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As one of the largest and most prominent non-profits in Steamboat with its 569-seat Strings Pavilion venue located front-and-center at the base of Mount Werner, most people have at least heard of “Strings” (as locals like to refer to it) and know it as a purveyor of live music. In fact, Strings Music Festival presents a genre-spanning lineup every summer, ranging from nationally acclaimed orchestras to chart-topping contemporary acts. And that’s only part of their offering: The non-profit reaches far beyond its venue with an impressive array of free community and in-school programming in and around the Yampa Valley.

Now that the organization is returning to its full lineup after two seasons of adapting to Covid restrictions (though they managed to offer extensive programming regardless), and celebrating its 35th anniversary, there may be a few other things you didn’t know about Strings.

Steep Canyon Rangers

It’s not just about classical music.
It’s true, the Strings lineup offers classical music and lots of it, but the notion that this is central to what they do is simply false. “At this point, one of the differentiators that sets Strings apart from most other venues like opera houses or concert halls where you typically see one kind of music or the other, is that we offer a wide array of music genres,” says Greg Hamilton, Marketing Director for Strings. “We have this incredible venue, so why not use it for every depth and breadth of music out there?”

This summer’s lineup includes everything from the bluesy rock of Joan Osborne and the Grammy Winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers to Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans and the classic folk music of Judy Collins. “There’s something for all tastes,” Hamilton says.

In terms of classical, an orchestra comprised of 76 of the best musicians from all over the country will convene to perform on the pavilion stage this summer. “Our music director Michael Sachs has put together quite a lineup. It’s like an all-star orchestra, with a classical music repertoire you would normally seek out in a big city. It truly is a world-class ensemble, and I think that’s something people don’t realize unless they are true fans of classical music.” Hamilton adds that “acoustically speaking,” the Pavilion is the “perfect chamber music facility.”

Judy Collins

A lot of the programming is free.

There’s a perception about classical music in particular that it’s high-brow and likely expensive, but that’s not the case with Strings’ programming. In fact, the organization’s vision is “to provide exceptional music for everyone in Northwest Colorado” and goes above and beyond to provide free, community-oriented programming for all ages. In fact, to align with their mission, 60% of the programming offered by Strings is free.

Don’t miss the free Family Listening Parties at the Strings Festival Park where music fans of all ages are invited to enjoy live classical concerts from outside the pavilion where kids can run free and parents can lounge and enjoy the music. Access to the Strings Patio Bar and Pavilion restrooms are allowed between music pieces. “We are so thrilled to bring the Free Listening Parties back this summer,” Hamilton says. “It provides a point of access to let people know what we’re doing here, providing a top-notch arts and culture experience here in Steamboat Springs.”

Other offerings include Music on the Green, a weekly concert series at the Yampa River Botanic Park, as well as yoga classes with classical music offered at Strings Festival Park (adjacent to Strings Pavilion), which often features the music that will be performed at the next concert. “It’s amazing how many people will go to the yoga sessions and then want to buy tickets after hearing the music,” Hamilton says. While these offerings are open to the public, there is a suggested $10 donation for attendees who are able to give.

Music on the Green

New this year is The Concert Truck, a 16-foot box truck that has been converted into a mobile music venue by acclaimed concert pianists Nick Luby and Susan Zhang, complete with lights, sound system, and piano that has toured nationwide. This summer, they’ll be performing in and around the Yampa Valley in conjunction with Strings at the Hayden Granary, North Routt Community Charter School, and at the Boatyard in downtown Steamboat. “The Concert Truck will present piano concerts in surprising places throughout the Yampa Valley, like pop-up concerts in unexpected locations,” Hamilton says.

Last but not least, Strings provides free in-school programming throughout the Yampa Valley for elementary, middle school, high school students with Strings School Days in addition to learning opportunities for adults.

It’s not always sold out.

“I think it’s a myth that all Strings shows sell out and are hard to get tickets to,” Hamilton says. “The vast majority of our shows have plenty of tickets available, but even if they do sell out, we have a waitlist.” A local secret? “Whenever we are accepting a waitlist, typically most or all will get into the concert as last minute seats will often open up, so if there is a sold out show you want to see, don’t hesitate to add your name to the list!”

Kids are welcome!
Perhaps because of its affiliation with classical music, many people get the impression that Strings is for adults, but the truth is much of the programming is for all ages. Family events are so central to the Strings lineup that it has its own section on the website for easy reference. “Have a picnic outside and listen to a live concert playing at our outdoor park where we have hula hoops and a lot of space for kids to run around,” Hamilton says. “It’s a great way for families with kids under 6 to be a part of it. We want live music to be for everyone.”// For a complete schedule of events, go to stringsmusicfestival.com.