A beautiful aspect of the long-running and local classical music festival Music in the Mountains is its ability to step outside the classical music box and bring something different. Not that a banjo or mandolin is something out of the ordinary for this area; however, when placed among the schedule for Music in the Mountains, it is.
Look beyond the most common aspect of Music in the Mountains. Up front and on paper it’s a music festival, a series of performances held over a number of days with music played by a number of musicians. Yet beyond the obvious, it’s an educational experience, with the listener receiving information on composers, conductors and musicians they may know nothing about; a festival, especially this one, is an opportunity to learn something.
The “outside of the box” band performing the non-classical portion of Music in the Mountains is FY5. This Fort Collins-based quintet are no strangers to the area as semi-regulars to the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, and they are regulars for the Pagosa Folk and Bluegrass festival, where they teach the bluegrass camp for the days leading up to the festival, then play sets during the fest. They are the perfect band when you keep education in mind, as they remain musical educators as much as they are musicians. Perhaps even the most seasoned classical music fan will learn something when FY5 performs Saturday at the Bayfield Performing Arts Center.
“Part of any art gig across any kind of genre is making your art and teaching about your art, two ways that you can make money and still stay involved in your art. Teaching about it is an honor, especially if you are teaching a skill like music,” said Mike Finders, guitar player and vocalist for FY5. “It’s got some things you need to teach that get passed down, and you need to teach it overtly. So, we’ve worked on how to teach some of the things about that particular folk craft.”
FY5 is a solid act, bluegrass and country in instrumentation but walking a line that leads into a neighborhood of acoustic roots music. The male/female voice combination of Finders and bass player/vocalist Erin Youngberg produce stellar harmonies, and Finders is a frontman who will convey the stories of the songs.
Most genres do, in fact, have songs that have been passed down through generations. It’s a common thread, and the stories around a folk song or a classical composition are a glimpse into a rich past. The history of the music and the stories found within is at times as important as the music itself.
“The common element for me between teaching, whether it’s teaching public school/special-ed like I do, or teaching bluegrass, or even trying to tell someone about the next song we’re going to play, when talking between the songs, I think that what’s consistent through all of that is story and the power of story and the power of our stories together and how they compel us,” Finders said. “I’ve always found that as a music fan myself, it is the story of songs. When I feel a little crazy going between my teaching job and my music job, whether it’s gigs or teaching music and all that stuff, I look for something that holds it all together – its story. Teaching through story, singing songs that have a story in them and talking about songs, that’s important to me. If I remind myself that I’m mostly just a storyteller, sometimes, I have a guitar in my hands, sometimes, it’s just a piece of chalk, but it’s all the same stuff.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.