New Summit Youth Orchestra holding auditions for middle, high school students |

New Summit Youth Orchestra holding auditions for middle, high school students

A handful of local students have already committed to auditioning for the new Summit Youth Orchestra. Auditions will be held Tuesday, May 19, at the Dillon Community Church.
Special to the Daily |

If you go

What: Summit Youth Orchestra auditions

When: 4-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 19

Where: Dillon Community Church, 371 La Bonte St., Dillon

Cost: $150 per semester

More information: Auditions are open to students entering grades seven through 12 this fall who play string, brass, woodwind and percussion instruments. Rehearsals take place 6-8 p.m. Sundays starting Sept. 13 at Dillon Community Church. To schedule an audition or for more information, email Michaela Lebow at

There’s nothing like the full, spine-tingling music of a symphony orchestra, traveling the crescendos and diminuendos of a classical piece from a beloved composer, the vibration of the strings balanced with the hum and bugle of the winds and brass and the rhythm of the percussion. To be a part of that eruption of sound is an even greater experience, one that local musicians feel should be shared with the next generation of young virtuosos.

In order to make that happen, a handful of members of the Summit Community Orchestra, plus a few friends and volunteers, have come together to create a new musical opportunity for young musicians who are looking to gain experience under the baton. Auditions for the inaugural class of this new Summit Youth Orchestra will be held on Tuesday, May 19, in Dillon.

Providing opportunities

The mission of the Summit Youth Orchestra is to nurture and inspire young musicians from the High Country and surrounding areas and to provide a unifying orchestral ensemble for students in the region. The orchestra will serve as a supplement to programs already offered at local schools, said Michaela Lebow, a parent who is helping organize the ensemble.

“For the past three years, I’ve been driving with my boys to Denver and back every week to get them to play in an orchestra,” said Lebow, whose two sons play violin. “For the other kids, there’s lots of schedule conflicts with school where they aren’t able to play in an orchestra or band, and there are a lot of home-school kids, too, who don’t have the opportunity, or other counties without a music program. So we decided to put this whole thing together and bring everyone together to play.”

Auditions are open to students across the High Country region who are entering seventh through 12th grades in the fall. A $150 per semester fee covers eight weeks of rehearsals on a select repertoire of music and a final concert, Lebow said. Chris Jusell, a Denver resident and concertmaster of the Greeley Philharmonic, will conduct the Summit Youth Orchestra.

“I think it’s a cool educational opportunity and also an opportunity for me to work on conducting and a good opportunity for all the kids up there to have an orchestra experience outside the schools,” Jusell said. “The schools in Dillon, Breckenridge and Frisco don’t have a huge orchestral program, so this will be a way for them to have a bigger program to be a part of.”

Jusell has maintained a long-running private studio, taught beginning violin classes at various elementary schools in Denver through the Colorado Youth Symphony Orchestra and performed numerous outreach concerts throughout the state. He previously worked for the Youth Orchestra of the Rockies as an administrative coordinator and sectional coach. In addition to Jusell’s tutelage, the orchestra will bring in other coaches to provide small-group instruction, Lebow said.

“They come in and work with the kids in the areas that they are struggling during rehearsal time,” she said. “One week, we might have somebody who comes in and works with just strings or winds separately.”

Audition requirements

Jusell will oversee auditions for the Summit Youth Orchestra, with requirements varying by instrument. The conductor said he’s not looking for perfection or to be impressed with someone’s extremely advanced playing, and the audition isn’t meant to weed anyone out.

“It’s more to get a sense of where everyone is,” he said. “I don’t want to scare people off by saying that we won’t accept people. This is the first time this is happening up there, so we’re planning on accepting a range of abilities.”

String players (violin, viola, cello, bass) should be prepared to play two scales, either two or three octaves, one major and one minor; and one fast and one slow piece, demonstrating contrasting styles and techniques. For brass and woodwinds (trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba and flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon), students should be prepared to play two scales, either one or two octaves, one major and one minor; and one fast and one slow piece.

Percussion students should be prepared to play five rudiments of their choice, performed on snare, as well as two solo pieces, one performed on a mallet instrument and one on timpani. Percussion instruments will be provided for the audition. Sight-reading may be required for any auditioning students, regardless of instrument, but none of the songs need to be played from memory.

“The requirements are pretty standard for youth orchestras across the country,” Jusell said “It’s pretty relaxed. You could go in and play not a whole lot or play more and give us a better sense of where you are. I think it will accommodate people who haven’t been playing for too long, who are excited to play in a group with other people and get better outside of school and their private lessons.”

Range of abilities

Jusell said the age range and audition requirements are meant to deter absolute beginners but allow students with a wide range of abilities to participate in and benefit from the program.

“I do a lot of arranging of music, so I will be able to take all of the music we play and create a slightly less technical version,” he said. “For the wind instruments, I can take the part and tailor it to the student if they have slightly more or less ability level. We can get a good sense of somebody’s playing at the audition to see what they would be like in the group, and I can make it work for them after that point.”

Lebow said “music is food for the brain,” and creating the Summit Youth Orchestra allows local students to feed on the experience of playing in a full symphony.

“Speaking personally,” Jusell said, “playing in a symphony orchestra — with strings, brass, winds, percussion — it’s the most exciting thing that I get to do.”

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