About the Symphony


The Cal Poly Symphony is a full orchestra of approximately 80 members that performs major concerts in the Performing Arts Center's Christopher Cohan Center each quarter and farther afield on regular tours. The ensemble's members are students from almost every major on campus.  With many years of musical experience and dedication, they come together to keep orchestral music a part of their life at Cal Poly, find balance with their studies, and make great friends!

Conductor / Leadership

The orchestra has been directed by David Arrivée since Fall 2004, and is also supported by sectional coaches, private instructors and student officers.  Visit each page to learn more.


Our repertoire includes everything from blockbuster orchestral works to music from the movies and video games.  In the past few seasons, we have... 

  • performed major symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Dvorak and Berlioz
  • explored the story of Romeo and Juliet through Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet suites
  • collaborated with students across the university who created visual projections for our performance of video game music
  • showcased music of contemporary Mexican composers
  • paired Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade with music by Iranian-American composer Bahram Osqueezadeh
  • explored jazz and the blues with guest soloists and William Grant Still's Afro-American Symphony  

For more information on our repertoire, please see our current season or browse our past seasons.


We collaborate regularly with guest artists, other university ensembles and creative student teams. 

For example, we have welcomed pianist Tanya Gabrielian, the band Café Musique, mandolin virtuoso Jeff Midkiff, Persian vocalist Alireza Shahmohammadi, and many more guest artists to join us on stage.  We have joined forces with the Cal Poly Choirs to perform such works as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, music from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, Ralph Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem​, and Gabriel Fauré's Requiem.  On tour, we have collaborated with the Prelude Choir of Budapest (Hungary), Charles University Choir (Prague, Czech Republic), Prague Singers (Czech Republic) and Cantus Novus Wien (Vienna, Austria).

We also collaborate with professionals and students in other disciplines.  Photographer Sky Bergman created an original projection of images to accompany our performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; Cal Poly’s Orchesis dance company performed original choreography by their directors on stage as the Symphony performed in the pit; theater professor Josh Machamer narrated Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, and student teams from the Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies Program and the Art and Design Department have created visual projections to accompany our performances.

For more information, please see our Collaborations page.


The Symphony embarks on tours within the state of California, playing for youth orchestras and high school music programs while at the same time taking in major cultural attractions.  We undertake national or international tours approximately every four years.

Most recently, in June 2016, the Cal Poly Symphony traveled to Central Europe, performing in the Matthias Church (Budapest), Dvorak Hall (Prague) and St. Stephen's Cathedral (Vienna).  In each city, we collaborated with European choirs as well: the Prelude Choir of Budapest (Hungary), Charles University Choir (Prague, Czech Republic), Prague Singers (Czech Republic) and Cantus Novus Wien (Vienna, Austria).  Travelers enjoyed the huge variety of cultural sights these cities offered and relaxed a bit in their down time (see our Facebook page for pictures).

For more information, see our Tours page.


From the "Cal Poly Little Symphony" of the 1960's to the Symphony of today, the orchestra has changed with the times.  Please see our History page for the whole story.

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