Every school day, Room 11 at Glendora High School is engulfed in a cacophony of musical instruments. All at once, the students of the high school orchestra rehearse their various instruments in a din of viola, violin, cello and bass.
But once their program director and conductor Lucy Clark cues her students, the years of musical training are unveiled in a harmonious melody.
For 10 years, the 111 students of the Glendora High orchestra have been widely recognized in the community, performing at community events and festivals across several states and earning accolades and awards.
The orchestra has just returned from a musical tour in San Diego, and performed at the school’s Event Center for their annual Spring Concert last week.
But music may not have had such a significant role in these students’ education had it not been for the school district’s emphasis on music starting in the elementary level.
This elite group of students—to join, each student must audition to ensure advanced proficiency in their instrument—have been part of a district-wide program that has nurtured their musical talents since they were in fourth grade.
According to Clark, fourth grade students are encouraged to either play an instrument or pick up vocal classes as part of their music requirement. The students then continue to take regular music classes right through to their senior year in high school.
“In all honesty, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to be as involved in music as I am now if we didn’t have this program,” said senior and orchestra president Andrew Yusef. “I think this has opened up so many opportunities for me that would not have been possible.”
“I don’t know if I would be playing an instrument, or at least everyday as I do now,” added senior and violist Amanda Smiley.
As budget cuts severely affect school districts across the state, the arts are usually the first to go among school programs. With the increasing budget cuts, high school strings orchestra programs are becoming more rare.
“So far the district has been very supportive,” said Clark. “But our program has been drastically cut. My first period has 70 students. We’re understaffed, but we’re pulling it off to the best of our abilities.”
Clark says she hopes the district will continue to support the orchestra program, a program she says has helped shape the successful high school careers of many of its students.
Clark surveyed her students and found that many of them showed high levels of academic achievement and involvement at Glendora High.
According to the survey, 63 percent of her students are active in sports, 71 percent participate in clubs and 74 percent are taking honors and AP courses.
“I think it’s important to be exposed to a lot of different activities in high school, because the extracurricular activities were my favorite parts of high school,” said Clark. “Those are memories that stayed with me and I wanted my students to have that. So all our rehearsing is in class so students can be involved in many other things besides the orchestra.”
The Glendora High orchestra perform several events throughout the year, including the Ross Festival, where district students from fourth grade to high school perform together.
“I think some of my friends are jealous of all the traveling and performances we get to do,” said senior and violist Erika Pages. “What makes it fun is that I get to play with my younger brother, too.”