Zander Bacon had never envisioned becoming a pivotal part of bringing an orchestra to life … at least not in the heavy lifting capacity.

But when Bacon took the position of Recording and Production Fellow at the National Repertory Orchestra last summer, it proved to be a learning experience like no other.

“The most rewarding aspect of being a Production Fellow was the significant leadership opportunities provided. With the NRO, fellows are treated as equals, their opinions and ideas are respected,” Bacon says. “Jack, the other Production Fellow, and I ran the show for multiple concerts and took the lead at various community engagement events. These leadership roles equipped us to calmly troubleshoot sound system issues, plan effectively for musician needs, and live-mix numerous public events.”

Zander Bacon 2

Zander Bacon, by Kelly Sanders.

A lifelong musician who played principal trumpet in the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Symphony Orchestra while earning their Bachelor of Instrumental Music Education and is now working toward a Master of Trumpet Performance at the same university, Bacon’s long but fulfilling days in Breckenridge typically began with a morning bike ride to the Riverwalk Center in the middle of town.

There, the production crew set up for the dress rehearsal, followed by the first tech run of the day. Then came lunch with friends and a few hours of downtime before the second tech run, which serves as “a final tune-up” before the evening performance. After grabbing a coffee in town, Bacon and the rest of the crew would report to their stations at 5:55 p.m. for the big show.

“The Production Fellows get to run the show at least once a season, which consists of calling the shots, running the soundboard, and overall, keeping a clear idea of what is happening, what is supposed to happen next, and what to do if something goes unplanned,” Bacon says. “This is a nerve-wracking experience, but one of the most rewarding feelings to have done successfully.”

The workday was not finished after the concert, however, but Bacon found the post-performance duties equally satisfying.

“As the concert wraps up and everyone is celebrating a fantastic performance, the production crew gets to work setting the stage for the next concert cycle – updating section numbers, moving large instruments like percussion and pianos, and setting electronics. It was awesome to have a great team who would brainstorm ideas each week to ensure we worked more efficiently as we went. Post-concert, we would often hang out with our musician friends and have game nights, movie nights, or just spend some quality downtime together.”

Bacon’s summer in Breckenridge unearthed an interest in orchestral administration and operations they otherwise may have never discovered.

“Being part of NRO 2023 has completely changed my life,” says Bacon, who hopes to return to Breckenridge this summer. “Before this past summer, I had limited experience with arts administration, but I emerged as a more independent worker, a stronger team player, and an overall better person. The fellows, summer staff, and year-round staff are genuinely incredible people, some of the best I’ve ever met. We formed a strong bond during the two weeks before the musicians arrived, fostering an exceptional workplace environment. These connections allowed us to understand how best to support each other as our teams collaborated to present 18 full concerts and over 30 community engagement events throughout the summer.”

The Recording and Production fellowship is currently available for the upcoming season, June 3 through Aug. 16 in Breckenridge.

“My advice for future fellows is simple,” Bacon says. “Always put yourself out there, whether applying for the fellowship position, making new friends in a new place, hiking up a tall mountain, or diving into something entirely new and scary. It’s all worth it. You’ll learn more about yourself, experience significant personal growth and connect with fantastic people, all while listening to incredible music, surrounded by beautiful mountains.”

Lead photo by Nat Hickman.