Strings Music Festival 970-879-5056

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News / Strings Music Festival Turns 25


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By Eugene Buchanan
Steamboat Living Magazine

From its humble beginnings on the deck of an athletic club to its current award-winning Strings Music Pavilion, Strings Music Festival continues to dance to the beat of its own drum, a cadence that this year sees the nonprofit celebrate its 25th anniversary.

“We’ve reached this mark through hard work, great music, an unbelievably supportive community and a great team of seven women, three of whom have been here all 25 years,” says Strings Marketing Director Cristin Frey.

In 1988, Strings was inaugurated on the deck of the Steamboat Athletic Club with a lineup of eight concerts and a $10,000 budget. “We hoped for 50 and got 150 attendees that first night,” says Frey, adding that the audience helped move the grand piano and music stands.

It operated that way for four seasons before the fire marshal said it had to limit the number of attendees or move. So in 1992, it relocated to the Torian Plum Plaza lawn, with the city purchasing a 550-seat performing arts tent for Strings to use. The investment paid off shortly thereafter when CBS Sunday Morning filmed a segment about the festival and Maestro Leonard Slatkin.

But parking became an issue, the tent was expensive to maintain and recordings were compromised by guests reveling outside. So in 2004, the organization moved to a new 6-acre site at Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads. In 2007, construction began on the 9,000-square-foot Strings Music Pavilion, which opened in June 2008 to record attendance.

Now, with its 25th birthday in the bank, it’s planning to celebrate the milestone with a lineup of special programming, spearheaded by the return for the fourth year of music directors Andrés Cárdenes and Monique Mead. “We have a lot of special programs in store to help us celebrate this special year,” Frey says. “And we owe it all to the support of the Steamboat community.”

StrongJune 23: Opening night orchestra Featuring world-renowned cellist Gary Hoffman and the official lighting of the Strings park (lights donated through Light up the Night, a fundraiser supporting local youth education programs). The park will stay lit throughout the summer season.

July 1: Free community day In 2004, MASS Ensemble helped celebrate the tent's opening, drawing nearly 1,500 people. This year the event returns, featuring yoga under the Earth harp, free interactive shows, as well as drum orb, African dance and belly dance performances.

July 7: Perry-Mansfield collaborative dance performance Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp members dance to “Roots II” by David Baker, performed by Strings musicians.

July 28: Multimedia collaborative performance Fox network producer/videographer Mike Burks creates a photochoreography presentation of landscape, wildlife, ranch and horse images from local ranchers and photographers. The presentation accompanies Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” performed by Strings musicians.

Aug. 1: Side-by-side performance: local students and professionals A small chamber orchestra of Strings musicians and local students performs Mozart’s 40th Symphony.

Aug. 17: Asleep at the Wheel The return of nine-time Grammy Award winners Asleep at the Wheel to close out the festival season in conjunction with the Steamboat All Arts Festival.