About Us

Photo credit: Bella Rose Photography

The Valley Youth Orchestra was founded in January 1999.

Over this span of time, we have had five conductors, several hundred students and countless volunteers serving as mentors, board members and volunteers to keep this program vital and alive. We provide the youth of Delta, Montrose, Mesa, Ouray and San Juan counties the opportunity to rehearse and perform with a string orchestra (a musical opportunity that is unavailable in most local public schools).

Our program grew under the guidance of conductor and violinist, Mrs. Debra TenNapel.  Laura Payne took over as conductor in 2022 when Mrs TenNapel moved.  Laura has 36 years of experience as an orchestra teacher and plays string bass & piano.  VYO offers 3 levels of ensembles and our rehearsal/concert calendar is organized by trimesters.  Each trimester has a themed concert as well as a master class.  Our master classes feature interactive experiences with local professional musicians, university faculty, and musicians traveling to southwest Colorado to perform for our local communities.  We also perform for local elementary schools on a rotating basis the first of December.

Every student who participates in the VYO is required to take private lessons.  Tuition is $125 per trimester and scholarships are available based on financial need.  

Our Board and Leadership Team continues to create positive musical experiences for our students.  Music is a healthy outlet for students and the VYO provides them a community with shared goals and interests.  We hope you will join us in providing a positive orchestral experience to the students in Southwest Colorado.

As I've played more and more - getting older, I've fallen in love with the sound of our orchestra playing together.

Julia T.Age 16, VYO participant for 8 years.

I have really enjoyed the social interaction with the music , as well as the challenge of playing in a group.

Kirstine L.Age 15, VYO participant for 2 years.

I love playing violin.

Emma G.Age 8. VYO participant for 1 season.

Orchestra has been a major role in my life and I have been able to grow not only as a musician but as a person too.

Jeffrey S.Age 17. VYO participant for 8 years

Meet our Conductor

Laura moved to Montrose from Indianapolis 2021. She brings 36 years of classroom experience teaching orchestra and music theory, as well as private instruction on piano, violin, viola, cello and string bass. Laura has her Bachelor and Masters in Music Education from Butler University (Indianapolis, Indiana).  She taught 16 years in public education in Marana (AZ), Bloomington (IN) and Noblesville (IN) and spent the past 20 years teaching at Heritage Christian School (Indianapolis).


Laura plays string bass in the Valley Symphony Orchestra and previously played in the Carmel Symphony Orchestra (Indiana) for 33 years. She held positions of Librarian, Personnel Manager and Education Director during her time with the CSO. She has experience accompanying students and enjoyed directing the Broadway musicals presented at Noblesville and Heritage Christian high schools.  Laura taught AP Music Theory for 8 years and enjoys incorporating the basics of music theory in rehearsals. She has had students represented in the Indiana All-State Orchestra as well as Side-by-Side concerts with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Her former students have studied music at Julliard, Indiana University, Butler University and Belmont University, but her proudest teacher moments are the students who have become classroom orchestra teachers in Arizona, Tennessee, Indiana and around the US.


Laura enjoys exploring the United States and camping in her 20’ travel trailer at state and national parks. She has 2 adult daughters, Stephanie and Rachel, and loves spending time with them. Laura likes to garden, bike on rail trails, day hike, snow ski and travel. Laura has been drawn to the mountains all her life and she is thrilled to find a community that values orchestral opportunities for students as well as adults.

Past Conductors

Tyme Mientka

January 1999 – June 2000

Janice Walker

July 2000 – June 2005

Prof. Kenneth Todd

July 2005 – June 2011

Debra TenNapel

June 2011-December 2021

The Valley Youth Orchestra provides a rich orchestral experience for young string musicians from Western Colorado.

The Valley Youth Orchestra is actually three string orchestras in one.

  • The Concertino I Orchestra is comprised of beginner students
  • The Philharmonic II Orchestra is comprised of intermediate students
  • The Symphonic III Chamber Orchestra is comprised of the more

All three groupings are supported by youth players from the more advanced groups and adult mentors from the Valley Symphony Orchestra.

The Valley Youth Orchestra season is organized by trimesters with a concert at the end of each trimester

  • Holiday & Classical Concert (late November/ early December)
  • Fundraising Concert & Dessert/Silent Auction (mid March)
  • Spring Concert & Senior Recognition (late April/early May)
  • Additional performances include Strings in Schools (December) and other local events

The Valley Youth Orchestra meets and performs primarily on the Western Slope of Colorado, but has members coming from all over the Western Slope.

Currently we have members from four counties – namely, Ouray, Mesa, Montrose and Delta Counties. We hope YOU will consider joining us!