Friends of Arts enjoy a whizz-bang musician

HANNA MARTENS/Durango Herald photo illustration

The talented Jeneve Rose Mitchell, 13, from Crawford, plays nine instruments. She performed on six on them at the Durango Friends of the Arts annual potluck luncheon at the home of Mary Husemoller. At the luncheon, she accompanied her singing on, from left, the cello, banjo, mandolin, harp and fiddle, often changing hats along the way.

Thursday was slightly overcast and thus absolutely comfortable for a July luncheon on the veranda of Mary Husemoller’s gorgeous Lake Durango home.

The occasion was the annual Durango Friends of the Arts potluck, and once again, it was short on business and long on fun. Co-hostesses Joanie Peterson and Marilyn Garst helped make the event run smoothly.

A tradition at the luncheon is for a grant recipient to perform, but this year, Program Chairwoman Karren Little stretched the envelope a little, to everyone’s delight. She invited Jeneve Rose Mitchell, who will perform at a grant recipient event, namely The Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, in October. Jeneve, 13 (yep, you’re reading that right), plays nine instruments (yep, you’re reading that right, too) and will perform with nine other young cowboy poets and musicians in a new event at the gathering.

Rising Western Stars will feature talents aged 18 and under, with the youngest signing in at just 6. Little, who has served as talent wrangler for the gathering for the past several years, has been watching these youngsters blossom, and now we’ll have a chance to see them free of charge before they come back as headliners. They’ll perform at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Henry Strater Theatre, and the line forms behind me.

Jeneve’s parents, Tim and Jenny Mitchell, couldn’t stop beaming as they watched their youngest daughter show musicianship, an amazing ability to handle tongue-twisting lyrics and a self-possessed stage presence.

The Mitchells live a simple life in Crawford, a small town east of Delta. No electricity – lots of horses, woodstoves and kerosene lanterns – until they fire up a single generator to do the laundry and allow Jeneve to practice on her keyboard, which requires some juice.

At the luncheon, she sang two songs her uncle wrote for her, a couple she wrote herself and several classics from the Western music tradition, with so much applause that she went on to perform two encores. Along the way, she played a fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, cello and harp. Much as a violin becomes a fiddle when it plays country music, she had christened her cello a “diddle,” as she uses it to play country music, too, certainly a rarity.

When a hostess hired her to play at a party, she told Jeneve to leave the cello at home because she wanted only Western music.

“So I did,” Jeneve said. “I took my diddle, instead.”

Speaking of “Rocky Mountain Hillbilly Girl,” the first song she ever wrote, she said everything was true, “except for the part about dating – I’m not allowed to date until I’m 30.”

Using money made playing gigs, this young woman pays for all her own music lessons and recording as well as buying all her own instruments. Although she received some expense money for the trip, DFA members passed the hat and raised a little more, $430 to be exact. (They passed one of her hats, actually, one of several she brought to go with different musical styles and instruments.)

She has a perfect voice for Western music, and it will be fun to see her again in October – and on CD covers and music shows in the future, although her parents will have to kick-start the generator to see or hear her.

I’m guessing they won’t mind a bit.

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Hoping for some monsoons to dowse their birthday candles (and the wildfires) are Nancy Van Mols, Dick Imig, Gene Bacus, Lee Dalenberg, Nancy Van Dover, Ed Cotgageorge, Kristina Johnson, Paul Jackson, Ginny Brown, Jeff Haspel, July Harris, Jill Layne, Ralph Campano, Aubrey Mullis, Reed Cooksey, Riley Cooksey, Noah Forsythe, Barbi McCoy, Brody Mize, John Seglund, Dean Wegner, Jadah Willmett, Claudia Engle, Stacy Hannigan, Peggy McElwain, Jonathan Smith, Milly Lacey, Jenna Baker, Bill Borgers, Jeff Layne, Brian Shafer, Donna Stone, Lizzie Weigert, Katie Weigert, Cameron Weigert, Tracey Palmer, Kleber Araujo, Terri Oliver, Chad Shelton, Angi Begg, Haley Benjamin, Sonya Wilmett, Miles Roessler and Cindy Scholfield.

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In my Wednesday column, I wrote about how much I was looking forward to the Crossroads benefit that evening for Music in the Mountains. It more than lived up to my expectations.

Held at the Glacier Club, it started with a cornucopia of goodies created by executive chef Dennis Morrisroe and sous chef John McClenny, organized by event coordinator Bridget Risenhoover and dining room manager Carmen Drulis, and courtesy of Bruce Geiss.

I didn’t get a chance to try everything, just as well for my waistline, but what I did have was delish. The menu included curry chicken satay with coconut-ginger dipping sauce; barbecued pork sliders; duck confit crostinis with cherries and blue cheese (my favorite); crab-stuffed mushrooms; prosciutto-wrapped asparagus; smoked salmon lettuce wraps; tuna poke on wonton chips; crostini with pesto and Parmesan cheese; Caprese bruschetta; smoked trout and cucumber canapés; bacon-wrapped dates; and Gruyère cheese puffs.

Then it was off to a packed house for the multimedia presentation featuring oboist Erin Hannigan, pianist Gabriel Sanchez and photographs by Paul Boyer. As Guillermo Figueroa, the musical director of the festival, put it, we will never hear the oboe played better anywhere. Double wow.

Hannigan has done similar concerts in the Dallas area benefitting shelters and dog rescue, and they have been successful to the tune of more than $70,000. So Boyer included a series of Montoya, the dog, in the Valley of the Gods on Simon Sargon’s “Homage to Hafiz.”

All the artists wore black, so the focus was entirely on the music and images.

One young woman in the audience, Khara Wolf, was there courtesy of Music in the Mountains. She just graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in oboe, and she had her very first lesson with Hannigan. She got to see her instrument at its finest.

It’s hard to pick one favorite piece, but I walked away thinking of author Anne Lamott, who said, “Pay attention to the beauty surrounding you.” That’s what Boyer, Hannigan and Sanchez did – force us to pay attention – and we are the richer for it.

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Gardens are blooming for the anniversaries of Jon and Stephanie Lowe, Dave and Glenda Ehrig, John and Susan Tait, Ken and Michelle Jungerburg, Wayne and Debbie Kjonaas and Eric and Kathy Pierson.

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Here’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.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory) and include no more than three to five people.

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