Aspen Music Festival And School

Orchestra / Instrumental

In addition to weekly private lessons, students in this program play in one or more of the AMFS's five orchestras. The orchestras are a mixture of all-student and student and artist-faculty players. Upon arrival in Aspen, students will audition for placement.

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.


Winds, Brass, Percussion, and Harp (WBPH) students will rotate through orchestras, including Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra (APO), Aspen Chamber Symphony (ACS), Aspen Festival Orchestra (AFO), Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra (ACA), Aspen Opera Theater Orchestra (AOT), Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (ACE), and/or Specials. Certain WBPH fellows may be designated as non-rotating by faculty (e.g. Piccolo, flute, English horn, 3rd horn, and tuba fellows may be designated as non-rotating members of AFO.)

String students who are not permanently assigned to the ACA Orchestra will receive an orchestra assignment of ACS, AFO, or APO. They will not rotate between AFO, ACS, and APO within a half session (4 weeks). They can be rotated from their assigned orchestra into ACA, AOT, ACE, and/or Specials. String students may switch to AFO, ACS, or APO at the beginning of Half Session II. That determination will be made by String Orchestra Faculty Coordinators. Strings will rotate their seats within their assigned orchestra.

Via the live placement auditions upon arrival in Aspen, a student can earn a spot in the Assistant Principal Pool. These students are selected to sit assistant principal for a certain number of weeks, matching up with one artist-faculty member principal and then rotating back into the section once a new faculty principal comes into that orchestra, or for one Half Session. 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.

Though 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.

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

Orchestral students may participate in the AMFS Aspen Chamber Music program. Click here for details.

Aspen Chamber Symphony

A chamber-sized symphony 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.

Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra

A large symphony orchestra composed entirely of students. Concerts are directed by notable guest conductors, and soloists include star guest artists, artist-faculty members, and student competition winners. The ensemble provides its members with an important opportunity to continue to develop their orchestral playing skills while rehearsing and performing major orchestral works. At the heart of this orchestra is the Center for Orchestra Leadership where ten student mentor-fellows are selected to hone their leadership skills while rotating through the principal string positions and receiving mentorship from artist-faculty who hold prominent positions in top American orchestras.

Aspen Festival Orchestra

A large symphony orchestra 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 symphony orchestra.

Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra

The Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra is the centerpiece of Aspen’s conductor-training program. The orchestra is guided by Music Director Robert Spano, visiting master conductors, and the next generation of up-and-coming conducting talents, who perform in the orchestra when off the podium. The orchestra is led by an artist-faculty concertmaster. Activities include weekly orchestral concerts, concerto performances, opera scenes master classes, repertoire readings, and a family concert.

Aspen Opera Theater Orchestra

A pit orchestra composed of AMFS students that performs with the prestigious Aspen Opera Theater. The orchestra is led by an artist-faculty concertmaster and world-renowned conductors. The AOC performs fully-staged productions in the historic Wheeler Opera House.

Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO