By the time Anna Black joined the National Repertory Orchestra in 2022, her resume was already stacked.

Growing up in Idaho and starting to play the violin at age 7, she branched out into the orchestra scene as soon as she could. She played with the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra as a high schooler and by the time she was halfway through her Masters degree, had played as concertmaster with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Symphony Orchestra, Brevard Sinfonia, and the McDuffie Center for Strings Ensemble. She graduated from the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in 2021 and pursued a graduate degree at the University of Michigan, where she was the principal second violin of the university’s Symphony Orchestra her first year, and concertmaster her second year. She spent a season as assistant concertmaster with the Aspen Festival Orchestra. She performed with the Ann Arbor and Lansing Symphony Orchestras and soloed at the Brevard Music Festival Orchestra. But none of this would quite prepare her for the next-level leap she’d take in Breckenridge.

“When I first got to the NRO, I was like, oh my God, this is so much repertoire,” says Black, who is now the Assistant Concertmaster at the North Carolina Symphony. “It was a little bit shocking how much music we had to do during the summer. Then I got to the professional orchestral world and realized this is how it is. It gave me such a taste of what the professional orchestral world was like. I won this job with North Carolina right after my summer at NRO, and so I hugely credit NRO for this position.”


Anna Black performs front stage next to conductor Michael Stern (right) at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge in summer 2022. Elaine Collins photo.

Upon landing in Breckenridge, floored as she was by the work in store – learning such a long list of repertoire and performing it live multiple times a week – Black thoroughly enjoyed her summer.

“Just being around other people so dedicated to their craft – lots of them at higher levels than me – really pushed me to bring my level up,” she says.

Her NRO highlights were numerous.

“Playing the Korngold Violin Concerto was thrilling,” she says. “Also, playing Copland 3 with Michael Stern was one of my favorite musical experiences. Copeland 3 is such a quintessentially American piece. At a time when it means a myriad of things to be American, both good and bad, recognizing the beautiful art that has come from a prolific American composer was cool for me. Playing Prokofiev 5 with Tania Miller was fantastic. She didn’t treat us like students. She treated us like colleagues. I really respected that.”

Now 25 years old and loving her new role and life in North Carolina, Black finds herself reliving some of her favorite NRO moments.

“The Bernstein ‘Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,’ is one of my favorite pieces of music and the NRO was my first introduction to it. We just played it here in North Carolina and it took me back. I’m noting that a lot of repertoire we play here I played at the NRO.”

Also, the musical advancement wasn’t Black’s only takeaway from her time in Breckenridge.

“Just the social component was so much fun,” she says. “I had the best people around me to lift me up as a musician and as a person. I made such good friends. The community aspect was incredible. The host families were so loving and kind. I never expected the community to embrace the NRO musicians like they do. There’s something to be said for feeling so valued by a community that you’re only a part of for the summer.”

As for advice for incoming NRO fellows, Black says start practicing early.

“Start learning your rep at least a week before the first rehearsal,” she says. “I’d also say, temper your expectations, because what you expect is not always what will happen—it’s usually different and often better. That’s true of social encounters, musical encounters, your career path, your playing, and everything else. This is an industry that throws curveballs. You have to learn to ride the wave a bit. The NRO really helped me do that.”

Lead image by Elaine Collins.