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The Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) was formed in 1977 under the auspices of the Denver Symphony Orchestra, now the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Founders Betty Naster and Carl Topilow organized the orchestra as a means for Colorado’s most talented young musicians to rehearse and perform together under demanding professional standards. DYAO has operated independently since 1979, and has maintained a close relationship with the CSO.
DYAO has become one of the leading youth orchestras in the United States, fostering the growth of young artists for 30 years. Its mission is to provide the finest possible youth orchestra programs, inspiring and educating young musicians through the performance of great works of music and offering valuable cultural opportunities to the community.
Denver Young Artists Orchestra consists of five orchestras: DYAO, two Conservatory Orchestras, and two String Ensembles. The ensembles are composed of approximately 250 musicians representing 90 schools across the region. Some drive from as far as Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Estes Park and other mountain communities. Competitive auditions are held each spring and musicians aged 8 to 23 are eligible. Repertoire for DYAO and the Conservatory Orchestras includes full orchestral and symphonic works in their original form, while the String Ensembles perform music geared toward younger string players.
DYAO performs regularly in Boettcher Concert Hall (home of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra) in the heart of Denver’s city center. The orchesta also performs in other venues across the metro area including Gates Concert Hall (University of Denver) and Macky Auditorium (University of Colorado). Every three to four years DYAO travels internationally, the most recent tour in June 2011 to Germany and the Czech Republic. Other countries DYAO has toured include Argentina, Austria, England, France and Hungary. DYAO regularly has the opportunity to perform with renowned musicians. One such opportunity is the annual “Side-by-Side” concert with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in which DYAO members perform alongside professional symphony musicians. DYAO has also regularly featured as guest soloists young performers who are launching their own professional careers. Past soloists with the DYAO who have risen to international fame include Eugene Fodor, Yefim Bronfman, Shlomo Mintz, Joseph Swensen, Christopehr O’Riley, Dylana Jenson, and Christopher Taylor. Recently, DYAO has featured established performers as soloists, including cellist Wendy Warner and Van Cliburn Silver Medalist Antonio Pompa-Baldi. Recent soloists to perform with DYAO include Edgar Meyer and the Marcus Roberts Trio in 2009, pianist Katie Mahan in 2010, and Linda Wang in 2011.
The League of American Orchestras has awarded the DYAO the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Youth Orchestra Award for Creative and Adventuresome Programming in Contemporary Music. The League of American Orchestras and Meet the Composer awarded DYAO with a composer residency grant with composer Belinda Reynolds in the 2007-2008 season, one of eight orchestras to receive the honor. The DYAO has additionally commissioned and premiered five works for symphony orchestra, was featured in CBS’s nationally broadcast special Christmas Every Day in December of 1998 with Kathy Lee Gifford and ‘N Sync, and has performed family concerts for the Breckenridge Music Festival and for the Strings in the Mountains Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
DYAO was recently recognized by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation as a Catalyst Partner grant recipient. An extremely competitive program, the award will serve as a catalyst for artistic, programmatic, and infrastructural growth from 2007 to 2010.
Alumni of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra have matured into performing with prestigious orchestral organizations across the country, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony, the Boston Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera and of course the Colorado Symphony.