Symphony in the Valley to host big band performances in Garfield County

Symphony in the Valley conductor Kelly Thompson leads members of the band during a rehearsal in New Castle last week.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

A volunteer symphony is getting ready to host a pair of big band performances for Mother’s Day weekend.

Symphony in the Valley, a consortium of musicians from throughout the Western Slope, is slated to perform its annual “Symphony Swing” gala events.

Each performance encourages attendees to dress in Roaring ’20s-era attire while they dance and listen to all sorts of live big band music, musical director and conductor Kelly Thompson said.

“The tunes are full orchestra,” he said. “We have some (tunes) that are what would be considered the traditional big band of the saxes, trumpets, trombones, rhythm section and typically a singer, in our case.”

The first Symphony Swing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Ute Theater and Events Center, 132 E. Fourth St. in Rifle. The second event, which is already sold out, takes place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at New Hope Church, 880 Castle Valley Blvd., in New Castle.

Tickets can be purchased at

“We’re encouraging everyone to wear Roaring ’20s attire, but it’s certainly not a requirement,” Thompson said. “But it’s a nice dinner and an evening out, so dressing up is definitely recommended.”

“If you’ve got a flapper dress or a fancy zoot suit for the guys, that works too.”

Members of symphony in the Valley take part in a rehearsal in New Castle.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

Symphony in the Valley Orchestra Manager Alexandra Braeger said this weekend’s events aim to promote musical interests for local youth. Each year Symphony in the Valley uses funds raised for the gala to acquire musical instruments and provide private lessons to students in need.

“We’re hoping that program expands to music educators in the area, in the event their program doesn’t have an instrument to provide to that student,” she said.

Braeger also said there is a lack of orchestra programs — especially for string instruments — in the area. This means students learning instruments must seek outside tutors and instructors.

Through its Student Enrichment Program, Symphony in the Valley partners with music teachers in identifying students with a particular promise in their instrument. Those students are then given private lessons by Symphony in the Valley members themselves or by private teachers, Braeger said.

Symphony in the Valley conductor Kelly Thompson talks with members of the band during a rehearsal in New Castle last week.
Chelsea Self/Citizen Telegram

“Right now we have one student that’s been participating. He’s in Roaring Fork High School, taking private lessons in upright string bass,” she said. “We have another student at Rifle Middle School who will be moving to Rifle High School next year. We’re just getting ready to start her in the program.”

Symphony in the Valley was established in 1993, and has hosted the gala since the mid-2000s, Thompson said. The annual events deviate from the classical music sense with its upbeat jazz ensembles and syncopated rhythms.

“We’ve been doing it for a good 15 years-plus, and it’s been really fun, and we really enjoy doing this,” Thompson said. “Obviously the symphony typically does a lot of classical-style music, and this is our time to do something a little bit different.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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