Becoming a Boulderite

April 9, 2019

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that more and more people are choosing to live in Colorado every year. The appeal of urban living at the precipice of vast expanses of nature continues to spur rapid growth of mid-sized western cities. It’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

If you didn’t grow up around mountains, it’s hard to beat that first deep breath after stepping off a plane anywhere within sniffing distance of the Rocky Mountains. It’s that air — so clean and yet complex — a little burst of lush vegetation in every inhale. As a Londoner-turned-New Yorker, it felt like I was tasting oxygen for the first time when I first visited Colorado in 1977.

But the air in Colorado, spectacular as it is, isn’t what’s been keeping me coming back over the years. It’s the energy of the people. The positivity, the unforced affability, and the ease with which they approach life — that’s what makes Colorado special. Pair that with some of the most beautiful nature the country has to offer, and you get a way of life that many people are flocking towards, myself included.

Anyway, this isn’t a fluff piece about my favourite gigantic rectangle. It’s a story about why I followed a life of music to its cozy confines.

I’m so ready to get up on that podium and help this orchestra bring another summer of beautiful music to Boulder, to Colorado, and to you.

My name is Peter Oundjian (OON-jee-ahn). I was born in Toronto, raised in South London, and schooled in New York City as a violinist. After 14 years of traveling the world with the Tokyo String Quartet, I decided to dedicate myself to orchestral conducting, which had always been an equal passion of mine.

This pursuit eventually led me back to Toronto, where I spent 14 years as the music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It has also led me to extended stints in Amsterdam, Glasgow, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Denver, among others, in various capacities at various major orchestras.

And now, I’m becoming a Boulderite. Well, not year-round. In spirit, though, full-time.

I first heard about the Colorado Music Festival two years ago when they contacted me asking if I would be interested in being their artistic advisor for the 2018 festival. I was particularly intrigued after a quick Google search revealed to me the beautiful Chatauqua Auditorium, in which the festival is held. I then requested some audio of the orchestra and was totally impressed by the integrity and expressiveness of their playing.

I was surprised that I hadn’t been aware of it. Here is this fantastic music festival in a lovely, well-known mountain town, and through my 40 years of playing violin and conducting across the United States, it had slipped under my radar.

I visited Boulder for a week in the summer of 2017 and got to know the wonderful circle of people who are dedicated to the Colorado Music Festival. I also got to hear several performances by the orchestra in that remarkable Chautauqua Auditorium, whose image I had fallen in love with from afar. I got to bask in the quality of the orchestra, the quality of the sound, and the quality of the atmosphere. During that week, it started to make sense to me why I’d never heard so much as a peep about this festival.

As much of a joy as it is to keep quiet about something truly great, that’s just not what Boulder is about anymore.

If they had wanted to put themselves on the world stage over the past 42 years, they could have turned their focus to a broader audience ages ago. But they didn’t need the rest of us. They had their town, their locals, their summer crowd, and their wonderful orchestra all to themselves. They were hiding in plain sight. And now, they — we, I should say — we want you to come and hide with us!

I officially signed on with the Colorado Music Festival earlier this year, not as an artistic advisor, but as the music director for the next five years. I’m so ready to get up on that podium and help this orchestra bring another summer of beautiful music to Boulder, to Colorado, and to you.

As much of a joy as it is to keep quiet about something truly great, that’s just not what Boulder is about anymore. It’s not what Colorado is about. I think I’m getting the hang of it.

I do hope you’ll join me in Boulder this season for the 2019 Colorado Music Festival!

Plan Your Festival Experience

Know Before You Go

Get the basics about getting to the Festival, finding parking, accessibility info, and more.

While You're Here

Learn more about the on-site experience at Chautauqua Auditorium, including your options for pre-concert dining.

Visiting Boulder

The Festival performs in beautiful Boulder, Colorado — a breathtaking location full of nature, culture, cuisine, art, and more.

Learn About Our Educational Programs


Festival Fellows

Meet the Festival Fellows: eight aspiring professional musicians who receive coaching and performance opportunities through the Festival and its guest artists.

Center for Musical Arts

This excellent community music school is also the educational arm of our organization.

Your Gift Makes the Difference

Thank you for helping us to keep the music playing.