Background and History

The Davis High School Orchestra Program has been around since the earliest years of the high school in the 1920's.

Currently the DHS Orchestra is three ensembles: the Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra, and a third Baroque Orchestra was approved for the 2009-2010 school year. For more than 70 years the HS orchestra was just one group, often performing as a full symphony (with brass, woodwinds and percussion), or otherwise as a string orchestra. In 2005 enrollment grew so as to allow for a full Symphony Orchestra and a string Chamber Orchestra. Membership in the Symphony and Baroque Orchestras is by audition in the spring. No audition is required to join the Chamber Orchestra. All groups are directed by Angelo Moreno. Since Angelo came to his position in 2000, the size of the orchestra program has quadrupled in size, from about 35 students to a current enrollment of about 150. In June of 2006, the Symphony Orchestra performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Their repertoire has become more challenging as the strength of the program has developed. At the start of the 2005-2006 school year, the Symphony Orchestra performed George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, featuring student Morgan Jones on piano as part of a fundraising auction at the Mondavi Center. The Carnegie Hall program included the entire Symphony #9 (New World Symphony) by Antonin Dvorak.

Another highlight of the 2006-07 academic year was the performance of Beethoven's Symphony #6, the Pastoral Symphony.

The entire DHS music department (band, choir, and orchestra) received national recognition as a Grammy Signature School in 2007 and again in 2011.

In the 2007-2008 school year, the secondary orchestra program took the lead in a combined music program effort to raise funds to continue the elementary music program (band and strings) for the following year. The fundraising was necessary due to proposed budget cuts that included eliminating elementary music along with other programs. This was coordinated through the combined secondary orchestra booster organization, DSOMA (Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association). Measure W, which passed in November of 2008, secured funding for elementary music for the next three years. Measure W was renewed in March 2012 as Measure C.  The most recent school parcel tax that continues funding of the elementary and secondary music programs is Measure H, passed in 2016.

In the 2008-2009 school year the symphony orchestra was featured at the annual Jammies Classical Concert, sponsored by the Sacramento News & Review, which showcases the best musical talent in the Sacramento area. In spring of 2010, the Jammies concert featured the Baroque Ensemble, as well as principal cellist of the symphony, Eunghee Cho.

The Baroque Ensemble performed at the annual meeting of the National School Board Association in San Francisco in April, 2011.

In recent years, many orchestra students have auditioned for and been accepted to All-state and national honor orchestras. In 2011 and 2012, the DHS Symphony Orchestra was awarded Best High School Classical Group Performance by Down Beat Magazine. At various times, individual orchestra members have been awarded Best Classical Solo Performance.

2012-13: In Spring of 2013 the DHS orchestras traveled to Seattle to participate in their Heritage Festival, where they received top awards. In March 2013, electric rock violinist Mark Wood performed with the Chamber Orchestra, along with junior high and elementary orchestra members.  Wood came back in spring 2016 to organize a larger production of two concerts with the secondary orchestra and choir programs.  He returned in fall of 2018 and performed with the Symphony Orchestra at the Mondavi Center.

2013-14: The Baroque Ensemble performed with Rachel Barton Pine in March 2014 to help raise funds for a summer 2014 trip to Italy. The rock cello group, Break of Reality performed with the Chamber Orchestra in May 2014.

2014-15:  The Symphony Orchestra returned to New York City to perform in Carnegie Hall in the summer of 2015

2017: The Baroque Ensemble toured Austria and Italy during the summer.  Rachel Barton Pine returned again to do a fundraising performance.

2018: The Symphony Orchestra returned to New York City to perform in Carnegie Hall.

2019:  All orchestras traveled, with the DHS Bands, to Disneyland in the spring, as they have for about every three years since about 2004.

2020-21:  DHS Orchestras released online 'quarantine' video performances during the COVID pandemic

2022:  All orchestras and DHS Bands traveled to Disneyland.

2023:  Baroque Ensemble traveled to Europe during the summer


Family Outreach Concerts

In early February, the DHS Symphony Orchestra has the tradition of performing outreach concerts directed to elementary school kids at the Richard Brunelle Performance Hall. The selections in recent years are as follows:

2008: "Toy Box" by Francine Dillon

2009: "Peter and the Wolf" by S. Prokofiev

2010: "The Composer is Dead" by Lemony Snicket and Nathaniel Stookey

2011: "Jack and the Beanstalk" by Betsy Lackey

2012: "Pinocchio" by Betsy Lackey

2013: "Peter and the Wolf" by S. Prokofiev

2014: "The Red Velvet Violin" by Anna Moreno and Ryan Suleiman (world premiere production)

2015: "The Composer is Dead" by Lemony Snicket and Nathaniel Stookey 

2016: "Jack and the Beanstalk" by Betsy Lackey 

2017: "Pinocchio" by Betsy Lackey

2018: "The Ugly Duckling" by Betsy Lackey

2019: "Alice in Wonderland" by Betsy Lackey (world premiere production)

2020: "Robin Hood" by Betsy Lackey

2021:  No performance due to COVID pandemic

2022: "Fly High, Fly Low" by Sunny Knable

2023: "The Red Velvet Violin" by Anna Moreno and Ryan Suleiman

2024: "Peter and the Wolf" by S. Prokofiev


Bodil Wennberg Concert Series and Concerto Competition Winners

Up until 2018, the DHS Symphony Orchestra performed together with other elementary and junior high orchestra groups at the Mondavi Center as part of the Bodil Wennberg Concert to raise funds for the Davis public schools orchestra program. The concert series is in honor of Bodil Wennberg, a local active musician who helped and encouraged grade school music students for many years before she died of cancer. The 2007 Wennberg concert featured a joint performance of the Madrigal Choir for selections from the Dvorak Requiem. This concert has often featured the winner of the DHS Concerto Competition for Davis High School students.  The Wennberg Concert series was on hiatus from 2019 through 2021.  When not participating in the Wennberg concert, the DHS Symphony Orchestra has featured the concerto competition winner at other performances in the school year.

Concerto competition winners include:

2001: Kent H., violin

2002: Laurie K., violin

2003: Michael L., cello

2004: Nick W., violin

2005: Serena Y., piano

2006: Cynthia H., piano

2007: Elaine F., cello

2008: Angela Y., piano

2009: May Z., piano

2010: Isabel O., cello

2011: Margaux F., flute

2012: Eunghee C., cello

2013: Jacqueline L., piano

2014: Victor C., piano

2015: Eugenea R., piano

2016: Patrick B., cello

2017: Janet L., piano

2018: Roger X., violin

2019: Sophie Z., violin

2020: Adrian Z., piano

2021:  No winner due to COVID pandemic

2022: Adrian P., piano

2023: Sarah S., violin


Past DHS Orchestra Directors

Info from DHS yearbooks & The Davis Enterprise.

1935-1941 Norman Walters

1941 Jack Taylor/Norma Bentley

1942-1943 Ralph Smith

1943-1945 June Cunningham (nee Beckman)

1945-1948 Ralph Smith

1948-1955 Forrest Honnold (also band & choir)

1955-1960 Don Brewer (also band director)

1960-1962 Walter Cothary

1962-1963 Don Brewer

1963-1966 Madeline Brewer (nee Biehler)

1966-1970 Richard M. Brunelle (also choral director)

1970-1971 Rachel Kessler (also choral director)

1971-1993 Richard M. Brunelle (also choral director)

1993-1996 Karen Gardias (also choral director)

1996-1997 Kristen Hedegaard (also directed choirs)

1997-2000 Stephen Kidd (also directed jazz choir)

2000-present Angelo Moreno

In October of 2011, Angelo Moreno received the Harmony in Our Lives Award at the Harmony in Our Lives Concert. Richard M. Brunelle, Rachel Kessler, and Karen Gardias are other past directors who have also received the award.