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Summer concerts show varied results

Kimberly Nicoletti

SUMMIT COUNTY – This summer’s music scene sizzled in more ways than one. The sheer number of concerts throughout the county made some venues a hotbed of entertainment while others didn’t hit high notes.

Now, Breckenridge’s attempt to tune up its summer series is causing some artistic debate.

Breck’s dilemma:

acoustic or electric?

Though the Blue River Series (BRS) featured more headliners – including Los Lobos and George Winston – its average attendance decreased 1 percent from 2002.

“Essentially, what we saw in the Blue River Series was a flat year,” said Jeff Baum, executive director of the Breckenridge Music Institute (BMI), which the BRS falls under.

“The Blue River Series did not meet our budget expectations, so we have to wait until the end of the year to see if this is going to affect us. Much of what we do from a programming standpoint depends on the funding we get from the community. We look forward to continuing the Blue River Series, but at what level depends on the funding we receive.”

The town of Breckenridge provides a substantial portion of the funding.

Two acoustic concerts – pianist George Winston and country rocker Jerry Jeff Walker – sold out.

Those statistics, combined with the sound system challenges at the Riverwalk Center, caused Riverwalk administrator Kim DiLallo to recommend that Baum focus more on acoustic concerts.

“Our team looks at what this facility is and what it excels at,” DiLallo said. “We wish it could be everything to everyone. The challenge is, this venue is a unique venue, therefore, it works well for acoustic music and less for the electrified music. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have that type of (electrified) group. In our eyes, what we saw over here were two single entertainers sold out.”

“The BMI, in producing the Blue River Series, is interested in bringing a wide variety of music to the community,” Baum said.

To this end, the town has helped Baum bring larger – and louder – bands to the Riverwalk Center by installing sound panels and renting higher-quality gear.

“We feel like we’ve got the best sound system we can have here as an encouragement to the BMI to continue to bring in a successful Blue River Series,” DiLallo said.

What Baum offers through the BRS next summer will depend on a number of things including his budget, whether trends favor band-driven or acoustic-driven music and what musicians are coming through town.

“We are looking at exploring the acoustic side of music as directed by the town of Breckenridge,” Baum said.

The classical side of Breck

Orchestral music at the Riverwalk Center played to “mixed reviews.”

The BMI Orchestra showed the largest increase in attendance for a paid-ticket series in Summit County. Attendance increased 15.7 percent from 2002, Baum said.

He attributes the increase to offering a repertoire people want to hear, as well as marketing.

“We have a lot of room to increase (attendance),” he said. “The Riverwalk Center holds 750 people, and the average attendance at a BMI concert was 471. But we’re very happy with the attendance we’ve seen.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the National Repertory Orchestra’s (NRO) average attendance decreased by 10 percent, said Terese Kaptur, NRO executive director.

Nevertheless, the NRO continues to build its reputation as one of the preferred orchestras for young musicians to prepare for orchestral careers.

The beat goes on at Copper

Copper Mountain’s four free concerts – which included Darren Kramer, Gin Blossoms, Fishbone and Spin Doctors – showed the highest attendance increase in Summit County. Attendance went up by 30 percent – from 5,000 to 6,500, said Beth Jahnigen, Copper’s spokesperson.

In 2002, people didn’t turn out in large numbers for opening acts, so last summer, Copper allocated more of its music budget to bring in bigger names.

“Then, this summer, we got feedback that people wanted more than a two-hour band, so we’re trying to find a way to bridge the gap,” Jahnigen said. “We’re also looking at a number of different options, including a fifth concert next summer and moving the concerts to Saturday versus Sunday.”

Frisco’s Fourth fared well

Though Linda Lichtendahl, Frisco’s community relations director, didn’t have specific numbers, she estimated the Sunday afternoon concerts decreased in attendance while the Fourth of July concert featuring the Drifters increased.

She’s considering decreasing the amount of Sunday concerts, and if the lodging tax passes in November, the town will have more money to produce bigger and better Music on Main Street shows.

“What we always strive to do is be able to bring in better talent, but that is a function of revenue,” Lichtendahl said.

Park Lane Pavilion

pumps up revenue

The Park Lane Pavilion in River Run at Keystone housed 65 events last summer, ranging from classical music to hip-hop and comedy to speakers.

While ticket sales remained about the same as 2002, revenue increased by 20 percent, mostly because of increased sponsorship. Attendance was about the same, at about 10,000 guests, said Connie Gruber, executive director of the Keystone Neighbourhood Company.

The company plans to continue the trend next summer.

“Our goal is to provide cultural and entertainment opportunities for all ages in the community and guests of Keystone Resort,” Gruber said.

Rainy Saturdays dampened Dillon

Nasty weather put a damper on Lake Dillon Amphitheatre’s Saturday night concerts.

The town of Dillon relies on donations and concession sales to attract fun bands that make people jump and shout. Sales increased during the first three free concerts of the season because the weather cooperated. But afternoon showers reduced the turnout for the last five concerts, causing concession sales to decrease by at least 30 percent. And, only 50 people braved the cold and rain for the Aug. 16 Chris Daniels show, which left concession sales down 80 or 90 percent, said Chris Alleman, Lake Dillon Theatre director.

“The first three concerts were excellent,” Alleman said. “After that, the rain really just hurt us. We got about half the attendance we expected for the last five concerts. For the Nacho Men – one of the biggest acts – we expected 4,000, and maybe 2,100 came. Attendance wasn’t as good as last year or as it could have been if it hadn’t rained.”

But Alleman kept expenses down by monitoring concession sales and only ordering what he needed. Inventory control and increased donations will allow the Lake Dillon Foundation for the Performing Arts to provide 10 more free concerts next summer.

Another consideration:

competition vs. cooperation

On any weekend night in July, people had at least two to three different concerts from which to choose – not including bar bands. The volume of entertainment throughout the summer has some promoters questioning how it may be hurting ticket sales.

Disco Biscuits and Fishbone, for example, both played Sunday, July 27 – one in Breckenridge, one at Copper Mountain. Fishbone was a free show, and the Biscuits show didn’t sell well.

“I would like to work with the key participants and community members such that we work together to not harm our attendance – at all of our concerts,” Baum said. “I think it’s in everyone’s benefit to work together.”

But sometimes, communication doesn’t happen in time to make changes. Baum, for example, asked the Keystone Neighbourhood Company to change its lineup when it competed with his BeauSoleil show in summer 2002.

“They tried to figure out a way to change it, but they had scheduling problems. I had already contracted BeauSoleil, so I couldn’t change it either,” Baum said. “Neither of the shows sold out, but both could have. We need to keep the line of communication open to avoid head-to-head competition.”

Lichtendahl, among others, agrees.

“I think a cooperative thing would be really great if somehow we could work as a pool to bring this music to Summit County,” Lichtendahl said. “But I don’t know how we would do that.”

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at

(970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at

knicoletti@summitdaily.com.


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