Strings says 'thank you' at Sponsors' Concert

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— More than 600 sponsors help Strings in the Mountains produce an annual six-week summer season of world-renowned musicians for locals and visitors to Steamboat Springs. Monday night was a time of giving back.

Kay Clagett, president and chief executive officer of Strings, said these high-caliber musicians would not have come to the annual festival of music if individual, private and commercial sponsorship did not exist.

"This is what we do to thank them," Clagett said of the sponsors who have given $50 or more to Strings.

Dasha Duvian of Steamboat said watching Strings grow over the past 13 years has been a thrill.

"From little music get-togethers at Storm Mountain to almost outgrowing this tent ...," said Duvian, a financial and volunteer donor.

Strings hosts 67 events during the summer, more than 80 throughout the year, with more than 170 musicians.

Clagett said Monday night will be the most attended event Strings has seen yet, and numbers will continue to grow each year.

Executive Director Betse Grassby said she was impressed with the excitement resounding through the community for Strings.

"Rick Mills just handed me a check for $100 because he said he's been so impressed with the music this year," Grassby said. "Thank you all so very much for your help. This is your festival."

The nearly full tent sent financial and volunteer donors applauding for renowned musicians who created a night celebrating youth in the community.

Pianist Katherine Collier and 15-year-old flutist Brittany Lamb of Steamboat presented Fantasie Pastorale Hongroise for Flute and Piano, Op. 26. Lamb recently won the national award in the Woodwind Division of the Music Teachers National Association Junior High School Performance Competition.

"She's kind of grown up with Strings and taken master classes from professional performers," Clagett said.

"We've taken a pretty sincere interest in her talent. It's a natural evolution."

Pianist Phillip Bush played three pieces before Claude Debussy's two movements from the string quartet in G Minor, Op. 10 by Miami String Quartet.

Jazz artist Nnenna Freelon gave the audience a sweeping display of classic jazz with a young vibrance.

Freelon, along with her traveling band Takana Miyamoto on piano, Wayne Batchelor on stand up bass, Woody Williams on drums and Beverly Botsford on percussion graciously accepted to do a workshop with the Steamboat Springs Youth Chorus preceding Monday night's Sponsors' Concert.

As she and her crew spoke to the students about composing music and the life of a musician, Freelon sang a few songs and helped the students create one of their own.

"Let's compose a little piece here. We're doing the impossible 15 people writing a song," Freelon said, adding she mostly covers songs from before her time.

With three children of her own and a family of educators, Freelon said spreading her wings to work with children has never been difficult.

"My work with children is part of what I do, it's not something else on the side. It flows out of performing," Freelon said.

The Boston-born jazz artist said she began singing professionally about 18 years ago and is now the national spokeswoman for Partners in Education.

"Children need to understand the cultural depth that is America. They are our artistic and cultural gifts," Freelon said to the audience Monday night.

"If their hands were on a drum or their fingers writing a creative piece or standing on their tip toes learning position one and position two they would not have the time for drugs and violence."

Freelon and her band travel around the United States conducting workshops that not only entail creating and composing new pieces, but giving future musicians a realistic glimpse into the life of a performer.

"It's something I can see tangible benefits from," Freelon said.

Because of Freelon's desire to work with children, she has invited children to participate in two of her three Strings performances.

Freelon sang two solo pieces, "Better Than Anything" and "Just in Time," before inviting the Youth Chorus to join her for a group effort in her original "One Child at a Time."

"We always try to do something special with a wide variety of items," Clagett said. "And our large focus is children."

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