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Strings Music Festival canceled through August

Strings Music Director Michael Sachs and the Strings Festival Orchestra perform on the Strings Pavilion stage. Strings announced all performances will be cancelled through August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 33rd annual Strings Music Festival and all Strings programming will be canceled through the end of August, Executive Director Elissa Greene announced Thursday.

“In the interest of the health of our patrons, our staff, our musicians and the community, we are cancelling all Strings Music Festival performances and events until they are safe to resume,” Greene said in the news release.

Greene said the decision was made following months of studying the COVID-19 pandemic and consulting with health officials, staff, board members and music industry colleagues.

“Strings has been a part of my life since I was 5 years old,” she said. “I’ve spent all of my summers since then enjoying beautiful music in Steamboat. I never would have imagined that, 33 years later, I would be sharing this news with you.”

Across the state and country, concert halls, smaller music venues, bars and clubs will likely be shuttered for the foreseeable future.

Many large venue concert dates across Colorado have been canceled at least through June or July.

Currently, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ public health order bans gatherings larger than 10 people.

Details of the next phase of reopening in Colorado and Routt County won’t be known for awhile, but at an April 20 press conference, Polis suggested that for a stadium gathering, there would have to be a vaccine, cure or herd immunity.

The current Centers for Disease Control guidelines recommend cancelling gatherings of more than 250 people, but they leave those decisions to the “discretion of community leadership.” The CDC also advises to take high-risk populations into consideration for gatherings of any size and advises planners to explore the options to significantly reduce the number of attendees.

The Strings Pavilion seats 569. The nonprofit offers 60% of its programs to the community for free and brings more than 100 musicians to the valley each summer, from orchestras and world-renowned classical musicians to chart-toppers from the world of pop, country and rock.

With an annual budget of $2.5 million spent primarily on staff, artists and vendors, the economic impact goes well beyond that in terms of the audiences the festival draws and associated expenditures through lodging, dining and shopping.

In Steamboat’s tourism-based economy, travel into the county from around the state, country and world continues to be a tricky challenge for local policymakers. There will likely be more cancellations of major summer events.

“While the summer festival is certainly the core of what Strings is known for, our fall, winter and spring offerings also contribute significantly to the local economy,” Greene added.

Strings employs eight year-round, full-time people and one part-time person. The summer festival involves about a dozen seasonal employees and more than 100 volunteers.

“We are fortunate that we were able to retain all of our year-round employees, who are still working hard,” Greene said. “Over a year of planning goes into each summer festival, and some of the hard work we’ve invested for 2020 will be applicable to rescheduled performances.”

And Strings staff are already lining up performers to take the stage as soon as the festival can reopen, she said.

“We can’t emphasize enough that performances will not proceed as scheduled if we have public health concerns or if gatherings are suspended in our community,” Greene explained.

Two shows that were scheduled in March have been rescheduled for the fall.

Once Strings is able to reopen, the “festival plans to offer protocols for its Pavilion and other event venues that will meet or exceed all guidelines and requirements for health and safety,” according to the release.

All events hosted by other organizations at the Pavilion have also been canceled, Greene said, as have Strings events held at other locations, including the annual Kitchen and Garden Tour and Music on the Green performances at Yampa Valley Botanic Park, among others.

“A few events are still scheduled starting in September, and for the time being, those events are expected to continue as planned,” Greene said. “However, we will continue to monitor the situation.

“Strings has always offered a refund if events must be postponed or canceled,” Greene said. “In anticipation of a future reopening, the organization has now added options for patrons to receive a credit toward future performances.”

Despite the heartbreaking announcement, Greene is looking to the future with optimism.

“While the Strings Pavilion is our marquee venue, we have become known for innovation in how and where we present our programs,” she said. “From performances in outdoor spaces to online connections between accomplished musicians and local students, we have spent more than three decades reaching our community in creative ways. This spirit of innovation will only strengthen and grow in the months ahead.”

In the meantime, Greene said Strings is curating music and education resources for the community to enjoy at home. More information can be found at stringsmusicfestival.com.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.


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