Our History

The following chronological history follows the National Repertory Orchestra through 4 home locations, 3 names, 2 Music Directors, 9 Executive Directors, countless board members and a legacy of over 4000 musicians, hopefully all touched by their personal and collective NRO experience.

1960: Founded by cellist Walter Charles as the Blue Jeans Symphony in Estes Park, CO.  His vision was to fill the gap between academic musical training and the competitive world of the professional musician with a massive dose of classical repertoire, rehearsals, and concerts.  All musicians had to pay their own living expenses by working at local businesses.  Mr. Charles was the Music Director and Conductor.

1966: The orchestra moved to Evergreen, CO and changed its name to the Colorado Philharmonic.  A board of trustees was founded and living expenses for the musicians were now covered financially, allowing them to concentrate fully on the music.  The present day “Community Link Program” also began.

1971: Walter Charles started the Children’s Concerts, acquainting children with instruments, the musicians and classical music.

1974: Walter Charles received the Governor’s Award for Arts and Humanities, an award made annually for “outstanding achievement and leadership in the State of Colorado.”

1978: Carl Topilow takes the roles of Music Director and Conductor and focuses on bringing in guest conductors, guest artists, seminars and master classes.  Robert Gross became the first Business Manager of the Orchestra.

1983: An Executive Director was put in place for the first time and Richard F. Zellner filled the position.

1984: National Endowment for the Arts names NRO to its Advancement Program and awards a grant of $75,000

1985: The Orchestra was the leading participant in the National Endowment for the Arts 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, DC.

1986: The Orchestra relocated to Keystone Resort and changed its name to the National Repertory Orchestra in an effort to better recognize the national/international make-up of its musicians.  Richard D. Lamm, Governor of Colorado, presents NRO with the “Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.”  The NRO also performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater.

1988: The NRO is the only United States orchestra to be invited to perform at the 1988 Seoul, South Korea Olympic Arts Festival. This Pacific Rim tour included concerts in Taiwan and Japan on behalf of the Colorado economic development efforts.

1990: US West Foundation awards the NRO a major grant to produce the “Spirit of Today’s West”: composer competition.

1993: The Town of Breckenridge invited the orchestra to perform in the new Riverwalk Center, now NRO’s summer residence.  Pamela G. Miller takes over as Executive Director.  The NRO performs at the World Youth Day festivities during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Colorado.

1995: The NRO performs at the United States Olympic Festival in Denver, Colorado.  Joseph Kramer takes over as Executive Director.

2000: Jeff D. Baum takes over as Executive Director.

2002: Terese Kaptur takes over as Executive Director.

2004: The Endowment Fund was put into place to establish long-term financial security.  The 4th of July concert began in Dillon, CO.

2007: The Pittsburgh Symphony and the NRO partner on a musician training program for African American musicians. The program provides a year long learning experience with two of the world’s leading orchestra’s and enables young musicians to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of an orchestra career.  St. Anthony Centura/Summit Medical Center and the NRO partner to deliver a Summer Music Therapy program to benefit patients, medical staff, and selected fellowship musicians.

2008: Kerry Farrell takes over as Executive Director.

2009: “Friends of the NRO” volunteer committee was established.

2010: The NRO celebrates its 50th Anniversary.  The NRO receives a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Ken Toltz takes over as Executive Director.  The NRO and Colorado Mountain College team up to bring the Met Opera Live in HD Series to Breckenridge.

2012: Douglas W. Adams takes over as Executive Director.  Mr. Adams established a Reserve Fund, to be used for unexpected events and provide short-term financial security.

2015: The NRO performs on NPR’s “From the Top” with host Christopher O’Riley.

Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Pacific Rim Tour: Korean, Taiwan, Japan
Lincoln Center/Fort Collins
Colorado School of Mines
Denver University
Brown Palace Hotel
Hiwan County Club/Evergreen
Boettcher Concert Hall
Mt Vernon County Club
Heritage Square/Golden
Fiddler’s Green
Denver Heather Gardens
Paramount Theater
Denver Botanical Gardens
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Arvada Center for the Arts
Houston Fine Arts Center
Genesee Town Center
Town of Vail Lionshead
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, Vail
Copper Mountain Resort
Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Newman Center for the Performing Arts, University of Denver