Strings Music Festival: Week’s schedule highlights stringed instruments in an imaginative way |

Strings Music Festival: Week’s schedule highlights stringed instruments in an imaginative way

Valerie Powell/For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

— A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about two of my favorite instruments, the piano and the harp, and I mentioned both can be categorized as a stringed instrument. This week, I'm going to expand on stringed instruments.

A stringed instrument is any musical instrument in which sound is produced by the vibration of a string across a soundboard or a soundbox. This vibration creates a pitch, which might be in or out of tune. Once a piano is tuned, anyone can hit a note on the keyboard, and it will be pitch perfect. String players are not so fortunate. They must develop their sense of pitch to be able to adjust each and every note to be in tune. This takes time and practice. When I played in orchestra when I was younger, the string players always were severely out of tune and quite screechy. Because of this, I never was very fond of the stringed instruments. However, I'm convinced that this week at Strings Music Festival will completely change that perception forever.

One of the most popular combinations of string instruments are string quartets and quintets. Although I have studied classical music, I still find traditional string literature boring, probably because the timbre of the piece is so similar throughout. However, on Wednesday, Sybarite5 will be playing anything but traditional string music. This group of young, talented musicians also found the traditional classical program structure to be mundane. So instead of devising a set program to play at each concert, they created "The Shuffle Effect." All of their repertoire is loaded onto one iPod, and while the group is on stage, they press "shuffle" on the iPod and play whatever piece shows up on the screen. While I think this concept is fun and interesting, what I'm most excited for is to see how they've arranged music by Radiohead and Led Zeppelin for their string quintet of two violins, a viola, a cello and a double bass.

The concept of taking string instruments out of the classical atmosphere continues on Friday night with a production by Daniel Bernard Roumain. I've had the chance to sample a tiny sliver of DBR's music during the past two years while he was here for the Strings School Days program. However, he had to shine the spotlight on the kids, so I can't wait to see his own take on mixing classical and pop music. DBR plans to start the evening like a traditional classical concert with solo acoustic violin. He then will be joined by pianist Michael Tilley and drummer Kenny Grohowski with special appearances by Sybarite5, Nnenna Freelon, the Steamboat Hula Hoop Troupe and local favorite DJ Also Starring. By the end of the night, the show will morph into a full on club with lights, bars and a lot of dancing.

Saturday night closes out the week with soulful jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon and guitar legend Earl Klugh. Tickets are almost sold out, so go online today to guarantee a seat to this intimate evening of music and stories.

The Youth Concert Series also continues Tuesday with Steve Weeks. Whether it be reggae, bluegrass or folk-hop, Weeks plays anything that he thinks kids will like. Outlandish stories accompany the music, which uses creative instruments including cans, pots and pans, and Tinker Toys. Tickets are only $1 for youths and $10 for adults.

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So if you're like me and think that string instruments are only for stuffy orchestra concerts, I invite you to attend one of these shows. After three nights of top-notch musicians showing off their string instruments in an imaginative way with inventive techniques, I am positive I will come away with an entirely new view of string instruments, and I bet you will, too.

Valerie Powell is the development and administrative assistant at Strings Music Festival. She can be reached at or 970-879-5056, ext. 111.

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