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Steamboat Magazine

Artscape - S03

07/01/2003 01:00AM ● By Anonymous

Summer 2003:

Artscape - S03

Starting with a blank violin    Artists are used to starting with a blank canvas, but a blank violin? Strings in the Mountains summer music series gave violins to 16 artists last winter and challenged them to create artwork for the 2003 summer season.    The results are surprising, amusing, even astounding. “I am absolutely, completely knocked out,” says Sheri Steiner of Strings. “Unbelievable.”     Each day as the deadline for artists to turn in their work approached was like Christmas, Sheri says. The staff gathered around the incoming packages and watched as they were unwrapped. One box practically filled the lobby of the Strings’ offices. Hoon earth could a violin take up so much space?    Easily, if the artwork was a Picassoesque sculpture of a musician cradling the violin, as was the piece created by Wayne Salge.    Some artists took their inspiration from floral designs; one turned to dance; one created a cowboy cartoon. Steamboat’s elegant aspens are the focus of more than one creation. Music, itself, became the theme of one violin.    In all, what were once 16 look-alike violins have been transformed into 16 diverse, colorful pieces of art. They will be auctioned off at the end of the String’s summer season as fund-raisers for the organization.    Strings’ president Kay Clagett conceived the idea and coordinated the project. “It’s been a wonderful experience, working with the enormously talented artists who contributed to the concept of ‘16 violins.’ Their musical artistry produced a very unique marketing image for the festival’s 16th season. We hope everyone will take a look and perhaps bid on one of the ‘Sweet 16,’” Kay says.     The violins are on display at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort’s Wild Horse Gallery.Backcountry hiker by day, musician by night     Passionate about music, young adults come to the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory in Steamboat Springs expecting rigorous training and demanding instructors.      What they don’t expect is to be lured away from their instruments by the beauty of their surroundings.      “One of my best memories is seeing young musicians respond to Fish Creek Canyon the same way I do,” says J.R. Bernard, whose wife, Olive, teaches harp at the Conservatory.        String musicians and harpists from throughout the country audition for the Conservatory’s four summer sessions. Students range from pre-adolescents to music majors in college. They study and live at the Lowell Whiteman School in Strawberry Park, where they attend private lessons, perform in ensembles and practice for a minimum of three hours a day.        For most, the minimum is not the problem, the maximum is. To ensure that the forestland outside the school’s door provides more than a backdrop for study, students are limited to five hours of daily practice. Nature photography, hiking and tae kwon do are among the activities that round out the Steamboat experience.         Their teachers are renowned concert performers — “intimidatingly re-nowned,” J.R. quips. Ernest Richardson, the Conservatory’s founder and artistic director, is the resident conductor of the Omaha Symphony. He has guest conducted symphonies in Battle Creek, Jacksonville, Cheyenne and Fort Collins, as well as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.        The faculty “roughs it” with students in the Whiteman dorm. “They love to come to Steamboat,” Olive says. “They love the activities, the friendships. They are very committed teachers.”         The public has a chance to hear the Conservatory’s most talented students, and their teachers, perform at 14 free community concerts. Some recitals are held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Old Town, others at the Whiteman recital hall.         For concert dates, log on to Opera in a cotown?      Steamboat Springs’ cultural scene takes on a nedimension this summer, when Emerald City Opera presents its first full-length opera, “The Magic Flute,” by Mozart.        Soprano Keri Rusthoi founded Emerald City Opera in 2002, ten years after she first visited Steamboat Springs. “I was pursuing my career in Europe – I love Europe – but Steamboat Springs is where I want to live,” she says. “The greatest thing about Steamboat is that people are always willing to try something new.”        Several singers from the Metropolitan Opera in NeYork will headline ECO’s production of “The Magic Flute” Aug. 15-17. Devonne Douglas, LeRoy Lehr and David Malis are slated to sing, along with Dominique Moralez, tenor of the Florida Grand Opera. Keri sings in the opera, too.        “I want to make this first opera totally easy for the audience to get into,” Keri says. “We are doing it in English. It’s a singspiel, which means it has spoken dialog. It’s a comedy with other, deeper levels. Everyone from real opera aficionados to complete neophytes can enjoy it.”         Several Steamboat singers are slated to perform, along with members of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Orchestra, who comprise about half the opera’s orchestra. “At first I thought, ‘Let’s just do an opera.’ But it has evolved. Why put together that kind of infrastructure for one night? We might as well put together a company,” Keri reasoned.        “Twenty- to 35-year-olds are the fastest growing age group of opera lovers,” Keri says. “It’s pure multi-media – great sets, great costumes, great music. Plus there’s the immediacy of the vocal aspect. Voice is a human instrument that touches people the way no other instrument really does. Plus there’s the social aspect. You get to dress up and experience a fine performance and perhaps top off the evening with fine wine.”          For ticket information, call 879-1996 or log on to}