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A discount guide to the Aspen Music Festival

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The Aspen Music Festival summer season opens June 29, and if $60 to see Arnaud Sussmann and Wu Han that evening seems steep, don’t worry — there are plenty of events in keeping with a downvalley budget.

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Chief among them is a free concert in memory of Carbondalian Mary Crouch Lilly, which features the Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra playing Verdi, Kraft and Brahms at 4 p.m. July 3 at the Benedict Music Tent (960 N 3rd St, Aspen).

“Mary loved live classical music and attended the concerts in the music festival tent regularly,” friend Linda Criswell explained. “She sat with friends in what she called the ‘Carbondale section,’ to the left of the main entrance and down halfway.  That’s where her friends will gather on Monday.”

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For the uninitiated, a quick primer: the festival brings 600 students from around the world to Aspen over the course of eight weeks in the summer to play in five orchestras, and to sing, conduct, compose and study with 200 renowned artist-faculty members. In the process, locals and visitors alike get a chance to experience top-notch instrumental and vocal music.

“There’s a lot going in Carbondale, and if they’ve never been to the music festival before, I don’t think they fully understand the level of what they’re going to hear,” said PR Associate Jessica Cabe. “All of our guest artists perform around the world in the best concert halls with the best orchestras. Our artist faculty members are principal players around the country, and our students are beginning their careers as professional musicians all over the world.”

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Events take place largely at the Music Tent — a permanent semi-outdoor venue with a scenic public lawn — and the adjacent indoor Harris Concert Hall, as well as at the Wheeler Opera House (catch Verdi’s “La Traviata” there July 15, 17 and 18), The Aspen Chapel, and elsewhere.

The Carbondale Branch Library hosts free recitals July 22 and 29 and August 5 and 12 at 6 p.m., and Basalt Regional Library has an ongoing free Tunes and Tales series.

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Another free option in Aspen itself are the Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra concerts Tuesdays at 4 p.m., which includes breaks to change out student conductors — making it ideal for squirmy little ones. Even for regularly scheduled events, 3-17-year-olds get in for $5, with a $50 season pass available for 6-17-year-olds.

For the grown-ups, the $60 Locals Pass offers a mix of deep discounts and free entry. For instance, the July 14 concert with renowned violinist Sarah Chang will run pass holders $30 instead of $85. You can also get take a listen behind the scenes at a morning dress rehearsal for $20, or picnic on the lawn outside and hear Revel, Wagner and Prokofiev float through the aspens for nothing at all.

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As for those who aren’t terribly interested in classical music at any price, it may be time to give it another chance. PR Director Tamara Vellejos wanted to be a rock ‘n roll journalist, but after a few years in Aspen, she’s totally hooked on the music and the stories behind it.

“I don’t think that there’s anything in the world that is for absolutely everyone besides breathing and water, but when you have 400 events… You can go hear Renée Fleming sing Bjork songs this summer,” she observed.

Cabe agreed.

“It’s easy if you haven’t given it a real fair shot to think classical music is all the same, but it’s absolutely not. I personally have composers I like and some I’m indifferent toward, just like with pop music,” she said. “A lot of these pieces have been in pasta commercials or Looney Toons or ‘Fantasia’. You do know it, you just don’t know that you know it.”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer variety of programming, but luckily there’s an in-depth website at www.aspenmusicfestival.com. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, call the box office at 925-9042.

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