NRO: A true community gem
By Kimberly Nicoletti
Brought to you by the National Repertory Orchestra
When you think of an audience appreciating classical music, visions of spontaneously dancing and clapping along aren’t the first (or last) to enter your mind. Yet, it’s a natural response every year, as National Repertory Orchestra musicians visit children at local libraries and elementary schools.
Ever since the founder of the orchestra (then called the Blue Jeans Symphony) implemented children’s concerts in 1971, the NRO has shown it’s not just an orchestra for musicians to gain necessary experience to garner a seat in the competitive world of professional orchestras, but also an orchestra that serves its community.
This season, the NRO continues its commitment to residents by extending its reach with three concerts that directly benefit local nonprofits, three free children’s programs at each library in Summit County, a plethora of free concerts throughout the county, and innovative presentations.
Patti Casey strongly supported the NRO, both through her contributions and her actions. So when the Patti Casey Memorial Fund created Building Hope, it seemed only natural that the NRO give back. The NRO set up a table at its concerts for Building Hope to spread its message of how it helps anyone struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. This year, Building Hope is one of the three nonprofits the NRO will donate 5 percent of the sales from a designated concert (for Building Hope, it’s July 18).
The idea to give back 5 percent began during last summer’s wildfires. Halfway through the NRO season, the organization decided to dedicate a special concert and donate 5 percent of proceeds to first responders.
“In our fire district, we have seen our relationship and partnerships with the NRO grow, especially the past couple of years, and we both have gained from those efforts,” says Chief Jim Keating of the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District. “This summer season, we have partnered in some new ways to assure that the students that have traveled to our community, as well as the host families, are prepared as much as possible for the wildfire season.”
This summer, the June 13 “Beethoven’s Heroic Symphony” concert will benefit Summit County first responders, including the fire department, Summit County Animal Control, its K-9 unit, Summit County Rescue Group and Summit County Water Rescue Team.
“This organization is obviously such a tremendous part of the arts in Summit County, but it doesn’t stop there,” says Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. “Through all its partnerships, the NRO’s positive impact extends into so many different aspects of life throughout the county.”
Last winter, one of the NRO alumni brought the Dolly Quartet from Philadelphia to Summit County. All of the musicians in the quartet speak Spanish, and they play Latino music, so they fit perfectly into the Family Intercultural Resource Center’s (FIRC) desire to provide music education to its underserved population.
“The Dali Quartet provided an accessible classical music experience that many families in Summit County never have the opportunity to experience,” says Anita Overmyer, FIRC’s development director. “It was amazing to see the children’s interaction and excitement at the bilingual concerts offered at Dillon Valley and Silverthorne Elementary schools. The performances clearly made an impact on the students.”
The third beneficiary this summer, June 27, is Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. The concert is part of the NRO’s eight pop up concert series, which take place in Breckenridge’s parks, plazas, lawns and the Arts District.
“Being part of the NRO pop-up concert series this summer is a great opportunity to showcase how music, history and arts are intertwined in Breckenridge,” says Larissa O’Neil, executive director of Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. “We hope that our five minute history interludes during the concerts will give listeners a sense of place — and maybe an aha moment about how Breckenridge became what it is today — while they enjoy the music.”
The NRO also gives back to the community through several free concerts. In addition to the pop-up series, it has partnered with Main Street Station and Rocky Mountain Events to present six, 1-hour concerts at Main Street Station, as well as four Porch Series concerts at 229 S. Main St., sponsored by Breckenridge Associates Real Estate.
Musicians perform outside Breckenridge with three free concerts at Warren Station in Keystone, at Rainbow Park in Silverthorne and at the newly renovated Dillon Amphitheater (see box).
These smaller concerts offer a more intimate experience of classical music.
“It also allows our musicians to have a bigger impact on audiences, to hopefully get them further engaged in classical music,” says Kathleen Clabby, the NRO’s director of marketing, adding that it gives younger audiences a chance to see that classical music isn’t a “stuffy, unwelcoming environment,” like they may think.
And, for the first time ever, the NRO orchestra performs live while “The Wizard of Oz” film shows behind them. This family-friendly event starts at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. July 7 at the Riverwalk and invites guests to walk down the yellow brick road, to their seats, in costume.
All of these smaller community events teach NRO musicians how to better interact on a personal level with kids, adults and seniors, which professional orchestras nationwide are doing more and more of, to grow audiences. And, so, it’s a win-win: as the NRO continues to partner and reach out within the community, it comes full circle, to its original mission of providing musicians extraordinary training for their next career moves.
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