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A historic musical merger

After more than two decades of organizing, and sponsoring a multitude of concerts and festivals, searching out, cajoling, persuading and convincing top-notch musicians to participate, and creating a warm communal atmosphere in post-concert receptions with soup, salad, cheesecake and mulled wine, local impresario C. Scott Hagler says he is retiring.

C. Scott Hagler (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

Hagler is executive director of 3rd Ave. Arts, the mastermind behind the 16-year-old Bach Festival, the Durango Chamber Music Festival, an unusual annual Christmas concert, summer music camps for kids and scholarships. He’s also an organist of high calling, a graphic designer of sophisticated taste and a businessman of extraordinary reach. Those of us who have observed Hagler’s talent, high-energy and persuasive gifts will believe he’s “retiring” when we see it.

“In retirement, I plan to resume my music composing and arranging,” Hagler said. “I am hoping to get back to doing (visual) art, and actually reading a book from cover to cover, something that hasn’t happened much in recent years.”

Hagler’s many local accomplishments date from his arrival in Durango when he became organist and music director at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. In 2004, he started a recital series to foreground the many area musicians he met and befriended. The St. Mark’s Recital Series was so successful that a host group was formed with another entrepreneur, Steve Kiely, to run the business side of newly named 3rd Ave. Arts. So successful was the new musical organization, it established and expanded various annual events. Simultaneously, 3rd. Ave Arts launched music education programs for youths and folded in the Durango Chamber Singers under the direction of Elizabeth Crawford.

Steve Kiely (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

“Since Scott organized the first Recital Series,” Kiely said, “his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit” drove the rest. “In 2015, 3rd Ave. Arts became operationally independent of St. Mark’s.” Kiely added.

That year Hagler moved to Santa Fe and spread his wings to shepherd other performing arts organizations, keeping tab on the Durango branch and performing regularly at the Bach and Chamber Music Festivals.

Timing is everything, and Hagler and Kiely saw an opportunity to discuss a merger with the San Juan Symphony, our esteemed regional orchestra now completing its 37th season in a concert this weekend, April 22 and 23, in Durango and Farmington.

“As Scott plans his retirement beginning this summer, we feel we’ve found the perfect answer to perpetuating his 3rd Ave. Arts legacy,” Kiely said.

After months of discussion, key people in 3rd Ave. Arts and the San Juan Symphony signed an agreement on April 11. Final details of the merger will take effect on July 1.

“I’m very pleased about the merging of these two organizations,” Hagler said. “From the very beginning, 3rd Ave. Arts has provided opportunities to perform for local and regional musicians, and I couldn’t be happier that these opportunities, along with our educational programs, will continue and grow.”

Thomas Heuser (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

Heuser couldn’t agree more: “We wanted to expand our programming, and this partnership emerged as the perfect opportunity. The Symphony fully intends to keep these (additional) beloved programs running while firmly focused on our mission as a Symphony.

“Our focus on orchestral music can now branch out and include chamber music and choral music with new audiences and musical experiences around every corner. My mind is absolutely buzzing with the possibilities.”

San Juan Symphony closes out season

In its final concert of its 37th season, the San Juan Symphony will present a twin program of works by Georges Bizet and Johannes Brahms at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College in Durango and at 3 p.m. At the Henderson Performance Hall in Farmington.

Conducted by Thomas Heuser, the concert will open with Bizet’s “L’Arlesienne,” (The Girl from Arles), and after intermission Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E Minor. Op. 98.

A double orchestra will perform the Bizet because student musicians from the San Juan Symphony will join their professional counterparts for the performance.

The San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestra will give its annual Spring Concert at 7 p.m. April 30 at the Community Concert Hall. Tickets are $10.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.