Concert, workshops highlight composer’s visit to Northwest Colorado |

Concert, workshops highlight composer’s visit to Northwest Colorado

Nicole Inglis

— On a clean whiteboard in the Steamboat Springs High School band room, New York-based musician and composer Daniel Bernard Roumain scribbled a series of dots, squiggly lines, spirals and unintelligible symbols with a squeaky blue marker.

He turned to the audience of high school musicians, teachers and visiting students and asked them to play it.

It wasn't music he had written on that board, but it would become music as soon as the group opened their mouths.

"Most music is not notated," the contemporary violin player told the audience. "Most music in the world is handed over.

"Everything around us is a musical score."

Aside from a chorus chanting strange guttural sounds (what does a squiggly line sound like, anyway?), Tuesday's workshop begot improvised duets, comparisons of song to the journey of life and a beautiful D natural on piano played by a student who never had touched the instrument before.

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The session was part of the kickoff to the 2012-13 Strings School Days program. This week, Roumain visited schools in Steamboat, South Routt, Hayden and Craig for workshops with school ensembles, introducing them to his conceptual approach to music.

He'll return next January to introduce the group to an original piece, and then the groups will perform in May 2013, culminating the third Strings School Days program.

Roumain himself, who goes by DBR, will perform a free show at 7 p.m. Friday at Strings Music Pavilion.

His improvisational method will take center stage, evidenced by the fact that on Tuesday he still wasn't sure exactly what he planned to do.

He said there might be cameo appearances from local professional musicians and students he has met throughout the week. He might bring along dancers or other performers to "jam" with him onstage, and he might leave the stage altogether for moments.

In the classroom, Roumain's voice gets quieter the more important his words become. But they weren't lost on the students, who leaned over their instruments to catch his poignant and profound phrases.

Several students said Roumain offered them a new perspective.

"Normally, we're just reading sheet music," Daniel Rhodes said.

His fellow freshman Zack Stewart said it was the most unique approach he'd ever seen to learning music.

"Anybody in the world could play music like that and understand it," he said, gesturing to the whiteboard.

At one point during the class, Roumain had student Kelly Ernst, a clarinet player, stand. He put his violin up to his chin, and with no other direction said, "Let's just make music."

They stared at one another for a moment, before Roumain started tapping out a rhythm on his violin. Ernst joined in with a wistful, simple melody, over which Roumain's violin notes soared.

Roumain said the experiences of the workshop aren't just musical. It's an education that translates into every aspect of life.

"There's a life practice, a way to live life," he said. "And there's a performing practice that can be applied to life.

"The performing arts can be applied to the living arts."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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