If you go
What: Opening night of the Strings Pavilion, with "Two Pianos, Eight Hands: A Keyboard Extravaganza," featuring pianists Alpin Hong, Cary Lewis, Erika Nickrenz and Jade Simmons
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Strings Pavilion, off of Pine Grove Road
Call: 879-5056, ext. 105 for the Strings box office
Online: For a full-season schedule and to hear music samples from the dozens of artists performing in the Strings Pavilion this summer, go to www.stringsmusicf...>
What: Community open house at the Strings Pavilion
When: 4:30 to 7 p.m. July 1
Where: Strings Pavilion, off of Pine Grove Road
Steamboat Springs Kay Clagett is keenly aware of what went into the new home for Strings Music Festival.
"Nine months, two weeks, 500 inches of snow and wind like you can't believe" brought the project to completion, said Clagett, the summer music festival's executive director.
On Saturday, the $4.3 million Strings Pavilion will open its doors to the public for the first time, with a show-stopping performance featuring two pianos and four people playing them.
A week and a half before the opening, Clagett and Julie Taulman, director of marketing and public relations for Strings, sat in the nearly finished venue. Sitting is not something these two have done much of lately.
"We have been crazed trying to get this done," Taulman said, adding that a few days before, the Strings office staff had been put to work unloading a semitrailer of the plush chairs that fill the pavilion's house.
"Everyone has done everything. They're all wearing many hats, other than their own, to make sure this thing opens on time," she said.
With seating for more than 500 people, the Strings Pavilion takes up about as much space as the old tent, but slanted walkways on either side of the seating area give it more width. The stage is deeper, with room for 45 musicians instead of the previous maximum of 23, and an extensive backstage and green room area has replaced the old musicians' trailer.
Clagett said when the first group of Strings volunteers came in two weeks before opening night, all eyes went to the ceiling.
"They walked in, and everybody's head immediately went up," she said. "They realized that it's the same footprint as the old tent, but it feels three to four times as big."
The bowed ceilings also enhance the building's acoustics, containing sound and nurturing it, instead of trapping it within fiberglass tent flaps.
Andres Cardenes, a part-time Steamboat Springs resident who has played violin with Strings for more than a decade and has been concertmaster for the Pittsburgh Symphony since 1988, described the pavilion's acoustics in one word: "incredible."
The first person to play in the new venue, Cardenes said there really is no fair way to compare the $4.3 million building to the Strings Tent.
"Truly you're talking about a very limited venue," Cardenes said about the large concert tent that served Strings from 1992 to 2007.
"You had limitations in space, limitations in acoustics, limitations with inclement weather. The logistics were very complicated. From that standpoint, the tent had its limitations. But it was a beautiful tent, and it was wonderful while it was there," Cardenes said.
"It was something that was very much a part of Steamboat culture, to have the tent and have the music there. But Steamboat has changed, and the way it's changed is that it's become a place for a lot of different things now. And I think the pavilion will become a beacon to attract people here," he said.
The tent was designed by Bill Rangitsch of Steamboat Architectural Associates to look like the inside of a stringed instrument, with Spearhead Timberworks handling the construction. It's cooled with a massive and almost completely soundless air-conditioning system, and walls of sliding windows block out environmental noise. Both features allow for higher quality concert recordings.
"The whole thing was conceived, from architectural design to the way that first musician who sets foot on stage feels, to be about music," Clagett said.
A community effort
Funded entirely by community donations, the pavilion truly is for the people who enjoy Strings Music Festival, Taulman said.
"People have sent in checks for $10 all the way up. It's not just huge, large checks that have made this happen," she said. Strings is working on raising money for a $500,000 building maintenance fund, included in the pavilion's $4.3 million price tag.
Clagett said the pavilion will fit Strings Music Festival for generations to come and that everyone involved is eager for the community to see the facility. For now, the space will be used only during the summer, and only for Strings concerts, which fill the calendar almost every day of the week for about two months.
"What we want to do is see what the operating costs are for the summer. We have to get our hands around operating a building now. It's kind of a one step at a time thing, but we hope that, that might work out," Clagett said about using the building outside of the summer season. With no indoor bathrooms, that kind of use could present logistical problems for the pavilion.
Exactly how the hall will sound remains to be seen until it's filled with people, Cardenes said. For now, he is delighted.
"I think we're still taking baby steps in that place, but the initial feeling was really wonderful," Cardenes said.
"I've played in hundreds and hundreds of halls - if not thousands of halls across the world - and this sets up favorably compared to some of the venues I've played in, especially venues that size."