Steamboat Springs There are a lot of reasons why people stay with music.
Many of them are not unlike why people stay with drug addiction (minus, of course, the intense chemical alterations).
The shaky high from everything about a song going just right - better than it's ever gone, for an audience that really cares, will haunt you and keep you coming back. You might not ever find it again, but that doesn't mean you won't spend endless time, money and effort to get it back.
For me, that feeling has always come from playing with orchestras - but that's probably because the only ensembles I've ever played with that have been technically "good" have been huge ones with strings, winds and timpani.
Sort of embarrassingly, for five years I've been chasing the musical euphoria from a piece that wasn't even good. It was Daniel Bernard Roumain's multimedia something, "Human Songs and Stories" with the 2002 North Carolina Governor's School Orchestra.
A work that manages to be frustratingly minimalist and mind-bogglingly busy at the same time, "Human Songs" had the drama kids standing on chairs shouting original monologues and the dance students waving creepily through the audience.
I played crappy jazz riffs on the bass clarinet - the dude who practiced more got all the good solo, regular clarinet parts. I hated every second of every rehearsal, and I thought the kid playing drum kit needed to cool it, big time.
"Human Songs" was an avant-garde wash.
But its performance, which all of the school's 400 students were required to attend, was unsurpassed for me. People were crying at the end. (I have no idea why, but they were.) Way, way too many elements had somehow come together, and we were the first ones to make it happen (NC Governor's School 2K2 was the piece's unofficial premiere).
And that, somewhat questionably and circularly, is my way of saying that opportunities like the Steamboat Springs Orchestra Youth Program (featured on page 4) are a valuable part of any arts community.
What the arts need to prevent themselves from "graying" - a trend often talked about by music critics and more often optimistically denied by arts administrators - is a constant replenishment of new potential.
Music education programs, in the schools or out, are the best way to ensure new recruits. Even if 90 percent of those kids never pick up an instrument again after they leave Steamboat, the exposure to great art sticks.
In the same way anyone who plays a part in a musical theater production is forever cursed with knowing all its lyrics, every student who sits down and works out the violin parts to a Tchaikovsky symphony will have a lasting appreciation for the arts.
To make an arts community grow, you have to feed its base. Otherwise it gets old, it dies out, it "grays," and all we have left is pop with no frame of reference.