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Performing arts in bloom

Flutist Rochelle Mann, oboist Rebecca Ray and bassoonist Denise Reig Turner will perform Friday night at St. Mark’s. (Courtesy)

Durango’s persistent shortage of social and performing arts venues is changing. Tonight (May 12), Durango’s finest mid-sized performance venue will host another memorable recital and a new venue celebrates a grand opening.

At 7 p.m., St. Mark’s Recital Series presents “Windswept,” a program for woodwind trio, in the church, 910 East Third Ave. For 15 years, the series has filled this beautiful sanctuary with a variety of music programs.

The “Windswept” program features flutist Rochelle Mann, oboist Rebecca Ray and bassoonist Denise Reig Turner. During a weeklong creative residency at the Willowtail Center near Mancos, the trio read through “stacks of new music before we decided on our program,” Mann said. The trio will perform contemporary works by Daniel Davis, Gary Schocker and Stella Sung. In addition, each musician will perform one solo work, including Mann’s current project transcribing and transforming birdsong.

To demonstrate the versatility of St. Mark’s as a performance space, last Sunday, 3rd Avenue Musician Makers staged a one-hour program highlighting the educational wing of the organization. Titled “Bloom,” the well-planned program featured student and teacher Musician Makers, alternating short performances with even shorter speeches. Music lovers heard 18 students play piano or violin solos plus an energetic interpretation of the Scherzo from Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata in D Minor by Sandy Kiefer and Mika Inouye and a beautiful rendition of a Spanish dance by Brandon Christensen and Inouye. The program ended on a light note as Adelaine Ramos played “Don’t Wanna Leave You Blues.”

Also tonight, Stillwater Music formally opens its new performance venue, the Light Box, at 8 p.m. It’s a 2,000 square foot multipurpose space at 1316 Main Ave., formerly Katzin Music, with plenty of parking.

The Light Box has a sprung floor, theater lighting, a professional sound system, and accommodations for art exhibits and catered events. Designed to be a useful space for music recitals, classes, dance performances, poetry slams, fashion shows, even film screenings, The Light Box is flexible and spacious.

Stillwater Music’s new performance venue, The Light Box. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

“Our aim is for this venue to be heavily utilized year-round, providing a platform for creatives to share their work with locals and tourists alike,” said Executive Director Jeroen van Tyn.

Stillwater Music started in 2005 as an after-school program with 15 students and two bands. Since then, the community-based organization has provided innovative music education for all ages. The model, van Tyn said, is based on an approach succinctly stated as “fun first.”

“We start kids on instruments like keyboard, drum and mallet instruments that require a minimum level of technique to get started,” he said.

At the April 14 soft-opening, parents, guests and students were given tours of the revamped facility – a redesigned entryway, freshly reconfigured practice rooms, and The Light Box performance space. Guests enjoyed a performance by a newly minted group, the Metronomes, as the musicians shifted instruments to demonstrate the flexible approach to music education. Then one of Stillwater’s many intermediate bands capped the evening in the space. Refreshments were served, guests mingled and enjoyed an art exhibition mounted by students at Fort Lewis College.

Tonight’s grand opening will showcase The Light Box with featured band Elder Grown.

“They are great dudes,” Durango Herald columnist Bryant Liggett said recently about the well-regarded funk, reggae and rock-jam band. Liggett has written a lot about Elder Grown highlighting the early days when the brothers occupied a group house on Durango’s south side.

“It’s how they’ve kept the ideas flowing and the songwriting prolific,” he said.

While The Light Box is used during weekdays for classes, it will be available weekends, Friday through Sunday, for outside groups.

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