New community orchestra brings amateur musicians together in Hayden

Members of the newly formed Yampa Valley Orchestra practice in the lobby of the Hayden Center. The group is looking for more members who want to casually make music "nice people."
Rachel Wattles/Courtesy photo

For anyone who has an instrument they haven’t touched in years or anyone missing playing among peers, there is a new home with the Yampa Valley Community Orchestra.

Years ago, there was an orchestra for community members looking to get together and practice something they love. It eventually evolved into the Steamboat Orchestra, for which only the more serious musicans played.

“The amateurs kind of got dropped and cut out of it,” said Keri Rusthoi, a longtime Yampa Valley resident who has been heavily involved in the arts. “It’s been many, many years and a few of us missed having a community orchestra where we could hack away and be terrible.”

Before trying to establish a group of people to play music, Ruthoi knew she needed to find them a home. So, she reached out to friend Rachel Wattles at the Hayden Center.

Wattles was more than happy to accommodate a potential group.

“She was 120% on board,” Rusthoi said. “She said this is exactly what we want to support at the Hayden Center.”

Rusthoi is the director of the Yampa Valley Singers, founded what is now Opera Steamboat and teaches  part time at Colorado Mesa University. With those connections, she compiled an email list of every local musician she knew, and she and Wattles sent them a survey. 

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“We quickly got many responses, over 30 responses,” Wattles said. “So, it was just like well, let’s do this.”

Now, the group meets from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sundays of every month at the Hayden Center. Once a month, Rusthoi’s coworker, the choir director from Colorado Mesa University, comes in to conduct the group. 

There is a core of about 15 to 20 people who show up consistently, Rusthoi said, but the orchestra needs more. 

“An orchestra, it’s like a football team,” she said. “There’s specialized positions and you need people to fill all of them to really be able to play the coolest stuff.”

Anyone interested in joining can fill out the survey at

People need not be intimidated. Rusthoi emphasized the group is extremely casual, puts no pressure on anyone and has few expectations for the future. The group is practicing in the lobby of the Hayden Center, but when work on the building is done, they will have their own space.

“None of us want to be professional orchestral players,” Rusthoi said. “We all just want to play the music and not worry that we have to go home and practice for six hours or we’re going to embarrass ourselves. … If you want to just ditz around and be an amateur and play some nice music with some nice people, we’re your group.”

That being said, Rusthoi acknowledged that most musicians prefer to have some sort of reason to improve pieces, so the group has already considered potential performance opportunities.

“We’re preparing some pieces with the idea that we could possibly play something at the county fair,” Rusthoi said.

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