The students celebrated this momentous victory long into the night, spending some time at the mall before returning to the hotel. They proudly took home five humongous trophies, one for each award, that now sit in the orchestra room for all to admire. 

Arcadia Orchestras and Choir take five trophies home!

Day 4

On the last day of the trip, the students woke up bright and early to board and load the buses back to AHS. Along the way, they stopped at the picturesque Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey and the Danish-style village of Solvang. Finally, after a full day of travel, students returned home to prepare for school the next day.

From successful performances, to scenic cruises, to fun filled amusement park activities, the spring tour to San Francisco never saw a dull moment. At the end of it all, students were able to form long-lasting memories and friendships alongside their souvenirs and photos. Thank you to our Orchestra Council, parent chaperones, and hardworking directors for making such a memorable experience possible! Stay tuned for our next spring tour in New York!

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