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 given at a professional standard; therefore, the orchestral experience is available only to students ages 18 and older. All students receive weekly private lessons and have the opportunity to participate in chamber music.  

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 all-fellowship 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 students. The curriculum includes weekly orchestral concerts, concerto performances, opera scenes classes, repertoire readings, and a family concert. Performances are Wednesdays at 5:00 pm. 

Aspen Opera Theater Orchestra

Composed of students selected 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 either the historic Wheeler Opera House, Benedict Music Tent, or Harris Concert Hall.



Winds, Brass, Percussion, and Harp (WBPH) students will rotate through the orchestras described above as the repertoire calls for their instruments, 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. String orchestra placement assignments will be determined for enrolled students based on faculty review of the student’s admission audition recordings. 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 emerging conductors of the Aspen Conducting Academy. The ACA orchestra is composed of Aspen's top fellowship musicians and led by a professional concertmaster. This ensemble provides pre-professional musicians the opportunity to hone their craft and prepare them to win their next audition, whether it be for graduate school or a top-tier professional orchestra. Musicians in the ACA Orchestra focus primarily on standard orchestral works with a sprinkling from the operatic canon as well as new music written by fellows of the Susan and Ford Schumann Center for Composition Studies. Through these varied experiences, instrumentalists learn the intricate collaboration process that occurs between the orchestra and conductor, singers, and/or composers, all of which will be part of any professional role in the industry. ACA fellows network with student conductors, many of whom become classical music leaders in the field, and musicians enjoy regular exposure to Music Director Robert Spano and distinguished guest conductors and concertmasters.. 

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.


Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO