RIFLE AND GLENWOOD SPRINGS — More than 20 swing dancers have been prepping for the dance floor at this weekend’s Symphony in the Valley premier gala.
Last Saturday, the all-community symphony hosted swing dance lessons for those music lovers anticipating more than a few spins on the dance floor at today and Saturday’s Symphony Swing.
“The Feb. 22 dance lessons went quite well, with eight people participating in Rifle and 14 in Glenwood Springs,” said Steve Smith, Symphony in the Valley orchestra manager.
The swing dance lessons took place in the morning at Artilluma Dance Studio in Rifle, followed by a session at Glenwood Springs High School in the afternoon. The lessons were a new idea that Smith said Artilluma Dance Studio helped get off its feet before the annual fundraising event.
“Most of the participants were already planning to attend this year’s Swing, but four decided to attend the concert/dinner because lessons were offered in advance,” Smith said. “Two attended the lessons for their own sake [will not be at Swing].”
Symphony Swing is the Symphony in the Valley’s annual formal gala that raises funds for the community-powered orchestra. Symphony in the Valley’s musicians are volunteers who spend their free time practicing and performing for holiday concerts, including Fourth of July and Christmas performances. The orchestra, established in the early ’90s, is a dynamic and ever-evolving group of the valley’s most talented classical music artists.
“This year’s Symphony Swing orchestra includes five veteran members who have played since the symphony’s first concerts in 1994,” Smith said. “Nine high school students are in the orchestra this round, including Zack Ritchie, the dazzling drummer at the center of the orchestra’s rhythm section.”
Ritchie’s music and band teacher, symphony bassist Mark Gray, recruited the percussionist and drummer as he finishes his senior year at Roaring Fork High School. Gray said the experience is beneficial as the young musicians hone their craft.
“The Symphony Swing concert requires these students to learn 35-40 pieces over a six- or seven-rehearsal period,” Gray said. “It is a lot more music than they would be exposed to in school, with less rehearsals.”
Three of Ritchie’s RFHS classmates will join him at the weekend concerts taking place at 6:30 p.m. today at the Grand River Health ballroom, Rifle and 6 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs. Senior Kevin Drudge will play trumpet; AJ Gray, a junior and Mark Gray’s son, is on trombone; and sophomore Carly Rosenthal will play the flute.
“I have been playing these concerts for 20 years,” said Gray, a professional musician who also plays with Carbondale’s popular rock, rhythm and blues band Electric Lemon. “The experience improves sight-reading, tone and musicianship.”
Including the valley’s youth in the gala helps Symphony in the Valley achieve its mission of providing a performance group for local musicians, offering a live classical music to local audiences, and fostering and encouraging the study of music by young people. Valleywide musicians in a range of ages will play Big Band swing music as gala attendees enjoy dancing, food and auction items.
“Legendary local guitarist Frank Martin will be on hand,” Smith said. “Along with bassist Ashton Taufer, also of Let Them Roar (formerly All the Pretty Horses) with Frank.”
Smith said the musicians come from throughout the area, from Aspen to Parachute.
“The players and singers variously come from Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Gypsum, New Castle, Parachute, Redstone, Rifle and Silt,” he said.
Friday and Saturday’s two fundraising concerts feature the full symphony orchestra and jazz band ensembles, as well as valley singers and The Sirens of Swing band.
“Barb Cyr and Susan Paul of the inimitable Sirens of Swing have several vocal solos,” Smith said. “The glittering Jeannie Walla has an extensive stage presence, both on vocals and as stage host. Coal Ridge High School choral programs director Nathan Wubbena has two vocal solos.”
Smith said guests can expect to swing dance to musical numbers that span a variety of tastes.
“Carbondale’s Ellen Stapenhorst will perform a special vocal solo with ukulele, accompanied by excellent local trumpeter and former local band teacher Rob Merritt,” he said.
The band will all be there.