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The National Repertory Orchestra

changing lives through music

About the NRO

The National Repertory Orchestra is an educational organization. Each year, 80 talented young musicians are selected to take part in the Summer Music Festival where they will learn extensive repertoire alongside mentorship and leadership. The NRO balances the needs of the participants with the needs of the community 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 Summer Music Festival season, the NRO performs as many as 18 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 Michael Stern and joined by world-renowned guest conductors.

The NRO prepares its young talent for professional careers as symphony musicians. Our alumni have taken on leadership roles in major orchestras around the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Our Mission

The National Repertory Orchestra is a preeminent intensive summer music festival developing 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!

Our Vision

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

Annual Report

The National Repertory Orchestra is a local organization with a global reach. Take a peek at our latest Annual Report for details from the 2022 concert season.

Want to support the NRO? to learn how, click here.

Porch photo

Community Engagement

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, NRO musicians take part in our community engagement program—providing free music events for youth, the community, and those who are under-served in Summit County, Colorado. Each summer, the NRO performs more than 32 free community engagement events throughout Summit County and beyond.

music for everyone

The National Repertory Orchestra firmly believes music is for everyone, and takes great pride in our ability to provide the community with free musical events. Through innovative ensembles and full orchestral performances that are both educational and inspiring, musicians introduce children of all ages to orchestral music with various 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.

Instrument Petting Zoo Nicha Stapanukel by Jenny Cvek
Porch photo

Community Engagement

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, NRO musicians take part in our community engagement program—providing free music events for youth, the community, and those who are under-served in Summit County, Colorado. Each summer, the NRO performs more than 32 free community engagement events throughout Summit County and beyond.

Instrument Petting Zoo Nicha Stapanukel by Jenny Cvek

music for everyone

The National Repertory Orchestra firmly believes music is for everyone, and takes great pride in our ability to provide the community with free musical events. Through innovative ensembles and full orchestral performances that are both educational and inspiring, musicians introduce children of all ages to orchestral music with various 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.

Michael Stern by Elaine Collins

Michael Stern

NRO’s Music Director Michael Stern has long been devoted to building and leading highly acclaimed orchestras. He currently holds three music director positions: The NRO, Kansas City Symphony, and Orchestra Lumos. Stern was recently named Artistic Advisor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, one of Canada’s foremost orchestral ensembles.

Music Director Michael Stern

Conductor Michael Stern has long been devoted to building and leading highly acclaimed orchestras known not only for their impeccable musicianship and creative programming, but also for collaborative, sustainable cultures that often include a vision of music as service to the community. He also is passionate about working with young musicians not only in music making, but also to incorporate the idea of “service” into their experiences.

Stern currently holds three Music Director positions: with the Kansas City Symphony, where he will be concluding his 19-year tenure at the end of the 2023-2024 season; with the National Repertory Orchestra, a summer music festival in Breckenridge, CO; and with the newly rebranded Orchestra Lumos (formerly the Stamford Symphony). Stern was recently named Artistic Advisor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. And, following a 22-year tenure as founding Artistic Director of Iris Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee, he now serves the newly reimagined Iris Collective as Artistic Advisor.

Our History

Follow the history of the National Repertory Orchestra through four locations, three names, three music directors, ten executive directors, countless board members, and a legacy of over 4,000 musicians!

blue jeans symphony founded

1960

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.

colorado philharmonic moves to evergreen

1966

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.

carl topilow becomes music director

1978

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.

creation of the national repertory orchestra

1986

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.

the nro comes to breckenridge

1993

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.

creation of endowment fund

2004

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

Partnership with Pittsburgh Symphony

2007

The Pittsburgh Symphony and the NRO partnered on a musician training program for African American musicians. The program provided a year long learning experience with two of the world’s leading orchestra’s and enabled young musicians to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of an orchestra career.

50th Anniversary

2010

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

30th Anniversary in Breckenridge

2023

The NRO celebrates its 30th anniversary of its residency in Breckenridge. 

Meet the Orchestra

Each year 80 young musicians are chosen to perform with the National Repertory Orchestra, where they are trained for professional careers as symphony musicians. Our alumni have joined the ranks of every major orchestra in the world—meet this year’s talented musicians.

Our Supporters

Special thanks to the following funders and partners for supporting critical programs that share the power of music with all.

Interested in becoming a funder or partner of the NRO? To learn more, click here.