About The National Repertory Orchestra

The people behind the mission.

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Jobs & Fellowships

Our Mission

The National Repertory Orchestra is a preeminent intensive summer music festival creating diverse, thoughtful and socially conscious musicians through experiential learning.  We inspire young musicians to be great leaders in their communities while Changing Lives Through Music!

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Our Vision

Breaking barriers between education, performance and community to develop 21st century musicians!

Annual Report

A Look at 2019

The National Repertory Orchestra is a local organization with a global reach.   Take a peek at our latest annual report for details from the 2019 concert season.

Carl topilow

Music Director

Carl Topilow

Music Director and Principal Conductor

Carl Topilow, currently in his 42nd year with the National Repertory Orchestra, has led the orchestra to the forefront of summer music festivals.  He has assisted in the training of talented young musicians and conductors for positions in orchestras in the United States and abroad.  His manner of presenting the music through musical illustrations and guides has enhanced the concert experience for the NRO’s appreciative audiences.

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Community Engagement

Beyond Great Music

For symphony orchestras to survive and thrive, musicians need to be advocates for classical music in all aspects of life, especially by being active and present in their communities. During their summer fellowship, National Repertory Orchestra musicians take part in the NRO’s community engagement program, which prepares the musicians for an active role in the communities they will be serving, and, as important, provides free musical events for youth, the general community, and those who are under-served in Summit County, Colorado. Each summer, the NRO performs more than 32 free community engagement events throughout the community.

FREE Community Engagement Events

Music For Everyone

community events

Youth and Music Education

The National Repertory Orchestra firmly believes music is for everyone and takes great pride in its ability to provide the community with free musical events. The benefits of children experiencing classical music reflect in all parts of life–mentally, emotionally, socially, and more–and the NRO is proud to benefit our community in this way.

Through innovative ensembles and full orchestral performances, that are both educational and inspiring, musicians introduce children of all ages to orchestral music through a variety of age-appropriate activities. These activities include movement to music, soundscapes, rhythmic recognition, composition and “petting zoos” – a popular, hands-on format that allows children to hold and play real musical instruments. Each of these experiences serves to introduce and/or reinforce children’s interest in music, strengthening participation in school music programs. Venues include Breckenridge Riverwalk Center, Blue River Plaza, Prospector Park, Carter Park, Summit County public libraries and schools.

Mary Javian, Chair of Career Studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA, provides NRO musicians with extensive Education and Community Engagement training each year. Mary works with NRO musicians to help them develop an appropriate teaching method that corresponds to actual curricula and enhances their musical education experiences.

The Musicians

Every year the NRO auditions nearly 1,000 musicians between the ages of 18 and 29 from all over the country and the world. So while “National” is in our name, “International” is in our music.

Most musicians have graduated college; some have completed graduate degrees.  They are professional musicians gaining the experience to help them secure their first big job in the music world.  After attending NRO, alumni are employed by virtually every professional orchestra in America and many around the world.

Our History

Follow the National Repertory Orchestra through four home locations, three names, two music directors, nine executive directors, countless board members and a legacy of over 4000 musicians, hopefully all touched by their personal and collective NRO experience.



Founded by cellist Walter Charles as the Blue Jeans Symphony in Estes Park, CO.  His vision was to fill the gap between academic musical training and the competitive world of the professional musician with a massive dose of classical repertoire, rehearsals, and concerts.  All musicians had to pay their own living expenses by working at local businesses.  Mr. Charles was the Music Director and Conductor.


The orchestra moved to Evergreen, CO and changed its name to the Colorado Philharmonic.  A board of trustees was founded and living expenses for the musicians were now covered financially, allowing them to concentrate fully on the music.  The present day “Community Link Program” also began.


Walter Charles started the Children’s Concerts, acquainting children with instruments, the musicians and classical music.


Walter Charles received the Governor’s Award for Arts and Humanities, an award made annually for “outstanding achievement and leadership in the State of Colorado.”


Carl Topilow takes the roles of Music Director and Conductor and focuses on bringing in guest conductors, guest artists, seminars and master classes.  Robert Gross became the first Business Manager of the Orchestra.


An Executive Director was put in place for the first time and Richard F. Zellner filled the position.


National Endowment for the Arts names NRO to its Advancement Program and awards a grant of $75,000


The Orchestra was the leading participant in the National Endowment for the Arts 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, DC.


The Orchestra relocated to Keystone Resort and changed its name to the National Repertory Orchestra in an effort to better recognize the national/international make-up of its musicians.  Richard D. Lamm, Governor of Colorado, presents NRO with the “Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.”  The NRO also performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater.


US West Foundation awards the NRO a major grant to produce the “Spirit of Today’s West”: composer competition.


The Town of Breckenridge invited the orchestra to perform in the new Riverwalk Center, now NRO’s summer residence.  Pamela G. Miller takes over as Executive Director.  The NRO performs at the World Youth Day festivities during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Colorado.


The NRO performs at the United States Olympic Festival in Denver, Colorado.  Joseph Kramer takes over as Executive Director.


Jeff D. Baum takes over as Executive Director.


Terese Kaptur takes over as Executive Director.


The Endowment Fund was put into place to establish long-term financial security.  The 4th of July concert began in Dillon, CO.


The Pittsburgh Symphony and the NRO partner on a musician training program for African American musicians. The program provides a year long learning experience with two of the world’s leading orchestra’s and enables young musicians to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of an orchestra career.  St. Anthony Centura/Summit Medical Center and the NRO partner to deliver a Summer Music Therapy program to benefit patients, medical staff, and selected fellowship musicians.


Kerry Farrell takes over as Executive Director.


“Friends of the NRO” volunteer committee was established.


The NRO celebrates its 50th Anniversary.  The NRO receives a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Ken Toltz takes over as Executive Director.  The NRO and Colorado Mountain College team up to bring the Met Opera Live in HD Series to Breckenridge.


Douglas W. Adams takes over as Executive Director / CEO.  Mr. Adams established a Reserve Fund, to be used for unexpected events and provide short-term financial security. Endowment Fund broke the $1M mark!

The Summer Music Festival

The National Repertory Orchestra is an educational music festival that balances the needs of the musicians with the needs of the community, teaching musicianship, mentorship and leadership to create socially-conscious musicians and prepare them for a career in music.

The NRO is honored to reside in the beautiful and historic ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado and perform the majority of their concerts in the state-of-the-art Riverwalk Center. The orchestra also performs several engagements within the state of Colorado.

During the eight-week season, the NRO performs as many as 21 orchestral concerts and over 32 free, community, family friendly concerts. Providing a unique opportunity for young, talented musicians to gather invaluable experience playing a broad variety of orchestral and chamber works, led by Music Director Carl Topilow and joined by world-renowned guest conductors.

In addition, the NRO prepares these talented young people with real-world insights into today’s opportunities and responsibilities for symphony musicians. Members of such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, many of whom are NRO Alumni, participate in multi-day residencies.

Other Performance Locations

Arvada Center for the Arts
Boettcher Concert Hall
Brown Palace Hotel
Colorado School of Mines
Copper Mountain Resort
Denver Botanical Gardens
Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Denver Heather Gardens

Denver University
Fiddler’s Green
Genesee Town Center
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail
Heritage Square/Golden
Hiwan County Club/Evergreen
Houston Fine Arts Center
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Lake Dillon Amphitheatre

Lincoln Center/Fort Collins
Mt Vernon County Club
Newman Center for the Performing Arts, University of Denver
Pacific Rim Tour: Korean, Taiwan, Japan
Paramount Theater
Rainbow Park, Silverthorne
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Town of Vail Lionshead


“I attended NRO in 2006 and 2007 and I was treated as a professional, giving me a new confidence as I embraced and grew into meeting those high expectations. I had the privilege of serving as your concertmaster for two summers as well as performing the Brahms and Sibelius violin concertos as a soloist.”
“I would have to say that, NRO offers real life experiences within one of the most beautiful parts of the country.  I enjoyed every second in Breckenridge and would not be where I am today without NRO and the doors that it helped me open.”
“The summer I spent at the NRO was the perfect experience for me at that time. It helped me transition from the mentality of ‘student’ to ‘professional’. NRO teaches the tools and confidence needed to succeed as performing musicians of the highest level.”
“The training provided at the NRO allows serious musicians the perfect opportunity to hone their craft under the guidance of great conductors and alongside highly skilled colleagues who share their passion and excitement for music making.”
Michael Kemp, Principal Timpanist, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
“My summer at NRO was transformational. I wouldn’t have the experience, positivity, and confidence to be successful in this world without that summer.”
“The experience at NRO helped me tremendously to grow as a professional musician before I went on to my next orchestral positions at the New World Symphony and The Omaha Symphony.  The continuous pursuit of the highest artistry at NRO has always been my inspiration for my performing career”
Yu “Dean” Zhang, Principal Keyboard, Omaha Symphony
“Working with the National Repertory Orchestra for the past two seasons was an indispensable experience for me to learn what it took to successfully manage a professional ensemble and anticipate musicians’ needs on a consistent basis. It was during my season as the NRO Intern that I realized my passion in collaborating with musicians from the administrative aspect. No matter where I end up, I will be forever grateful for the wonderful team and incredibly talented musicians I had the opportunity to work with.” (2013 NRO Personnel Intern and 2014 NRO Orchestra Manager)
Emily Tuan, Operations Manager, New England Conservatory Preparatory School
“For me, NRO was a huge turning point for my playing. I can’t recommend the NRO enough for young musicians looking to play great rep, with great musicians, in a beautiful part of the country.”
“I’ve known so many people who have gone through this program.  You find NRO alum everywhere, in every orchestra.  It’s wonderful, a really nice place to grow.  Everyone is very nurturing and supportive.  It really trains everybody, not only in the playing but in the mindset.”
“My musical career has been moving forward significantly since my time with the NRO. The music festival not only brought my playing to a higher level, but also fulfilled my dream of playing a solo performance when I won the concerto competition.”
“NRO was a crucial part of my musical development, and I carry the experiences I had in Breckenridge with me to this day. The sheer amount of diversity in programming at the NRO helped to shape me into a versatile musician with experience in multiple styles of playing.”
“My experiences with the National Repertory Orchestra are unforgettable. For me, it was a place to make lasting connections with new friends and really set deep roots in the orchestral repertoire that I wouldn’t have been able to do at any other summer festival.”
Michael Marks, Principal Bass, Arizona Opera
“I really appreciate my time back at NRO – covering a ton of repertoire in a very short amount of time was demanding, but all so very worth it. Thank you very much for the great experience, NRO!”
“I remember walking away (from the first rehearsal) just with a big smile on my face because I knew I had young, enthusiastic and really talented musicians to work with.  And it’s kind of like a boot camp for young musicians who want to go into the professional ranks.”
“I truly believe that the National Repertory Orchestra program is unique. The great benefit provided to these young people by their experience at NRO is immensely important to them, and in a very real sense, it will be figured prominently at the heart of their ongoing development and will help to define the future of orchestral life and music in our country.”
“I have been blessed to work with virtually every major American orchestra, many of them multiple times, and I can say that without a shadow of a doubt my recent experience as soloist and conductor with the National Repertory Orchestra was one of the highlights of my recent musical life.”
“I am deeply grateful for my summer playing with the NRO. Since my summer in Breckenridge, I have completed a Bachelor of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music and a Master of a Music degree at The Juilliard School. I am now ready and excited to take on my role performing with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.”
“NRO was an incredible place for me to gain experience playing orchestral repertoire at a very high level. In rehearsals, we were treated as professionals, and outside of rehearsals we were treated with the greatest warmth by Breckenridge locals and our host families.”
“I had two of the best summers, both in learning and in fun, of my life. I got to share the stage with tons of incredible people, and had amazing host parents.”
“The NRO was an exceptional pre-professional experience for me and an integral part of my musical development.  I have very fond memories of my two summers in Breckenridge and am grateful for the exciting musical opportunities I had there.”
“The NRO was crucial to my musical career because it established strong friendships within the arts community. The world of the orchestral musician is small and the connections you make are important. With so many talented students at the NRO, I was bound to meet future leaders of our art. Also, the fast-paced nature of the festival’s programming allowed me to get a sense a professional orchestra’s schedule. The amount of repertoire covered and the level at which the orchestra performed made for a challenging and enriching experience for me.” (NRO 2008 Bassoon and Contrabassoon) 
“My experience at NRO has prepared me very well not only because of the musical and artistic opportunities it provides, but because NRO is unyielding with it’s vigorous and demanding schedule, I have been extremely well prepared for my new position.”