After a season of tryouts, the San Juan Symphony selected its new music director, Thomas Heuser, in March. On May 15, supporters in both Durango and Farmington got to meet him and his family.
The Heusers, including his wife, Lauren Avery Heuser, and 19-month-old son, Theo, had a long day, starting with a brunch in Farmington to meet folks who support the symphony at its co-sponsoring city. Then it was up to the Sow’s Ear for Meet the Maestro, featuring live music – lots of live music – and an extraordinary meal of tapas.
I’ll start with the music, because this was about the symphony, after all. Guests arrived to the sounds of a string quartet featuring Brent Williams and Tennille Taylor on violin, Hayley Cunningham on viola and Katherine Jetter on cello.
While schmoozing and enjoying, guests noshed on duck-confit rillette crostini with fig jam and sweet pea and grilled pita canapés with serrano ham and smoked paprika vinaigrette. (That gives an idea of the complexity of the meal that was in store.) Wines were courtesy of Guy Drew Vineyard, Dick and Gay Grossman and Walter Dear. Durango-Farmington Coca-Cola, always generous, provided the nonalcoholic beverages.
Upstairs, as guests made their way to the dinning room, San Juan Youth Symphony alumnus Nolan Reed, home after his freshman year at Baylor University, serenaded guests on his violin. During dinner, a jazz trio with Bob Newnam on trumpet, Jack Maynes on keyboard and Evan Suiter on bass kept a cool vibe going. And in what has become a tradition at this fundraiser, members of the Durango Women’s Choir sent diners into the night with “Dona Nobis Pacem,” or “Give Us Peace.” No one wanted to leave!
Along with the live music ringing in our ears, guests went home with a San Juan Symphony CD and notecards featuring SJS Executive Director Kathy Myrick’s beautiful photographs.
Heuser is young, energetic and talented. He and his family plan to make Durango their home base. (He will continue to serve as the music director of the Idaho Falls Symphony, a position he has held since 2011.) And, important for the position, he is not afraid to ask for financial support, critical for the success of any symphony.
Sow’s Ear owner and chef George Mehaffie and his crew did an extraordinary job preparing, plating and serving seven courses of tapas, starting with a seared sea scallop, grilled pineapple, Berkshire pork belly, topped with a cracked grilled black pepper gastrique along with micro radish greens; and continuing with roasted beets, chevre, pistachios, arugula and lemon-tarragon dressing; Thai chile-glazed Alaskan king crab with mango-avocado-mint relish, yuzu vinaigrette and ginger aioli; wild mushroom-fontina ravioli with a caramelized fennel cream and cherry tomato-basil jam; smoked sea salt and five-peppercorn elk-tenderloin carpaccio served with a dried blueberry tapenade, port-wine reduction and extra virgin olive oil; a braised boneless beef short rib, olives, tomatoes, herbs and crispy polenta, served on a bed of wilted spinach and orange zest; and, just before everyone was too full for words, a dark chocolate panna cotta with strawberry-champagne gelée, vanilla bean whipped cream and mint syrup. Whew, thank goodness they were all small plates.
Cheryl Folwell, who recently joined the San Juan Symphony board of directors, once again took on the decorating, arrangements of springy tulips and plants courtesy of Wendy Bryant and her Sunflower Plant Service, Bonnie Boyle and Nancy Ottman. Other new board members are Denise Leslie, Mark Walters and Janice Sheftel.
Chris Wing, owner of the Silverpick Lodge, continued in his role as a generous host. And last, but not least, Moni and Jonas Grushkin were celebrity auctioneers, selling the opportunity to conduct the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the symphony’s first concert in October, the original Alice Crapo painting used as the artwork for the just concluded season and dinner for eight at the home of SJS Board President Polly Morgenstern and her husband, Dan.
No one could have been happier to greet Heuser than SJS principal flutist Rochelle Mann, who has been with the symphony since its founding 30 years ago. Her son Philip Mann, a Durango High School graduate, Rhodes scholar and music director of the Arkansas Symphony, recommended Heuser for the gig.
HHHTaking time out from their birthday festivities to remember those who have died for our country are Patty Hain, Diane Shaline, Chris Serwe, Michael LaVerghetta, Tom Breed, Eileen Albrecht, Erin Casey, Hank Walker, Marilyn Baker, Marcy Jung, Christine Wright, Leigh Nielsen, Kip Boyd, Patty Isensee, Kenneth Jungerberg, Jessica Steele, Barbara Edmanson, Jon Lupia, Kevin Schank, Stephen Stout, Will Kolb, Linda Radisovech, Olivia Reynolds, Caroline Todd, Craig Dabovich, Marsha Porter-Norton, Sue Evans, Max Patton, Ann St. John, Bill Roberts, Alan TeBrink and Klare Nava.
HHHLast week, for the first time in more than 16 years of writing Neighbors, I spaced including an item that went with a photo. (No snide remarks about senior moments, please.) You may remember the shot of Mary Puller and Bob Westerwick, which was in honor of her retirement as exhibits director at the Durango Arts Center.
All-told, Mary Puller has spent about 14 years in the position, first working with the late Executive Director Barbara Conrad and then her successor, Brian Wagner.
After spending a few years in Tucson, Arizona, Puller returned five years ago as then Executive Director Sheri Rochford Figgs and Board President Terry Bacon were working to rebuild the organization.
More than one person at Puller’s retirement party talked about how she healed rifts between artists who work in different schools, such as landscape, oil, water color, etc., and helped raise the whole level of quality and diversity of exhibits at the arts center. I can personally attest to that, as exhibits have been knocking my socks off for the past few years.
The party was planned by Karen McIntire, Ann Norris, Regina Hogan, Judy and Don Hayes, Jen Anderson, Hollis Hassenstein, Nancy Conrad, Kay Roberts, Mary Ellen Long, JM Jones and Carol Salomon, with additional goodies provided by Chuck Norton aand Diane Panelli. Flutist Mike Kunz provided the soundtrack. DAC staff members Sandra Butler and Kathrene Frautschy were perhaps the most involved, but it was truly all hands on deck.
Puller is leaving with a wonderful memento, a handmade book by Long full of memories from friends and colleagues presented to her on their behalf by current Executive Director Cristie Scott.
I didn’t get a chance to try too many of the goodies – too busy socializing, I guess – but I have it on Bob Conrad’s authority that the banana pudding was exceptional. And since he’s a connoisseur of the dessert, he should know.
Puller will still be spending summers and autumns in Durango while enjoying Tucson in the winter and spring, so we’ll still get to see her smiling face.
May the adventures and fun continue, Mary!
I’m off for a few days, so no Neighbors column next week. The column will return June 8.
HHHCelebrating their anniversaries on a long weekend are Jack and Barbara Morrison, Ron and Essie Williams, David and Shelly Burke, Ben and Mindy Breed, Todd and Kati Sieger, Deborah Uroda and Charlie Siegele, Caroline and Clark Kinser, Doug and Debbie Wolfe, Jeff and Donny Thulson, Justin and Anna McBrayer, John and Peggy White and Steve Parker and Geni Miller Parker.
I’ll be thinking of Joan Spicer, who lost her sweet George last year, as the date of their anniversary passes by.
HHHHere’s how to reach me: neighbors @durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items. Follow me on Twitter @Ann_Neighbors.