With artists like Melissa Etheridge in its lineup, how does Strings Music Festival book a season?

Staff takes community-first approach to create a wide array of offerings

John Camponeschi
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
The staff at Strings Music Festival take a breather to celebrate the holidays.
Strings Music Festival/Courtesy photo

Katie Carroll, director of programs at the Strings Music Festival, has felt the power of music in a way that only a mother can.

The power of music was also felt by her children, even before they were born.

“I first felt my son kick when I was at an orchestra concert at Strings, which was really special,” Carroll recalled. “With my baby daughter, she wasn’t moving a lot towards the end of my pregnancy, but I would always feel her whenever I was at a concert at work.”

Those moments became driving factors in Carroll’s professional quest to ensure other people can feel that same level of power and connection with music. 

Carroll works alongside a dedicated staff to ensure the music offerings at Strings meet the interests of the community, while also supporting the mission and vision of the organization. 

“There is a lot of conversation around making sure that we’re representing this community’s values and abilities to participate in live music,” Carroll said. “That is always No. 1.”

Carroll works off “gut and instinct” while also collaborating with Strings staff to ensure that every show meets the diverse music needs of listeners throughout the Yampa Valley. She said the staff has a wide range of musical interests, as well as concert experiences, and both play into the collective decision-making process regarding artists.

Additionally, Carroll said the organization tries to book artists at different levels of “fame,” thus ensuring affordability to listeners and exposure for established and new artists alike.  

After internal discussions, the organization reaches out to a talent buyer based in Boulder. The talent buyer then looks at who is on tour and in the area during desired times in order to coordinate a booking opportunity.

A unique aspect of the process is that the talent buyer also works for the 10 Mile Music Hall in Frisco as well as for other performance spaces in Colorado. Owing to that fact, it is possible for multiple venues that are in close proximity to each other to coordinate and book an artist, which is attractive to the musicians while being advantageous to the venues as well. 

“It’s good for the artist and their tours because they can be in a similar area with different ticket-buying audiences,” Carroll said.

Another aspect that attracts artists to Strings is the professionalism, talent and expertise of the staff, particularly the technical crew. Carroll explained that the reputation of Strings often “precedes them” during the booking process.  

Among the booked artists are many who have played the venue before and are enthusiastic to return. This is due to the incredible love that they feel from Yampa Valley listeners, and for the amenities that the community offers.

One of those artists is Melissa Etheridge, who is coming back to Strings for the third time on July 5. 

The Yampa Valley is an attractive location for artists who are touring with their children and loved ones as well. Owing to immense opportunities for outdoor recreation, many musicians decide to bring their families with them so they can enjoy the area as well. 

In regards to what shows have proven to be hot bookings recently, Carroll did not hesitate to say, “Steamboat always loves bluegrass.” Talking about why that love runs so deep, she explained that Colorado has strong roots in the genre, both as listeners and as a location from which many bluegrass bands emerge. 

“I think it is part of the musical heritage that we are existing in,” Carroll said. “We are lucky that great bluegrass bands tour through here, are from here and want to be here. I think there is something magical about bluegrass.”

Carroll said the “magic” on stage during a bluegrass concert is hard to rival, especially as artists come together to improvise while also bringing a high level of energy. She likened that on-stage improvisation, energy and ability to “create in the moment” to the special interconnected nature of the communities and demographics of the Yampa Valley. 

“I feel that people in our communities are doing that while living in northwest Colorado,” Carroll said.

Audience members celebrate music and community at a recent Moe concert at Strings.
Strings Music Festival/Courtesy photo

Beyond bluegrass, Strings strives to present a wide range of musical offerings. That “cross sampling,” as Carroll calls it, addresses the diverse musical background of the area as a whole, with the ultimate goal being to provide several shows that would excite almost any listener.

While Strings puts a focus on performances during the peak seasons of the year, Strings also works to ensure free community programming during the less busy shoulder seasons. 

These community-centered approaches result in quality lineups being offered at a sustainable level year-round. Strings also looks to present events that are affordable with $25 seats available to their classical concerts and low price points for other performances.  

Moving forward, Strings intends to adapt to the changes that are occurring in the community. These include the demographics of the audience, shifts in ticket sales and adapting to the lives of Yampa Valley residents and visitors. 

One of those shifts revolves around ensuring that family events are available, especially during the more busy times of year for parents and community youth. This has led to offerings during the shoulder season, when major community youth programs such as Winter Sports Club and soccer are not occurring.

“We want to be in time with the heartbeat of our community,” Carroll said. “That’s an ongoing process.” 

For more, go to or call 970-879-5056.

Summer lineup

Strings Music Festival is planning the following performances for the 2024 summer season.

• June 21 — Emmylou Harris. Tickets start at $210.

• June 22 — Opening Night Orchestra: Beethoven Symphony No. 3. Tickets start at $65.

• June 26 — Classical Piano Trio and Quintet. Tickets start at $35.

• June 29 — The Hits: Classical Favorites You Know and Love. Pay what you can.

• July 3 — Boston Brass with Special Guests. Tickets start at $40.

• July 5 — Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken Tour. Tickets start at $145

• July 6 — Christopher Taylor, ’93 Cliburn Bronze: Solo Piano Recital. Tickets start at $30.

• July 7 — Brent Rowan and Friends. Tickets start at $85

• July 10 — Jason Vieaux: Solo Guitar. Tickets start at $35

• July 12 — Squirrel Nut Zippers Present Jazz from the Back O’ Town. Tickets start at $50.

• July 13 — Busch Trio. Student Night. Tickets start at $30.

• July 14 — The Mavericks —  Moon & Stars Summer Tour ’24. Tickets start at $95.

• July 17 — Thalea String Quartet. Tickets start at $35.

• July 18 — DeVotchKa. Tickets start at $50.

• July 19 — Steep Canyon Rangers. Tickets start at $50.

• July 20 — Ruckus. Tickets start at $50.

• July 21 — Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Tickets start at $45.

• July 23 — Watchhouse. Tickets start at $75.

• July 24 — When the Violin. Tickets start at $35.

• July 27 — Strings at Strings. Tickets start at $45.

• July 28 — Danish String Quartet and Stundom. Tickets start at $40.

• July 29 — Danish String Quartet. Pay What You Can.

• July 31 — Soprano Joélle Harvey. Tickets start at $65.

• Aug. 1 — Asleep at the Wheel. Tickets start at $60.

• Aug. 2 — Ben Folds. Tickets start at $99.

• Aug. 3 — Orchestra Finale: Mahler Symphony No. 4. Tickets start at $65.

• Aug. 8 — Cimafunk. Tickets start at $25.

• Aug. 16 — Shakey Graves. Tickets start at $80.

• Aug. 18 — The Crane Wives. Tickets start at $30.

• Aug. 22 — Gipsy Kings featuring Nicolas Reyes. Tickets start at $143.

• Aug. 24 — The Fretliners. Tickets start at $30.

• Aug. 25 — Melvin Seals & JGB. Tickets start at $65.

• Sept. 6 — The National Parks. Tickets start at $25.

• Sept. 22 — The Longest Johns. Tickets start at $31.

• Oct. 4 — Doctor Noize and Justin Roberts. Show beings at 5:30 p.m. Tickets start at $20, $10 for youth ages 3-18 and $1 for children ages 0-2.

• Oct. 20 — Hotel Elsinore. Tickets start at $20.

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