Following its annual fall concert held on Nov. 13, the Roaring Fork Youth Orchestra rolled right into rehearsals for its holiday programming.
The season lineup runs Dec. 2-11 with concerts and singalongs taking place at different venues throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. All of the events are free and open to the public.
RFYO’s quick turnaround from the fall performance and into the holiday series has become a tradition, said Sarah Graf — a cello teaching artist who also serves as the executive director of the Roaring Fork Music Society, the nonprofit that oversees the youth orchestra.
“One thing that’s been great about it is that each year, while we add a couple of new things, we always have a core set of music,” Graf said. “And kids who’ve been playing with us anywhere from three to 10 years have gotten to know this set of music.”
Comprising nearly 60 students, ages 4-18, from throughout the entire valley, RFYO welcomes young musicians of all levels. Local youth typically join the orchestra in their late-elementary to middle-school years and will work their way up, Graf said, advancing in RFYO programs through high school.
“It’s neat to see the students who have been with us since the beginning — I started teaching one cellist when she was in kindergarten and now she’s in ninth grade,” Graf said. “And while some students will go on to play music more seriously beyond their high school years, mostly we see it as a gift to participate in this program throughout their youth and carry music skills to be part of their lives later on — it definitely has a great impact on these kids.”
Graf explained that rehearsals for the holiday programming are about bringing back the familiar set of music altogether, and the newer students get to learn from their youth orchestra peers.
This year, the RFYO holiday series kicks off on Dec. 2 with a performance at the Launchpad in Carbondale from 5-7 p.m. The concert is being held as part of Carbondale’s First Friday festivities and also in light of the town’s tree-lighting ceremony.
Then on Dec. 4, youth orchestra students will be performing at the Basalt Regional Library for a holiday singalong event starting at 3 p.m. The Basalt Library concert is one of the youth orchestra’s longest-running concerts, Graf said, and it has evolved over the years to run as a singalong. RFYO teachers and conductors will provide audience members with lyric sheets to encourage crowd participation.
Pitkin County Library is hosting, for its second year, the RFYO for another of the holiday concert-singalongs. Taking place on Dec. 9 at 5 p.m., Graf said the early evening, après timing renders a festive and casual Aspen event — where community members can come enjoy a free concert at the library in ski clothes or dinner attire.
Following the Aspen show, on Dec. 10, the youth orchestra will put on an additional singalong concert at the Silt Library this year. New to the RFYO lineup, the Silt Library show is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. The Saturday morning singalong is meant to cater to parents who have toddlers and young children, Graf explained.
To close out the holiday series on Dec. 11 is another Launchpad performance, in which RFYO musicians and friends will perform for the Deck the Walls Holiday Market at Carbondale Arts’ R2 Gallery space. The concert will commence at 2 p.m.
Graf said that both Launchpad events feature a smaller ensemble of musicians and include students who are in the more advanced RFYO program — called the Camerata orchestra. The three library concerts bring together larger groups of students and are structured as more of a sit-down show, added Graf.
“We love it that our local libraries are welcoming and encouraging to having our students come and play,” Graf said. “There is such value in kids seeing other kids play music; it’s inspiring to young children who might want to play an instrument.”
Graf went on to state that accessibility is a key consideration when it comes to all RFYO programming — from special seasonal events, like the holiday concert series, to the youth orchestra’s weekly rehearsal schedule.
While the Third Street Center in Carbondale serves as the orchestra’s primary rehearsal space, weekly rehearsals also take place at Aspen Middle School and Riverside Middle School in New Castle for students in the beginning Preparatory String Orchestra program. The new RFYO Musica program is held at Cactus Valley Elementary School in Silt.
Knowing the Roaring Fork Valley is a long geographical area, Graf said, holding rehearsals at these different locations helps make programming accessible to students. The executive director expressed gratitude for the support from these local schools in providing a space to practice music.
“And it’s the same thing with our holiday concerts — we encourage each student to participate in a show near their community,” Graf said. “It’s a chance for students to connect with their nearby community and take pride in getting to share their music.”