Aurora Symphony Orchestra
What does a brain surgeon, rocket scientist and “roof doctor” have in common? They are all members of a community orchestra, doing what they love most—playing music.
At 34 years and counting, the Aurora Symphony Orchestra (ASO) is playing strong after a modest start in 1978 and becoming a non-profit organization in 1996. ASO was founded by local civic leader and musician Alice Lee Main, when a young conductor named Gloria Olsen approached her with an idea to start a community orchestra. After a few newspaper articles to attract musicians, the fledgling orchestra—the Aurora Civic Orchestra—began with 15 musicians.
“We have a vision to become the preeminent community orchestra in the metro area,” said Rich Duston, President of Aurora Symphony Orchestra. From Branson, Missouri, Duston not only runs the operations, he is also is a trumpet player in the Brass Quintet.
The orchestra, currently practicing at Gateway High School, consists of nearly 45 volunteer musicians and a handful that are paid.
Guests players are welcome to join and sometimes the group can get to be quite large, such as when ASO performed “Carmina Burana” with 400 people on stage. This included 16 rows for a choir elevated on bleachers and the brass sitting in the wings.
Dwight Taylor, Chairman of the Board, said, “We want to reach out to improve the orchestra by increasing community outreach.”
“Specifically in the Asian community, we want people to know we are here and we provide a great product. We can all gain from more diversity.”
Auditions are always welcome and held throughout the season during rehearsals on Wednesday evenings. As one of the few orchestras without dues, most youth orchestras in the area charge a fee, while ASO provides the opportunity for children to learn about music at no cost.
Both Taylor and Duston agree that too often they hear comments like, “Aurora has an orchestra?”
“Just because we are a community orchestra, doesn’t mean we can’t be good community orchestra,” said Duston.
With the wealth of resources available in Aurora, their goal to becoming the top community orchestra in Colorado is achievable. Looking to grow musically and as an organizations, ASO will become a “force to be reckoned with.”
“We’re never going to be a professional orchestra,” said Duston. “That’s not the point. Neighbors, doctors, teachers, retired folks and children are who we cater to.”
“We are an organization that welcomes all.”
Hoping to have a full-time staff in the future, ASO is currrently funded predominantly by SCFD and through local fundraising.
ASO has five concerts each year, which include the fall Masterworks, holiday performance, spring concert, May Masterworks and March for a Better Tomorrow (which supports local non-profit organizations). In addition, they play at events ranging from HOA meetings to performing at the park.
“While we play at the park, people aren’t there to hear the hardest songs, they want it to be beautiful, fun, recognizable,” said Duston.
“We just make it enjoyable.”