The Alta California Orchestra, are a group of musicians and dancers of diverse backgrounds brought together to preserve and perform the music & dance of Early California. The music is presented in the true spirit of the Fandango, Fiesta or Barn dance, with bright, lively tunes and songs of good times and heartbreak. The performers are all well versed in the traditional music of America, Europe and Mexico and have performed world wide. We are proud to present this vibrant art form which is one of the great treasures of the State of California and our immigrant ancestors.

Bookings: Call or e-mail Deborah (707) 937-2133 after 10am PST

Photo left; Deborah, (the late) Lee Birch and Ernie Fischbach of The Alta California Orchestra
Los Californios, The Alta California OrchestraLos Californios, The Alta California Orchestra

                                                                                     Photo right, dance-master Deborah and musicians, Ernie Fischbach, Brian and Marianne Steeger

             Los Californios, The Alta California Orchestra

                                                Above photo L to R; Melissa & Deborah Fischbach, Barbara Brown, Marianne Steeger, Ernie Fischbach, David Brown & Brian Steeger. January 4th 1999; Inauguration of California's
Lieutenant Governor, Cruz Bustamonte, at the Sacramento Train Museum.

1996 CD with 2009 remix link here; Los Californios, The Alta California Orchestra "Fandango at Sonoma" CD sales and info.

AVAILABLE NOW! California Folk Dance Traditions Instruction Booklet and CD. Created by Deborah Fischbach and The Alta California Orchestra as part of American Masterpieces-California Residency Program.

Comments from Happy buyers:
Hi Deborah, I am sorry I failed to let you know that your spectacular books and cd's arrived. They truly are a great addition to our education kit, and we're so glad that they're included.
Best, Meighan Maguire, Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site.

Link to contents of booklet, sample dance tune and more about the Booklet and the talented folks who made it. Also purchasing and 'package deal' including "Fandango at Sonoma" CD, offer.

Call Deborah or order online today at the Booklet! Retail with Teacher's discount = $18.00
Wholesale and NPO orders please call. Important: If you already have the booklet; go to the Booklet link for some suggestions which should help you to make several lesson plans using this booklet. After you read my suggestions and look it over, if you have questions regarding how the steps go or the timing, or music please call me, Deborah at 707 937 2133.

We are the band started by Robert Thomas in the 1970's releasing our 1st CD in 1996 after Robert's passing.
Available for all occasions. You can hire a small combo or a large orchestra and include a dance caller/teacher with minimum of trio or four performers altogether! We dress in costume and play antique instruments. The Orchestra can combine a public performance, fandango, fiesta or dance with a K-12 School residency, teaching the children the dances first and having them bring friends and family to the public event. Call Deborah or e-mail (707) 937-2133 with questions or for help planning your event.
Rate sheet available upon request.
Short video available on u-tube Titled "Community Fandango" CLICK HERE TO OPEN this page and click play on screen.
Event marketing consultation and HDVD media coverage available with Trent Anderson


Public Performances:
Jason Adajian and Robert Hill at the Los Altos History Museum Sunday JULY 14, 2013 from 5-9 PM Community Fandango.

2012: Kevin Hughes and Jason Adajian played and taught dance May
1st in Pacific Grove (4th grade class) and May 12th in Nacasio for the Nicasio Historical Society

Jason and Kevin Parade in Nicasio, CaliforniaJason and Kevin Parade in Nicasio, California

2011: July 2,3 and 4, and Sept 3, 4 and 5. in Old Town,
Sacremento, Ca. for Red Barn Productions.

October 9th at the Bolinas Museum, in Bolinas CA.

Los Californios Orchestra at Mission San Antonio      May 9th 2008, Chava Richman and Jason Adajian, a duo of The Alta California Orchestra, played dance music at the Fiesta Luncheon sponsored by Senor Services at the Robert Livermore Community Center in Livermore, California. Chava writes " The gig went great! I danced with an 84 year old women who said she hadn't heard a Varsouvianna in over 6o years! How cool is that?"


Mrs Phillis Paterson presented "TIMEGAMES" in Sonoma, California

Below Marianne and Ernie playing with our Timegames friends; the 3 Jose's
TACO with 3 Jose's

Los Californios,Ernie with antique Portuguese/Californio guitar
Ernie with Antique Portuguese/Californio guitar at TimeGames

 The Alta California Orchestra, Brian with his Antique Portuguese/Californio guitar
Brian with his Antique Portuguese/Californio guitar at TimeGames

Our 2009 residencies were also public performances, we taught and perfomed outdoors all afternoon, then entertained the gamblers at night in the Sierra Foot Hills historic town of Columbia at the Fandango and Columbia's Birthday Ball on MARCH 28, 2009!

We taught at schools in King City on April 3rd in preparation for California Mission Days Festival at Mission San Antonio de Padua on APRIL 4th, 2009. A beautiful day at the Mission!

Friday, May 2, 2008 we were in Comptche, California playing music and teaching dance to all the students attending Comptche School. Because of the young ages of the students (K-3) we taught the Bridge dance, a clapping exercise for waltz time, and El Coyote a game dance using the waltz for the second part. Again because of the predominantly young students we did not do a performance but kept it casual and fun, ending with the Tarantella, a no partner dance. The children had fun and really enjoyed the live orchestra consisting of Ernie Fischbach on mandolin, Sylvestre Lee on accordion, Barbara Brown on drums and David Brown on hammered dulcimer. Deborah taught the dances with the help of Barbara and Judy and Jane; Comptche School teachers. Judy Stavely said she would recommend this program for any level grammar school children, as she felt Deb was very sensitive to the students needs and very encouraging, empowering them to dance.

Los Californios Orchestra
Friday residency at San Antonio Union school which included a Saturday performance with students in Jolon, CA at Mission San Antonio de Padua on April 12, 2008. After a fun performance with the students in front of the Mission, we were asked to join the New World Baroque Orchestra to play the Galician bagpipes, drum and traditional seashell percussion as part of their program inside the mission. We played a march, lead by Brian Steeger of San Juan Bautista and a short dance piece.
L to R: Brian Steeger, Jason Adajian, Chava Richman, Ernie Fischbach and dance master, Deborah Fischbach with galician bagpipes and drum in the entrance alcove of Mission San Antonio.

In 2008, we started our residency program at Mendocino School 4th grade class on Valentine's Day. The Students learned and performed the waltz (inviting parents and families to join), La Varsouvianna, the Bridge dance, El Coyote and the Broom dance. We also shared a wonderful feast made entirely by the students, (handmade corn tortillas, salsa, cookies and lemonade) and they made confetti eggs to break on each other's heads!

March 14, 2008 found us in Santa Cruz at "Branciforte small schools" teaching children 9 to 11 years old. The students learned; Three Waltzes, (American, Balance and 'Cajun' or box waltz), El Coyote, La Varsouvianna, the Bridge dance and the Tarantella or 'the Spider dance' as they named it. After a break we shared a wonderful 'Potluck' dinner with families of the students, followed by dancing and then dessert. Since we had Jason Adajian, Ernie Fischbach, Brian Steeger and Chava Richmen as the Orchestra, during the break before dinner all went outside and played Galician bagpipes (3) with Chava on drum. The Galician pipes, from Northern Spain, were traditionally played in Los Angeles in the evening when the street lamps were lit.

Our Sept. 16th 2007 residency and student performance at Old town San Diego "Fiesta" was a great success. Students learned, and preformed La Varsouvianna, The Waltz, El Coyote and the Bridge dance. We gave the district 8 sets of our California Folk Dance Traditions Instruction Booklet and CDs for teachers and their students. We were joined by local musician, Ian Law.

Elementary School in Lancaster, December 7th 2007 playing for 4th grade classes at "El Dorado Elementary School" with unbelievable welcome/reaction to our program. We taught the 120-4th graders in 2 groups in the morning and then invited parents to view the dance performance (also in 2 groups) and share food with each other and the children in the afternoon! The school said it was the biggest parent/community turn-out for any school event ever!!! The local Rotary club donated food, service and clean-up volunteers for the 400 students, teachers and parents who participated. Local restaurants donated dinners for us and the VERY nice local Inn donated one of our 2 nights stay (for 2 couples). The children made us Thank you notes and gave us hugs a-many. This note came at lunch time before the performance; "Thank You, the dance was wonderful. I'm glad I signed up for this. I can't wait to see my parents faces." One boy had a hurt foot and couldn't dance in the morning, so we gave him a tambourine and he played with the band, then a miracle....he could dance in the afternoon!! All 120 - 4th graders learned and performed; All three waltzes, (including the Box Waltz), The Bridge Dance and El Coyote (a game dance).

Please call or email Deborah at the Institute for Traditional Studies e-mail ITS Director or call 707 937-2133 for promo package and current fees for PUBLIC PERFORMANCES.

Core Musician Bios For American Masterpieces - California Project;
Brian Steeger~ is a known instrument maker. He has devoted over 35 years traveling to study with masters of world music. In the 1980ís he received an artist in residence grant from the California Arts Council, to revive and teach old California music with Luis Valdezs 'El Teatro Campesino' in San Juan Bautista, CA. Brian Steeger later became the musical director of their winter 'Pastorela' Productions at the San Juan Bautista Mission. Brian continues to further California music. He teaches and plays at California music festivals, events, workshops and camps. He also plays bagpipes of the world.
Ernest Fischbach ~ Studied Anthropology at CSU Long Beach (BA 1966), where he met Ethnomusicologist, Dr Sam Chianis, who recommended and helped with scholarships for Ernie to study Classical North Indian music at the Ali Akbar College of Music in the Bay Area. He studied the music of Afghanistan and other folk music with immigrant musicians in the Bay area and throughout California. Today Ernest is making mandolins and teaching/performing throughout California. Ernie is a founding member of The Institute for Traditional Studies a non-profit organization founded in 1979 to revive traditional musicks.
Marianne Steeger ~ Has been playing music since she was a child. She is an accomplished musician on stringed instruments, piano, accordion, percussion, and vocals. Marianne has preformed with 'El Teatro Campesinos' winter productions of 'La Virgen Del Tepeyac' and 'La Pastorela' at Mission San Juan Bautista, and became co-musical director with her husband Brian. Marianne has sung with San Benito Counties 'Oriana Chorale' and is currently with 'The Alta California Orchestra' and other traditional musical ensembles.
Deborah Fischbach ~ Has been a student of dance, rhythm, art and music since grammar school, and by high school had received several honors and awards in the arts. In 2003 she was certified for Professional development in the field of California standards for Arts education excellence in Arts integrated curricula, K-12 (Via a CAC grant) and currently performs percussion and teaches dance. Deborah is a founding member & current president of The Institute for Traditional Studies non-profit organization founded in 1979. In 2007 she authered 'California Folk Dance Traditions' an Instruction Booklet and accompanying music CD, funded by NEA, CAC and WESTAF.
Special guest performances & appearances of Singers and Musicians ~ include members of Los Californianos, living descendants of the early explorers and settlers, who came to California between 1769 and 1781.
Melissa Fischbach- Accomplished vocalist and percussionist. Sings on the musical accompaniment for the Instructional Dance and the Fandango at Sonoma CD.
David Brown- Master of Music, University of New Orleans, Composer. Recording Engineer and musician on the California Folk Dance Traditions Instructional and the Fandango at Sonoma CDs.
Sylvester Lee- Accordion specialist, and vocalist.
Barbara Brown- Accomplished singer, dancer and rhythm instrumentalist. Helped direct and plays music on the Instructional CD and sings on the Fandango at Sonoma CD.
Jason Adajian- English Dance Master, Accordionist and historian.
Ian Law- Musician extrodinaire.
Kevin Hughes - Multi-instrument musician.
Robert Hill - Violinist and fiddler.
Alex Bernstein - Multi-instrument musician.


In the 1960's the late Robert D. Thomas* had a vision of recreating the Old California Music in its traditional style. Bob Thomas was given Czarnowski's book "Dances of Early California Days" by the San Diego Curtiss Family in 1968 and we started teaching the dances and music at Sweetsmill Music camp**, he called the music and the band 'Los Californios' as referenced in Ms. Czarnowski's and ***other books on early California. Interpreting the dances from the book was difficult, then at Sweetsmill I found a Balkan dance teacher, Made Taylor, who had studied with Ms. Czarnowski early in her career, she taught me first hand knowledge of the steps. At Sweetsmill we came in contact with Lee Birch who was also interested in this music and had been researching in Tijuana, Mexico to find musicians who maybe knew the old tunes of California. So we joined up and in the ensuing years we have traveled the length of California, researching the Old Music in such places as The Archives of California Missions, The Bancroft Library and The Southwest Museum in Pasadena, California.

*founding member of ITS ~ **Virgil Byxbe's gathering of musicians and dancers on his Sierra Mountain Retreat ~ ***Californios, written and illustrated by Jo Mora 1946. The Spanish West, Time Life Books 1976

Melissa Fischbach's drawing of Bob Thomas playing one of his bagpipes
Melissa Fischbachs drawing of Bob Thomas playing one of his Italian bagpipes.
NOTE; Roberts vision has come true and one can find many groups of dancers and musicians throughout California, some using the name Los Californios and others using similar or more original names. In 1997 Los Californios (the band started by Robert Thomas) added The Alta California Orchestra to their name to avoid confusion with other California bands.
All these groups ARE Los Californios in the tradition of the early California Fandango and its people.

More past performances:

September 21, 2005 Los Californios, the Alta California Orchestra (or Trio here) play for the Grand opening of the California Missions Museum at Cline Cellars in Sonoma, California.

  Los Californios, TACO
L to R; Ernie Fischbach, Brian and Marianne Steeger.

The Models made their debut at the 1939 World's Fair at Treasure Island. The California Mission Model Museum Foundation is a non profit organization designed to be a learning center for children and adults. Find out more on their web site;

Cline Cellars Private Event
Sept 28, 2006 Brian & Marianne Steeger and Ernie Fischbach played for wine pourers and staff from several wineries.

Bacich Elementary School March 4, 2005 Frontier Days Festival, Brian & Marianne Steeger together with Ernest & Deborah Fischbach played music, discussed customs, and taught 2 dances to a room full of classes (3) in the library on this rainy Spring day in Marin.

April 24th 2004 Brian and Marianne Steeger with Deborah and Ernie Fischbach played Dance music of Early California including Waltzes, Polkas and Tangos at the 'Tres Pinos E3 Foundation Trail Ride and Old Rancho Dinner'.

April 24th and 25th 2004 JP Sylvester Lee and David Brown played at the Preston Vineyard's 2 day Passport wine tasting festivities in Healdsburg.

June 13th 2004 the Steeger's and the Fischbach's played and taught some dances for the Society of California Pioneers Picnic at St Marys College in Moraga.

Brian and Marianne performed for the film screening of 'Los Californios y Monterey' at CSU Monterey Bays University Center Ballroom on Wednesday, December 3rd 2003.

Ernie and Sylvester Lee of Los Californios, T.A.C.Orchestra played Accordion and Mandolin at Preston Vineyards in Healdsburg on APRIL 26th and 27th for Passport wine tasting in spring of 2003.

April 13, 2002 Ernie and Deborah Fischbach, Brian and Marianne Steeger and Lee Birch entertained a Teachers workshop and Society visitors at the Mission St. California Historical Society in San Francisco, California. Deborah taught 'El Coyote' and 'Put Your Little Foot' dances to one and all for a lively afternoon. Look in the Gift Shop for our CD, "Fandango at Sonoma".

In 2001 we played private parties and weddings throughout California.

Sylvester Lee and David Brown played July 14th, 2001 in Healdsburg, N. California at the Healdsburg Museum.

Sylvester Lee and Ernie Fischbach played at the Preston Vineyards from noon to 4 pm on Nov. 11, 2001 Doors opened at 11:00 am for this jug wine release, Preston Vineyards, 9282 W Dry Creek Rd Healdsburg, CA 95448.

"Celebrate California, Admission Day 2000" on the Capitol Lawn in Sacramento. This event was open to the public, free and Los Californios, The Alta California Orchestra played music for early California dancers, 'Yesteryears' and 'The Alta California Dancers.'

Los Californios, The Alta California Orchestra
L to R; Marianne Steeger on guitar, Chris on Harp and Barbara on tambourine at 'Celebrate California 2000'

St. Francis Winery on May 5th and September 8th, 9th and 10th, 2000.,

January 4th 1999, Inauguration of California's new Lieutenant Governor, Cruz Bustamonte, at the Sacramento Train Museum. Los Californios, The Alta California Orchestra played for both the private and public celebrations that evening.

June 6, 1999, Gala Sunday opening of the new Gallery at The Grace Hudson Museum, Sun House in Ukiah.

St. Francis Winery in Napa, California for The National Association of Wine Educators on Aug. 2nd, 1999..

We also played Mission San Antonio's summer fiesta for The Franciscan Friars and guests in Jolon, California.

You can always buy our CD, 'Fandango at Sonoma' at the Jolon Mission Gift Shop and San Juan Babtista Mission gift shop.

L to R; Dreborah Fischbach, Ernest Fischbach, Brian Steeger and Marianne Steeger. Photo by M. Fischbach

CONTACT US, The Institute For Traditional Studies, ITS A registered non-profit corporation, Chartered 1979
If your business, society or non-profit company would like more information you can call Deborah Fischbach: (707) 937-2133 e-mail or write: ITS: The Alta California Orchestra at; 21512 Orr Springs Rd., Ukiah CA.95482.

Return to ITS, The Institute For Traditional Studies' Homepage

Check out our world music programs for all ages World Music K-12 and higher.

The Alta California Orchestra "Fandango at Sonoma" CD sales and info

"California Folk Dance Traditions Instruction Booklet and CD" Discount purchase on Booklet, CD and "Fandango" CD.

You Tube 5 minute video of a residency and public performances, with The Alta California Orchestra.

Check out and purchase ITS Street Musician Postcard Series featuring 1960's California street performers.

LINKS to other Californio Groups and Music
El Californio! Great musical references, Lummis recordings, and more;
La Casa De Adobe, Stories and songs from Alta California.

Yesteryears Dancers;
Elisabeth Waldo;
Elizabeth Erro Hvolboll and Luis Moreno;
New World Baroque Orchestra;
El coro hispano de San Francisco;
The Jose Arias Troubadours;
The Calicanto Singers;
Vaquero Days, Descanso, California;
The Lively Arts History Association;
Los Californianos, Statewide descendants organization;
Descendants of Old Town;
The Barrel Organ at Mission San Juan Bautista;
The Roots Music Listening Room: Texas-Mexican Border Music & The Music of Vera Cruz: 1920s - 1950s;
The Lou Curtiss Sound Library;
Folk Arts Rare Records;
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress: American Memory, California Gold;
Californios, a People and a Culture
California History Online, from the Library of Congress;
The Whaley House Museum;
Bob Fleshers Banjo Rogues;
The Southwest Museum of the American Indian Autry National Center;
The Autry National Center of the American West & The Museum of the American West;
El museo de las Californias, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico;
California Mission Studies Association;
California Mission Studies Association Links to resources;
International Hispanic Music Study Group;
William John Summers, studies of California Mission Music;
SOHO: Save Our Heritage Organisation;
Shadows of the Past, a web page on historic reenactment;
More great music sources from;

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