By Don Benjamin

Contributing writer

Since 1999, the Valley Youth Orchestra (VYO) has been thrilling audiences. On Oct. 24, the group performed in the wide-open spaces of Cedaredge Town Park and the setting and the music were spectacular. It was a balmy 70-degree afternoon — which unfolded just ahead of freezing temperatures and the year’s first predicted snowfall.

Adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, the open-air concert featured local and regional performers from ages 7 to 18. The program included classical music from Beethoven and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Contemporary movie themes and familiar holiday tunes rounded out the afternoon performance.

Performing in an outdoor setting presented challenges for the young musicians. Social distancing meant no partner to share a music stand. So, every performer had to turn his or her own sheet music pages while also clipping them in place to fight a swirling autumn wind.

Led by director/conductor Debra TenNapel of Montrose, the orchestra features young musicians from Western Colorado’s Uncompahgre Valley (encompassing communities in Montrose, Ouray and Delta counties); the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River (Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford); and the Grand Valley of the Colorado River (Grand Junction, Fruita and Clifton).

Young people audition each summer and practice and perform at various levels depending on age and proficiency. The levels include: Concertino I, Philharmonic II and Symphonic Chamber III. Families pay a registration/tuition fee to participate and partial and full scholarships are available for those who qualify.

The VYO’s mission, as stated on its website is “to provide young string musicians the opportunity to experience the joys and challenges of orchestral rehearsals and performances in a nurturing environment. In addition, we strive to provide small groupings for community nursing and assisted living homes as well as performing at local schools through our Strings in the School program and at various service organization gatherings.”

The 501©3 non-profit VYO is affiliated with the Valley Symphony Association and it relies on funding from generous community and business contributions and sponsorships. Donations can be made through the orchestra’s website

Or contributions can be sent directly to: Valley Youth Orchestra, P.O. Box 274, Delta, CO 81416-0274.

Two more VYO performances are planned for Dec. 12 in Cedaredge and Dec. 13 in Montrose. For updated details visit the orchestra’s website.

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