By Shauna Farnell

A donation by Dec. 5 will make an immediate, tangible difference to the future of classical music

The National Repertory Orchestra wrapped up its 30th anniversary season in Breckenridge last summer with more free programming and community outreach than ever before. From now until Colorado Gives Day on Dec. 5, the organization is on a mission to raise $30,000 to put toward its annual $1.8-million operating budget.

A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, the NRO’s mission is “changing lives through music.” This involves galvanizing young musicians while enriching the lives of Colorado residents and visitors.

Founded in 1960 in Estes Park, after stints in Evergreen and Keystone, the NRO found its permanent home in Breckenridge with the completion of the Riverwalk Center in 1993. Every fall and winter, hundreds of musicians between the ages of 18 and 29 audition for a spot in the orchestra. From June through August, musicians are immersed in the most first-hand, real-world experience of their fresh careers with multiple weekly concerts and free community engagement events. Compared to similar festivals around the globe, the NRO is a standout for its depth of repertoire. In 2023 alone, musicians learned a mind-boggling 84 pieces of music from 64 composers.

“The NRO is a true trial-by-fire for orchestral musicians,” said NRO bassoon player Matthew Melillo. “You go through so much repertoire in such a short time that you come out of the festival with greatly improved ensemble skills.”

The National Repertory Orchestra serves as a career springboard for its fellows. They often leave Breckenridge in August and go directly to their first full-time positions with major orchestras.

“This summer with NRO was perhaps one of the greatest and most rewarding summers of my entire life,” said 2023 viola player Aaron Lockhart. “We worked hard, we played hard and made so many wonderful connections with people all over the world. I was able to really understand and get a taste of the demands of a modern-day orchestral musician.”

In addition to the NRO’s 15 ticketed performances during its 30th anniversary season, which included an orchestra live-to-film performance of Disney’s “The Lion King” 2019 and the return of world-renowned violinist Midori, the NRO performed three free orchestra concerts and 35 free smaller performances throughout Summit County and beyond. A number of small ensembles made up of orchestra musicians and alumni delivered free interactive performances throughout the county – at local libraries, schools and preschools, at the Frisco Marina, even in the lap of Breckenridge troll sculpture Isak Heartstone.

Furthermore, the throngs of people strolling through downtown Breckenridge every summer are graced by the live soundtrack of the orchestra rehearsing for upcoming concerts. They have the opportunity to wander into the Riverwalk and soak up a rich earful up close. Last summer, 2,618 people sat in on the NRO’s 48 free, open rehearsals.

More than 70 percent of the NRO’s annual $1.8-million operating budget comes from donations. The organization would not be able to offer such a bounty of programming or even stay afloat without the generosity of its patrons.

Donate at nromusic.org or find the NRO at coloradogives.org to help the NRO meet its Colorado Gives Day goal of $30,000.

NRO’s 30th anniversary season (2023) by the numbers:

  • 79 music fellows on full scholarship
  • 15 ticketed performances attended by 6,904 people
  • 3 free orchestra concerts attended by 4,442 people
  • 35 free interactive community engagement events attended by 4,193 people
  • 48 free open rehearsals attended by 2,618 people
  • 21 masterclasses and seminars
  • 156 volunteers dedicated 5,262 hours of service
  • 96 percent of audience members described concerts as “great” or “exceptional”
  • 70 percent-plus of the NRO’s operating budget comes from donations

Photo: NRO 2023 by Nat Hickman