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The Symphony is Coming!

By Mike Rosso

A chance dinner at a Denver restaurant has led to a commitment by Colorado’s premier symphony for a number of upcoming performances in remote Salida.

Colorado Symphony (CS) president and CEO Gene Sobczak was working with the CS board to develop a new strategy to branch out from the Denver metro area to become more of a statewide, and more accessible orchestra. Sobczak had met Salida resident and KHEN community radio volunteer Irving Kirsch several years earlier and contacted him about a meeting to discuss possible collaborative efforts. Sobczak, a huge fan of community radio, proposed to Kirsch an opportunity for the two entities to join forces in an effort to bring more of the highest quality classical music to Salida. Sobczak considers the collaboration a “laboratory experiment” reflecting on “how we could have a longitudinal, continual presence in the community.”

Photo by Steve Peterson

KHEN/CS then put together a steering committee to help make the multi-year collaboration a reality. There is also hope to capitalize on Salida’s new designation as a “Creative District” – one of only two in the state. Sobczak also suggested Salida was chosen because there were, “enough of the right people who want to make it happen” in the community.

KHEN community radio is a non-profit 100-watt low-power FM radio station started by a group of volunteers in 2003 with the hope of serving the underrepresented voices of the community. Nine years later the station is still clucking with the majority of staff represented by volunteers. They consider the collaboration a way to reinforce KHEN’s role as “a vital community asset and voice, and will enhance Salida’s reputation as a destination to hear the finest classical music,” according to Scott Adams, KHEN board and CS steering committee member. A new KHEN radio program dedicated exclusively to recordings of the CS is currently being developed to commence in Fall 2012.

The collaboration also allows the CS to move towards one of its goals of becoming a truly statewide orchestra in Colorado, serving all citizens, both urban and rural. The series will also be promoted statewide in the hopes of drawing classical music fans from around Colorado to Salida.

The Colorado Symphony traces its roots back 90 years as Denver has had its own symphony orchestra for that long, but in 1989 the Denver Symphony Orchestra, a for-profit organization, ran into hard times and declared bankruptcy. But the musicians, staff and board were having none of that and in 1990, with the financial assistance and support of Denver concert promoter Barry Fey, reorganized as a non-profit and formed the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the only orchestra in North America working under that model. They are also the largest performing arts organizations within 1,000 miles of Denver, according to Sobczak. The collaborative agreement among musicians, staff and board members enables them to work closely together on program ideas as well as the orchestral mission.

There is also an educational component to the alliance. Each visit by the CS during the school year will include daytime educational opportunities for Salida students at no charge. On each of the first three visits, CS musicians will present a concert at the high school for Salida’s public, private and home-schooled students, and the musicians will demonstrate their instruments and answer questions.

KHEN has recently commenced a drive to raise the approximately $40,000 needed to pay the CS’s actual expenses associated with the series of four concerts, and are seeking sponsors at a variety of levels to help make the concerts a reality. The collaboration’s initial offering is a Thursday evening concert series in Salida beginning Fall 2012 and continuing through Spring 2013. Each visit by the CS or its subset ensembles will include a special daytime concert and other music education opportunities for local public-, private- and home-schooled children.

The CS will send musicians to Salida to stage four concerts in Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. The first three concerts, on Thursday evenings, will be CS ensemble groups performing at the SteamPlant and the fourth will be the full orchestra performing an afternoon concert at Riverside Park.


CS performances currently scheduled are:

• November 8, 2012 (evening): CS string orchestra at Salida SteamPlant (with free daytime concert for middle-school students).

• February 7, 2013 (evening): CS percussion ensemble at the Salida SteamPlant (with free concert for elementary students).

• April 4, 2013 (evening): CS woodwind quintet at the Salida SteamPlant (with free concert for high school students).

• June 30, 2013 (afternoon): Full symphony orchestra at Riverside Park.


For information about Sponsorships: Clark Roberts (719-539-7636). For general info about the series: the KHEN office (719-539-1069). For ticket purchases, KHEN office (719-539-1069) or SteamPlant office (719-530-0933)