Professor Steven Thompson introduces the ARC Orchestra

The ARC orchestra welcomes new musicians into its community


Steven Thompson shares his passion and love for music and the ARC orchestra. Thompson says the orchestra is a welcoming group and includes people of all ages. (Screenshot via the ARC orchestra website)

First it was the simple piano studies. Then it was picking up the trombone for the first time. Now it’s directing orchestra pieces around the world. 

What else can an interest in music bring someone?

For American River College orchestra director Steven Thompson, this interest brought more than just music. It brought friends, family and a welcoming community all together in one. Thompson shares the failures, successes, and the family community that is brought along with being a part of the college’s orchestra. 

Starting from a young age, Thompson had musical influence in his life. His grandfather was a band director which played a part in wanting a future in music. 

Thompson’s educational and work background goes farther than just the ARC orchestra. 

According to the ARC orchestra website, Thompson attended Wichita State University in Wichita, Kan. to receive a music degree. Three years later, he went on to attend the University of Southern California, earning a master’s degree in music and later a doctorate. 

While going to school, Thompson was able to travel around the world to places such as Japan, participating in festivals and seminars which he grew to love. 

“I have been lucky to play all kinds of music—it has taken me to places I’d never have dreamed of visiting – and now as an orchestra director, I’m enjoying working with many students who are just starting on their own paths in music,” Thompson said in an email to the Current.

After college, Thompson went on to compose music for pieces directed in China and Germany. He has been a part of orchestras in Los Angeles, Costa Rica, and Japan. While he is currently teaching and directing at ARC, Thompson directs the music for the Napa Regional Dance company. 

While Thompson has had many successes with his music career, like many other successful musicians, he’s had many failures as well. When asked about his failures, Thompson says he believes it’s best to learn from them.  

“I’ve had plenty of failures but, I have found the environment at ARC to be one that can allow failure and experimentation,” Thompson said. “That is why this is the exceptional institution that it is.” 

The ARC orchestra consists of people of all ages, new and returning musicians, as well as many different music styles. Many people after graduating decide to return as volunteers and slowly work their way up to mentors. 

“We have a wonderful orchestra—and there are musicians who continue to play with us well into their later years,” Thompson said. “It’s a lovely thing to see and you won’t find a warmer, quirkier, dedicated, more fun orchestra than this one.” 

The orchestra, Thompson added, has played music of many diverse genres and styles including hip-hop, Mozart, salsa, tango, even “Star Wars” film music.

Thompson believes the orchestra is a welcoming group to be a part of. 

“Might take a few rehearsals, but you find your people quickly,” Thompson said. “We accept members of the community of all ages and students here at the college – and sometimes we see people for many years as they go from student to volunteer to mentor.”