Denver Young Artists Orchestra’s New Initiative Sets The Stage For Underrepresented Composers

DYAO, Boettcher

Established in 1977, the Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) has sought to provide youth orchestra programs for young musicians around the Denver metro area. The orchestral program is composed of three different ensembles—String Ensemble, Conservatory Orchestra and the Young Artists Orchestra, that are all aimed at helping young players develop and hone various skills needed for ensemble performance.

In recent years, the DYAO has broadened its programming to feature more diverse composers and projects to better reflect the demographics making up the bulk of participants in the orchestra program. In an effort to further inspire both its students and to celebrate the diversity of the classical music community at large, the Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) has developed a new strategy called “Hear the Future: A New Works Initiative.” The new initiative aims to commission three new orchestral works from traditionally underrepresented groups of composers, such as composers of color and composers from a more diverse spectrum of gender.

Each of the three different DYAO ensembles will premier a brand new composition from these underrepresented groups. All three works are commissioned by BIPOC composers, and one of the composers is a woman of color as well. According to DYAO Executive Director Kelly Waltrip, “Historically, less than 1% of music performed by American orchestras are written by composers of color and less than 2% are written by women.”

“Over the past few years, DYAO has been working on increasing representation,” said Waltrip. “When the pandemic hit and racial tensions in our country began to get more national attention, we knew DYAO wanted to do something meaningful. We recognized that, while we were making an effort to diversify our repertoire and offerings to our students and community, we could do more. We want to play an active part in shaping the way classical music is not only programmed but perceived and accepted. Our audiences will not only come to hear the future musicians of our nation but also they will come to hear the future of classical music.”

To help cover the associated costs of running and operating a youth orchestra and to compensate the composers, DYAO has launched a GoFundMe campaign for the initiative.

The Denver Young Artists Orchestra has nurtured the talents of the Rocky Mountain region’s young musicians for 43 years. It is committed to providing the finest possible youth orchestra programs, inspiring, and educating young musicians through the performance of great works for music, while offering valuable cultural opportunities to its community. This push for diversity is a much-needed initiative in the classical world, and as a former DYAO member, it’s inspiring to see the effort to correct centuries of gender and racial discrimination from an organization that provides so much value to its community.

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