The NRO Experience

Highlights & Benefits

  • No tuition costs

  • Free housing

  • Weekly grocery stipend

Breck Life
NRO 60th Anniversary
Countdown to the Summer Concert Season
Maestro Topilow
Guest Conductors
Artist Residencies
Time Off
Housing 101

Eight-Weeks You Won’t Forget

The NRO performs two full orchestral concerts each week in Breckenridge’s beautiful Riverwalk Center during the eight-weeks the orchestra is in residence. These performances also include several run-out engagements. In addition to working with Maestro Topilow, NRO members work with outstanding guest conductors and participate in seminars with inspiring clinicians. Orchestra members will perform a total of 21 orchestral concerts and at least one engagement program over the eight-week season.


“I attended NRO in 2006 and 2007 and those were extraordinary summers of music-making that I will never forget.  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.  In my professional life now as a teacher, I reference my experiences at NRO frequently and have students who are now interested in attending themselves!” (NRO 2006 & 2007 Concertmaster)

“I would have to say that, NRO has to be in the top 3 of best orchestral music festivals in the world.  There is no other place that 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.” (NRO 2013 Percussionist)

“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’. The high level of performance, the plethora of great music performed each week, and the camaraderie of the ensemble are unlike anything most of us experience as students. NRO teaches the tools and confidence needed to succeed as performing musicians of the highest level.” (NRO 1997)

“My summer performing with the National Repertory Orchestra was an incredible and invaluable experience. Having recently completed my graduate studies when I joined the NRO, the experience I had that summer was extremely helpful in preparing myself for the professional world and gaining confidence in myself as a player. The opportunity to perform such a large volume and variety of music at a high level in a very short amount of time taught me how to be more efficient with my preparation. 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.” (NRO 2014 Timpanist)

Michael Kemp, Principal Timpanist, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

“My summer at NRO was transformational. The support I got from such wonderful and talented colleagues, as well as being dropped into the proverbial deep end in terms of repertoire and responsibility, was absolutely instrumental in helping me become an artist. I wouldn’t have the experience, positivity, and confidence to be successful in this world without that summer.” (NRO 2012 Co-Concertmaster)

“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,” (NRO 2013 & 2014 Pianist)

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. Playing a large amount of repertoire alongside incredible musicians from around the country was something that I really needed at that time, and spending eight weeks in beautiful Breckenridge was certainly a great way to spend my summer as well. 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.” (NRO 2014 Tubist)

“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.  Having to go through repertoire very quickly, that’s professional training because that’s what you have to do in a professional orchestra.  It’s no different.  That’s something a lot of places don’t offer and I think that’s what’s very special about this place.” (NRO 2015 Guest Conductor)

“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.  This prepared me to win an international competition and perform as a soloist with a major American orchestra a year later. I received a lot from the NRO, and it made a big impact in my life.” (NRO 2013 Clarinet)

“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. I was especially influenced by the talented musicians I had the privilege of being in the flute section with that summer.” (NRO 2012 Flute)

“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.” (NRO 2014 Bass)

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!” (NRO 2012 Horn)

“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.  They get to do repertoire that they don’t normally get a chance to play, and they have to learn it quickly, and they have to play it well.” (NRO 2014 Guest Conductor)

“It is my very good fortune that throughout my career I have had many such chances to work with young and gifted musicians, in many places. However, 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.” (NRO 2014 Guest Conductor)

“Some of the playing I heard onstage at the Riverwalk Center rivaled that of some of the most famous major orchestras in this 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.” (NRO 2014 Guest Conductor)

“I am deeply grateful for my summer playing with the NRO. The experience I gained playing in such a high level orchestra in an intense performance schedule directly prepared me for my career as an orchestral clarinetist. 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 2010 Clarinet & 2013 Stage Manager)

“NRO was an incredible place for me to gain experience playing orchestral repertoire at a very high level.  I was constantly amazed by how well the musicians were treated during our stay.  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 will always keep these memories of my two summers at NRO with  fondness, and appreciate the musical experience that I gained there.” (NRO 2010 & 2012 Violin)

“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.” (NRO 2010 & 2013 Viola & Principal Viola)

“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.” (NRO 2005 Assistant to the Music Director)

“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. NRO teaches its students how to manage the challenges that come with playing for hours and hours at a time and how to move from one thing to the next very quickly while still enjoying your life. I’m very grateful for the knowledge I received spending a summer in beautiful Breckenridge.” (NRO 2013 Violin)

Outreach and Community Events

The NRO community engagement program provides a variety of experiences outside the formal concert settings.  These performance range from educational, promotional and private home concerts.  These events are open to the public.  Each NRO musician is REQUIRED to perform at least one of these events throughout the summer and may be asked to perform up to two.  Most performances will be outside in a covered space.  These engagements require a certain amount of interaction with the audience.

In addition, a select group of fellows will be invited to join a committee to create the NRO Family Concert.

Community Link

The NRO Summer program provides opportunities for members of the local community to be actively involved in the organization. Through Community Link, NRO fellows are matched with local families and offered weekly activities such as hiking, rafting trips, picnics, and sports events.  For more information on the Community Link program contact the NRO.

Solo Opportunities

As part of the NRO’s program, Music Director Carl Topilow features NRO musicians in solo performances with the orchestra throughout the season.

Audition Opportunities

Occasionally representatives from various orchestras regularly visit Breckenridge during the summer offering opportunities for NRO musicians to audition.


The NRO has alumni in almost every major and regional orchestra in the country and many abroad.  To find out more about what they are doing and what they thought of their NRO experience please follow the links below.

View our Alumni Spotlights

The NRO Experience Questions and Answers


Tuition and housing are provided by the NRO. You will also receive a $50.00 grocery gift card, each week.

Upon enrollment you will be charged a $200 non-refundable registration fee as well as a $100 deposit which will be returned to you at the end of summer pending any housing damages and completion of the exit survey.

Musicians are responsible for flight costs to Denver and/or the costs associated with driving. For musicians flying to the Denver International Airport (DIA), please book your flight to arrive by 2:00pm MST on June 7, 2020. If you arrive after this time you will be responsible for the cost of and booking a private shuttle from DIA to Breckenridge.

The average drive time from DIA to Breckenridge is about 2 hours.  Shuttles take about 2.5 hours or longer.

*Private shuttle prices begin at $60.00 each way.

If you are familiar with Breckenridge you may already know that housing is difficult to come by.  Good news.  We’ve got you covered!

Housing ranges from ski employee housing to fully-furnished condos in town-limits and close to transportation. Most musicians will share living space and a room with other fellows.  Linens and kitchen basics are provided. Musicians will receive specifics about housing shortly before arrival.

*Only married couples can be housed together. We are unable to accommodate requests for unmarried couples to be roomed or housed together.

Yes, you can bring a vehicle. Housing assignments are determined based on how many musicians bring cars as parking spaces at accommodations are limited. Musicians are responsible for paid parking should they choose to drive to the performance/rehearsal venue (Riverwalk Center).

We love animals and are an extremely pet-friendly community! However, NO pets are allowed in housing or concert venues allotted to the NRO. No exceptions. If you need your animal-fix, there is plenty of wildlife to observe and tons of dogs to say hello to during your stay.

No. At the music director’s discretion, there may be principal/solo part auditions. This will be announced shortly before your arrival or will occur mid-season depending on the performance date.

Yes! The NRO has an annual concerto competition in the first two weeks of the season from which one or two soloists are selected. We will inform the musicians of the concerto competition performance dates as soon as possible.

All NRO musicians are expected to be available during the entirety of the season. If you have an absence request, you can submit information via the Absence Form that will be sent to you with other enrollment forms. Priority is given to musicians who request leave due to a professional orchestra audition.

If musicians are rotated out of a concert, they are expected to remain in Breckenridge should an unexpected need arise for a substitute.

At the discretion of Maestro Topilow, select musicians chosen for principal roles may be asked to perform a concerto or a solo piece with orchestra.

Part assignments will be announced in May. Sheet music for the first week will be provided at musician check-in on June 7, 2020. Prior to this, most sheet music can be found on IMSLP.

All NRO musicians are required to perform at least once as part of the community engagement program. Musicians will be preassigned to chamber music groups and will receive guidance in forming an interactive program by our community engagement clinician during the first week. Most community engagement performances are in outdoor spaces.

Yes! Upon enrollment musicians may apply for either production/stage crew or library bowing assistantships. Each position pays $250.00 for the entire summer.

Of course!  Please contact us at so that we can better assist you.