When you’re not a musician, actor, dancer or performer of some ilk, the odds of being under the spotlights on the stage at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College are slim and none.
Unless, that is, you attend Jazz on the Hill, a fundraiser for the Russ and Bette Serzen Endowment Fund for Concert Hall Operations. When the concert hall was built, the community was told it also would need to raise money to help support its ongoing operations. But we didn’t.
Upon the death of her husband, Russ Serzen, in 2002, Bette Serzen decided the best way to remember her jazz-loving husband was to get that fundraising going, a task she undertook with then hall director Gary Penington. She says she wants it to reach $1 million before “I croak.” But I hope we reach it long before then.
The evening attracted a record sold-out crowd of 91 (plus the musicians) so I guess the secret’s out about how much fun it is. It starts with champagne in the bar area of the orchestra level, before moving onstage for dinner. The meal, prepared by Strater Catering, included a salad of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette; pepper steak Herbert, salmon with citrus butter, mashed potatoes and haricot vert; with a homemade layered chocolate mousse for the sweet.
Even sweeter was guest artist Joyce Lyons. We were trying to figure out how many times she has performed in Durango, and we think it’s nine or 10. When she was departing Durango-La Plata County Airport last year, Paul Folwell’s painting of her singing was up, and she told her husband, “Look, I’m famous in Durango.”
Yes, she is, at least among jazz lovers. Our own Jeff Solon, Elizabeth Riordan, Jack Maynes and visiting instructor of music at FLC John O’Neal matched her art and then some.
Riordan, who is a relative newcomer to the area – I’ve only been seeing her perform on bass since the beginning of the year, more or less – was stunning on her instrument, particularly on the Carpenters’ “A Song For You.”
“Heart and Soul,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” a little Antonio Carlos Jobim, and of course, Lyons’ signature number, “Peel Me a Grape,” were all on the program.
The performance featured a surprise. Denise Leslie, the owner of Shared Vision Publishing, turns out to be a ukulele “virtuosa.” She rehearsed with Lyons via Skype, which presented some challenges with the occasional time delay.
The encore of ”Somewhere over the Rainbow,” sung by request and featuring some truly beautiful sax playing by Solon, sent everyone humming into the night – after, of course, we took one last look at that beautiful concert hall, the reason we were there.
It’s a wonderful venue for a town this size, but after writing my nonprofit series and analyzing the financial picture of FLC and how tight it is, the need for the Russ and Bette Serzen Fund is more apparent than ever.
That’s why the one live auction item – a cool trip to the Big Apple – and the $5,000 it brought in was so important.
Charles Leslie, the director of the concert hall, said when he started six years ago, the fund stood at about $19,000. Now, after this wonderful evening, it’s well over $125,000.
If you’d like to support the Community Concert Hall, send your tax deductible contribution to the Fort Lewis College Foundation for the Russ and Bette Serzen Fund, 1000 Rim Drive, Durango, CO 81301.
A great way to celebrate these birthdays would be to get up in the mountains to see the fall colors, which are definitely reaching their peak – Margaret Vallejos, Linkin Griego, Dewey Peden, Bryce Forsyth, Brian Grandin, Abigail Stier, Bruce Nye, Mae Reed, Ben Southworth, Jessica Steele, Josh Spaeder, Caroline Munger, Jordan Potthoff, Beth Drum, Val Ruwwe, Roxanne Hamilton and Debbie Rowe.
Special greetings to my friend and colleague Judith Reynolds, who said she’s happy for her birthday to fly under the radar this year. Only problem is, I’m not – happy, that is – for it to do so. And it’s my column, so I make the rules.
It’s been the power of 10 this year for the Style ’N’ Stones artists. For their 10th year, they invited 10 artists to sell jewelry at their annual sale for charity where they sold more than $10,000 worth of jewelry. That’s significant, because the artists donated a minimum (some did more) of 30 percent of the proceeds to Manna Soup Kitchen. (Hey, 30 percent is three 10 percents, so the analogy still works.) Add that to the $450 collected in donations, and Manna is getting a very nice check.
These designers are talented, constantly adding skills (and styles) to their repertoire. Some of my favorite pieces came from these sales. “Oh, yes, this is my Gail Short (or Basia Daney) necklace,” or “I love these Pat Lorenzen (or Nancy Macho or Mary Orsini) earrings, too.”
Short, who was one of the founders of the group, died suddenly a couple of years ago. This year, her daughter Brenda Short Brouillet, with husband, Wally, delved into her mother’s inventory to begin her own jewelry-designing career.
The other artists (in addition to the aforementioned) participating in the fun, beauty and generosity were Susie Fisher, Pat Lorenzen (who came up from her new home in Prescott, Arizona, to participate), Nancy Conrad, Carolyn Plested, Cindy Schofield and Holly Laird.
Marian Pierce and Diane Rabeno served as the “checkout matrons” as Orsini describes them, but I just say they handled the moolah. Manna supporters turned out to help handle the logistics of the day.
This event continues to make a difference in our community. These jewelry designers have donated more than $50,000 in their 10 years of sales. They have contributed to Manna in the past and have also designated Durango Friends of the Arts, Hospice of Mercy, the Durango Arts Center and the Powerhouse Science Center to be the beneficiaries of their largesse over the years.
It might be fun to celebrate these anniversaries with some fresh hot cider – Darrell and Diane Gardner, and Greg and Ginny Cavanagh.
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