Hundreds of musicians seek to become the next National Repertory Orchestra fellows |

Hundreds of musicians seek to become the next National Repertory Orchestra fellows

Courtesy of National Repertory Orchestra
The National Repertory Orchestra’s fame for its notable alumni is well known across colleges, universities and conservatories around the country
Courtesy of National Repertory Orchestra

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Auditions for the 2018 season are underway

Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by the National Repertory Orchestra

More than six months from the start of the National Repertory Orchestra’s 2018 season, roughly 1,000 ambitious musicians around the country are vying for 88 coveted spots on the roster of fellows.

With the application process underway, the behind-the-scenes action at the prestigious 58-year-old organization is ramping up. In fact, the work toward each year’s 8-week summer concert schedule never really stops at any point throughout the year.

“Everyone assumes there’s a lot of down time after August, but there really is no down time in our season,” says National Repertory Orchestra Chief Executive Officer David DePeters. “We do everything we can to anticipate all the things we want to be doing in June and July. We can’t be reactionary — there’s too much going on.”

Too much is right, but the staff at the National Repertory Orchestra has their meticulous system mastered — they even have a chance to enjoy office “meetings” out on the slopes every now and then. However, now it’s time to carefully select the lucky 88 fellows of the 2018 season.


Countless musicians at symphonies and orchestras around the United States are alumni of the National Repertory Orchestra. Its distinguished reputation in the music world makes it inevitable that up and coming musicians aspire and compete to become the organization’s annual fellows.

“One of the reasons it’s so competitive is because it’s such an intensive program,” DePeters says. “They’re performing 18 to 21 concerts in 8 weeks, which is more than many professional organizations. When the fellows leave here, they feel like they’re ready to get a job — and they do, very quickly.”

DePeters played as a percussionist with both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic and says many of those musicians — who are considered among the best in the world — went through the National Repertory Orchestra’s program.

The National Repertory Orchestra’s fame for its notable alumni is well known across colleges, universities and conservatories around the country.

“This is the place you come when you’re ready to take that next step to becoming a professional orchestral musician,” says National Repertory Orchestra Chief Operating Officer Cecile Forsberg.

The auditions

The orchestra opens auditions to musicians ages 18 to 29 with the requirement that each applicant has completed at least one year of college, university or conservatory by the start of the season. For the 2018 season, in-person auditions are being held around the country in more than 20 cities between now and February, Forsberg says, adding that recorded audition tapes are also being accepted.

All live auditions are also recorded with audio and video so Music Director Carl Topilow can review them again, if needed. Topilow has the ultimate say in choosing every musician, DePeters says.

Topilow is a rare breed in the competitive orchestral music industry in that he’ll provide any applicant with specific feedback and constructive criticism if they ask for it, both Forsberg and DePeters say.

“We are an educational organization, from the beginning to the end,” DePeters says. “Even if the musicians don’t get in, it doesn’t mean we aren’t here to educate them.”

The results

The 2018 season begins June 9 and finishes July 27. The orchestra staff are currently recruiting guest conductors and artists in residence to bolster and enhance the program, Forsberg says.

“We’re also working on all of our community partnerships to make our season successful,” she says.

From educational programs in local schools to a winter series featuring visiting musicians for two concerts in February and March, the National Repertory Orchestra is engaging the youth and adults of Summit County in many ways. The fellows learn how to play for their audience, tailor their repertory to that audience and also how to talk to them.

“Everything we do in Summit County is meaningful — not just for the fellows, but for the county,” DePeters says.

A concert last season in response to the wildfire in Breckenridge raised funds for first responders and DePeters says the orchestra will be repeating that effort next season. The staff is also working to finalize plans on a couple of other benefit concerts, he says.

All of this planning and organization ultimately comes down to an 8-week experience that musicians and community members never forget. The musicians’ palpable eagerness to learn and succeed translates to a concert series that has proved, time and time again, why it’s so renowned.

“You can just see how passionate and excited the musicians are about being here,” Forsberg says.


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