Aspen Music Festival And School

Orchestra / Instrumental

The Aspen Music Festival and School offers orchestra students the opportunity to play alongside artist-faculty from major U.S. orchestras, or as principal in a variety of ensembles. Orchestras perform weekly in the 2,050-seat Benedict Music Tent with prominent conductors and soloists. The rehearsal and performance schedule is rigorous, and performances are at a professional standard. In addition, all students receive weekly private lessons and have the opportunity to participate in chamber music. Click here for details. 
 

Aspen Chamber Symphony

The chamber-sized Aspen Chamber Symphony (ACS) is composed of AMFS artist-faculty members and students in side-by-side performance. It is led by world-renowned conductors and joined for most concerts by star guest soloists. Repertoire consists of standard and contemporary works for the chamber symphony. Performances are Fridays at 5:30 pm. 

Aspen Festival Orchestra

A large symphony orchestra composed of AMFS artist-faculty members and students in side-by-side performance, the Aspen Festival Orchestra (AFO) is led by world-renowned conductors and joined for most concerts by star guest soloists. Repertoire consists of standard and contemporary works for symphony orchestra. Performances are Sundays at 4:00 pm. 

Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra

The Aspen Conducting Academy (ACA) Orchestra is the centerpiece of Aspen’s conductor-training program. The orchestra is guided by Music Director Robert Spano, established visiting conductors, and the next generation of up-and-coming conducting talents, who perform in the orchestra when not on the podium. The orchestra is led by an artist-faculty concertmaster, with the rest of the ensemble composed of student fellows. The curriculum includes weekly orchestral concerts, concerto performances, opera scenes classes, repertoire readings, and a family concert. Performances are Wednesdays at 4:00 pm. 

Aspen Opera Theater Orchestra

An orchestra composed of specially-selected students from the ACS and AFO, this orchestra performs with the prestigious Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS (AOTVA) program. The orchestra is led by an artist-faculty concertmaster and world-renowned conductors. The AOTVA program performs fully and semi-staged productions in the historic Wheeler Opera House, Benedict Music Tent, and Harris Concert Hall.

 

ORCHESTRA ASSIGNMENTS AND ROTATIONS

Winds, Brass, Percussion, and Harp (WBPH) students will rotate through the orchestras described above as the repertoire calls for it, and are eligible to perform on special assignments with faculty and guest artists, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, or the Aspen Opera Theater Orchestra. Certain WBPH fellows may be identified by faculty as players designated to one orchestra (e.g., piccolo, flute, English horn, third horn, and tuba fellows may be designated as non-rotating members of AFO). Most WBPH students perform weekly, repertoire depending.

String students generally remain within their assigned orchestra for the duration of their residency and may be selected to perform on special assignments with faculty and guest artists, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, or the Aspen Opera Theater Orchestra. Strings students can request a week off from orchestra, although this is not guaranteed. 

Through a placement audition, a student can earn a spot in the Assistant Principal Pool. Assistant principals have the opportunity to sit assistant principal alongside a designated artist-faculty member and will also rotate into the section as the faculty principals change. The Assistant Principal Pool has an unspecified number of members, encouraging selection based only on students who are qualified. When not sitting assistant principal, these students will rotate through the second and third stands, depending on the number of members in the pool.

Instrumentalists awarded an Aspen Conducting Academy Fellowship play in the all-fellowship Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra. This high-level orchestra is the training ground for the conducting program. Musicians have the opportunity to perform standard orchestral works and to play in principal positions. Selection criteria includes mature players who would gain from honing their skills with the standard repertoire for the purpose of taking successful professional or college-level auditions. Fellows network with student conductors, many of whom become classical music leaders in the field. Musicians enjoy regular exposure to Music Director Robert Spano and distinguished guest conductors and concertmasters. For the summer of 2023, the ACA rehearsal and performance schedule will be modified to align more closely with the number of services in the Aspen Festival Orchestra (AFO) and Aspen Chamber Symphony (ACS). 

Although the AMFS does offer a Half Session, all students are strongly encouraged to attend for the full eight-week season as orchestral opportunities for Half Session instrumentalists are restricted due to the orchestra rotation calendar and available seating.

Orchestra students who are preparing for a professional orchestral auditions may have the opportunity to participate in an excerpt class led by Music Director Robert Spano. Students must be nominated for participation by their Aspen teacher. Space is limited.

Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO