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Loveland native returning home to join Colorado Symphony as cellist

By Paul Albani-Burgio

Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

Loveland native Allison Drenkow stands with her cello in Boston, where she received her master’s degree from the New England Conservatory. She is returning to Colorado this week to join the Colorado Symphony.

Like many musicians, Allison Drenkow’s introduction to music came in piano lessons she took during her childhood in Loveland. But when Drenkow’s parents asked her, a year into those lessons, if she wanted to try her hand at another instrument, she knew exactly which one she wanted to select: trumpet.

Except there was one problem.

“I had braces from when I was eight to when I was 18, so my dad thought trumpet might be a little bit of a painful path to take,” she said.

So Drenkow instead got started on cello. She soon found she took to the low-sounding string instrument and continued to play and progress until she eventually joined the Denver Young Artists Orchestra. Still, she said she always regarded music as a secondary interest to academics. That began to change for Drenkow when one of her cello teachers asked her if she spoke a different language during a lesson near the end of high school.

Drenkow says that when she responded that she knew some French and began to speak a few words the teacher started “relating the language to what I was playing and how to play stylistically.”


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“I had never made that connection before because I think up to that age you still think of music as playing what’s on the page rather than thinking about the context and style of a piece,” she said. “So it just kind of opened up a whole new realm that music and the imaginative scope of it are just so unlimited.”

Drenkow’s realization that she “could not think of another field (she had studied) where the possibilities were so endless and that offers such an unlimited learning process” led her to the Peabody Institute Conservatory in Baltimore. She then headed to Boston and its New England Conservatory for her master’s degree, which she recently completed.

Drenkow has also performed and studied at several music festivals, including the Pacific Music Festival in Tokyo and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra in Germany.

She then spent this summer at the Tanglewood Music Center in western Massachusetts, where she completed an intensive eight-week program that included several performances with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—and one with Yo Yo Ma.

That opportunity came during a concert during the program’s last week in which Drenkow was part of a group of musicians conducted by Boston Symphony conductor Andris Nelsons that performed a composition by famed composer John Williams (who famously conducted the music for Star Wars).

“That was definitely a highlight,” she said. “Just to have those three musical giants and be collaborating with them was really memorable.”

Now, Drenkow is getting ready to move back to Colorado this week as she prepares to enter the Colorado Symphony, which she accepted an offer to join on a one-year contract last month. Her first performance with the Colorado symphony will take place on Sept. 14.

The opportunity to join the Colorado Symphony represents a “dream first job” for Drenkow, who grew up attending the orchestra’s concerts and even working with some of its cellists while she was a member of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra.

“I can’t wait,” Drenkow said. “I have so much respect for that orchestra, and I cant wait. I cant believe I am going to be part of it.”

However, Drenkow admits joining the Colorado Symphony also feels particularly “surreal” given that her youth and music education was so different from that of many of the professional musicians she’s met at the conservatories and festivals.

Many of those musicians, attended weekly pre-college programs at schools such as Julliard while they were growing up or even sometimes flew to other states for lessons. Drenkow, though grateful for her local teachers and the many opportunities she took advantage of on the Front Range, did not have such options until she got to older and headed east.

“I don’t want to say it’s limiting being in a smaller place like Loveland, but music is such a specific feel and you’re going to explore more just by meeting people from all over,” she said. “That’s why I did those festivals.”

Still, Drenkow said her career should serve as proof that musicians can become professional musicians in major symphonies after growing up in a place like Loveland—or anywhere else.

“It’s definitely possible to come from somewhere like Loveland and take music around the world or whatever it is that you are passionate about,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter where you come from.”

Paul Albani-Burgio: 970-699-5407, palbani-burgio@reporter-herald.com