A Little History About the Concert Series

“Salida Aspen Concert Series”
by Jean Hanfelt
May, 2014

The passage of time has brought many changes to the Arkansas Valley, some good and some bad, depending on whom one talks to.  But one thing that has remained constant is the community’s continued support of the Salida Aspen Concert series. 

This year marks the 38th anniversary of bringing fine classical music from the Aspen Music Festival sponsored by Salida Concerts, Inc. in partnership with the Music Associates of Aspen.  Because the primary source of funding comes from contributions and ad sales, with ticket sales accounting for only about 18 percent of productions costs, it is you, the donors and businesses who deserve a round of applause. 

The Salida Aspen Concert six-week series grew out of one concert that was held in July 1977 and was sponsored by U.S. Soil in conjunction with the Salida Chamber of Commerce.  The Monarch String Quartet performed at the Salida High School auditorium to a crowd of approximately 175 persons.  That inaugural concert was well received by the community  thus providing U.S. Soil the impetus to initiate a six-week concert series  the following summer  of 1978. 

Edgar Stearns, the chairman of the board of the Music Associates of Aspen, and Jan Collins, the organization’s business manager, attended the last concert on August 5, 1978.  They were both enthralled with the warm hospitality extended them and the musicians.  Another six-week concert series followed in 1979.  After having applied for and receiving a grant from the Colorado Council for the Arts and Humanities in the amount of $6,000, legal steps were initiated to incorporate Salida Aspen Concerts as a tax free entity, no longer under the wing of Music Associates of Aspen (MAA.) The original Articles of Incorporation were issued to Salida Concerts, Inc. on July 31, 1980, by the Colorado Secretary of State.  A local Board of Directors was set up who applied for and received the 501-c-3, not-for-profit designation in February 1982.    

The August 7, 1980, Aspen Times newspaper carried a full page article with a by-line by Pauli Hayes which reads in part, “Salida, Colorado.  At first glance just another small rural town in the ranch country.  The town has changed as little as anywhere, the old-timers say.  An old railroad town, it seems no longer to have much reason to exist because the trains are long gone.  It was once the bustling crossroads of the narrow gauge, the D&RG and the South Park railroads, dependent on mining and the trains for its vitality.  Now it is a small town with saloons flashing neon signs next to family-run Italian restaurants and old Victorian buildings.”  . . . “She could almost be considered a sister city to Aspen.  Like Aspen, Salida celebrated a Centennial anniversary this year.  Like Aspen, she has an elevation of about 7,900 feet, and a permanent population of somewhere around 6,000 residents.  And like Aspen, Salida is steeped in classical music  . . . The Aspen Music Festival three years ago began an experiment, a musical outreach program to take classical music to Salida, and if successful, to other small rural communities in Colorado . . . “

Three months later, on November 23, 1980, the Sunday Denver Post ROUNDUP carried a full length feature story titled, “Outreach Unifies Cultural Needs, Program Benefits Western Slope Towns” by Laura Daily as a Special to The Denver Post, which read in part, “Art leaders in Western Slope communities have been meeting in Grand Junction since early October to discuss the formation of an arts consortium.  The meetings are unusual because they aren’t under the guidance of the Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities but are being piloted and coordinated by the Music Associates of Aspen (MAA), sponsors of the Aspen Music Festival and School. For three years the Music Associates of Aspen (MAA) has offered concerts in rural communities.  Salida was the first community to propose a series of MAA Outreach concerts.  Joe E. Lionelle, vice president of U.S. Soil, sponsored the first concert in the small town.  The Salida Concerts Series is the model which MAA uses to demonstrate the success of Outreach, says Janice Collins.  Outreach became a part of that town—a social event.  Now Salida has a non-profit organization designed to sponsor the concerts and a music association.  This is what MAA would like to encourage other communities to do. It used to be that only towns of significant size with predominantly professional people could afford to have performances of classical music.  Now, there’s no reason why any community can’t sponsor a music series for its people— and the rest is history.”
The charter board members were Janice Collins and Edgar B. Stern, Jr. of Aspen and Joe E. Lionelle, Raymond O. Hosford and George Howerton of Salida.  A retired artist from the Chicago area, Mr. Hosford designed the Aspen leaf and red heart logo.     

Following the resignations of Janice Collins and Edgar Stearn of Aspen after Salida Concerts, Inc. became a separate entity, Charles Melien, Jeffrey Snyder, and John Held were elected to the board and served for many years.  In its 38-year history, other persons who have served on the board in order of their service are:  Sherla Alberola, Howard Goff, Georgiana Smith, Lori Denoyer, Norma Hess, Saba McWilliams, William Fagala, Arlin Buller, Dan Downing (Nathrop), Virginia Imig, Nancy Markman, Dave Sanger, Jim Moore (Buena Vista), Rod Schleicher, Don Moffett, Ron Slaughter, Russell Colling, Jennifer Davis (Buena Vista), Marvin Ebel, (Nathrop), Barbara Workman, David Scholz, Barbara Evans, Lucia Hand, PJ Bergin, Fred Swart (Buena Vista), Bob VanDeWater, David Clark, and Harry Spencer.  The present board members are:   Elaine Adams, Don Bauder, Susan Jesuroga, Earle Kittleman, Kate Larkin, Judy Litz,  Ernest Marquez and John Samson. 

Persons who have served as president of the Board of Directors are:  Joe E. Lionelle (1981 through 1982), Charles Melien (1983 through 1991), Jeffrey Snyder (1992 through 1993), Georgiana Smith (1994 through 1996), Lori Denoyer (1997 through 1998), David Sanger (1999 through 2000), David Clark (2001 through 2012) and Kate Larkin (2013 to present). 

In 1983 the Board enlisted the help of volunteers under the direction of a Volunteer Coordinator to assist with the many jobs required to put on these concert series.  Volunteer Coordinators have been Georgiana Smith, Sherla Alberola, Lori Denoyer, Barbara Workman, Barbara Evans, Judy Litz. and presently,  Elaine Adams.  Jean Hanfelt was hired as contract labor in 1991 to succeed Barbara Snyder.  Her duties have expanded over the years to include editor of the Program Book since 2000, organization’s historian, and ad sales chairperson, in addition to  managing the finances.   

Forrest Miller was the first Outreach Program Coordinator of the Music Associates of Aspen.  He was responsible for transporting artists from Aspen over Independence Pass (no small feat in the days when the Pass was still a graveled road) to Salida for the evening’s performance.  

Robert Biddlecome served as Aspen’s coordinator from 1980 through 2001.   He began creating the six-week program while still in New York City communicating with the Salida liaison person by phone.  Salida audiences knew him as a long-time member of the America Brass Quintet from 1963 until his retirement in 1990.    

Deborah Barnekow, Aspen’s Director of Educational Outreach, as well as a musician and composer, succeeded Robert Biddlecome in 2002.  Deborah and her assistant David Jones drove the musicians over Independence Pass because  “her kids” sometimes needed the guidance of an adult. Deborah left the Aspen Music School and Festival the fall of 2013

Asadour Santorian, vice president for artistic administration and artistic advisor at the festival and school is coordinating our  artists and schedule.  Both he and CEO Alan Fletcher are committed to the Salida Aspen Concert series.

In 2000, the Board created a Scholarship Program to benefit area students in an effort to encourage the musical development of our young people.  Please check the Scholarship Page for a list of the recipients which have included high school graduating students from Salida and Buena Vista.

The roster of great performers is impressive.  One of the favorites, and adopted sons, are members of the ABQ (American Brass Quintet) who made their first appearance July 7, 1979,  and have returned every year with the exception of one season. The quintet has been in residence at The Juilliard School since 1987 and at the Aspen Music Festival since 1970.

Rita Sloan, a Russian-born pianist, is acknowledged internationally as a leading teacher of piano, collaborative piano and chamber music.  As an Artist Faculty Member at the Aspen Music Festival, Ms. Sloan founded their Collaborative Piano Program and has performed as soloist with both the Aspen Festival Orchestra and Chamber Symphony as well as in chamber music.  
She made her debut performance in Salida in 1982, returning in 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2006, 2007 and 2011 with Wu Han and students.  

The August 7, 1986 Pueblo Chieftain headline reads, “Salida concert will feature 15-year-old violin virtuoso.  Gil Shaham made his first solo appearance with the Jerusalem Symphony in Israel when he was ten years old.  The young man now lives in New York where he attends the Juilliard School of Music.  Now, almost thirty years later, Gil Shaham is internationally recognized by audiences and critics alike as one of today’s most virtuosic and engaging classical artist."

The July 15, 1988 Mountain Mail headlines reads, “Lyric Soprano and accompaniment perform Saturday.  Renee Fleming, lyric soprano and this year’s winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions will be the featured attraction at the second Salida Aspen Concert Saturday."  Now twenty five years later, Ms. Fleming is acclaimed by the press as “one of the truly magnificent voices of our time.  Renowned for her commanding musicianship, she has cultivated a devoted following worldwide.

A young Japanese-American pianist, Akira Eguchi, was heard for the first time in Salida in 1990.  Other performances followed in 1991 and in 1993.  

Cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han performed in 2001, 2003 and 2006.  Wu Han performed sol in 2002, with the Degas Quartet in 2005 and with Rita Sloan and Students in 2011.

A recent favorite is Korean born Joyce Yang, known as “the most gifted pianist of her generation,” has played here six times since 2007 and loves Chaffee County. She returns this summer in concert with Pablo Sainz, guitar, and Augustin Hadlich, violin. 

Other artists of great acclaim who have performed in Salida include violinists Robert McDuffie, Livia Sohn, David Perry, Mark Peskano, Dimitri Berlinsky, Adele Anthony and David Halen, harpist Nancy Allen, flutists Barli Nugent (1978 through 1984, 1989, 1994 and again in 2001)  Nadine Asin, pianists Ann Schein and Ingrid Filter.   And who can forget Edgar Meyer, double bass, who enriched our stage in 2006 and in 2013.  In recent years, Salida Aspen Concerts has featured three of today’s most famous young pianists: Jeremy Denk, who doubles as a writer for the New Yorker; Simone Dinnersein, whose Bach recordings have gone to the top of the charts, and Inon Barnatan, now one of the best known interpreters of Schubert. The list of great performers goes on and on.  In its 38th year history, two hundred thirteen groups including solos, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, and vocalists have come over Independence Pass to perform for our audiences.