Jeroen van Tyn lights up when he talks about Stillwater Music. The executive director of the Durango-based music school beams with excitement and pride when he talks about the school, its students, and its projects. With roughly 600 students – a number that recently jumped when Katzin Music shut down its storefront, its private lessons, and moved to Stillwater next door – there’s a general excitement about the future of music in Durango. Whether it be from the students just casually learning an instrument, or the students hell-bent on making a living out of playing music, the feeling is that Durango’s music scene is quite secure.
Stillwater Music will showcase its programs, musicians, and music on Saturday, May 19, when they host the 8th Annual “Party in the Park,” a day-long music festival in Buckley Park that will feature bands playing everything from rock ‘n’ roll to reggae, jazz, and classical. This year there will be a new two-stage feature showcasing string bands from the Be Frank Foundation, and Durango Arts Center’s new musical, “Applause.”
The event will also feature exhibits from the Colvig Silver Camps, The Rock Lounge, Durango Dance, and more.
Stillwater is a multi-use school that teaches its students all aspects of playing music. Lessons and group jamming is one thing, but this weekend’s event focuses on playing live, and the unpredictability of live performance. Album sales don’t pay the bills anymore, so it’s likely that aspiring musicians will need to load up into a van and go on tour.
“Public performance has always been a really key ingredient to Stillwater’s Model,” said van Tyn. “First of all, all of the instructors at Stillwater are professional musicians. We’re all band leaders. We’ve all played lots of different gigs under lots of different circumstances, and lots of different genres of music. And, aside from the fact that if you’re not sharing music with others, what’s the point? Music is meant to be shared with others, and the whole notion of getting out there and playing under professional circumstances.”
Stillwater is a school teaching students so much more than music, though. Arts is sometimes pushed to the backburner, yet music teaches collaboration, problem solving, and working with others. And that’s precisely what Stillwater does.
“There’s tons of research, everything from brain development to ability to make decisions where not everything is clear,” said van Tyn. “Being able to improvise, to being able to work well in a group. I just think that playing in a band is about the best microcosm of human collaboration that exists.”
Saturday’s performance may end up being the catalyst for forming your own band. Instructors wouldn’t shy away from filling a genre void if the need and the interest are there. Want to form a metal band? Stillwater Music may have four or five other interested musicians who also want to do just that.
“I really like to say – and this is absolutely true – if you want to play music there’s a home for you at Stillwater. It doesn’t matter your age, doesn’t matter your taste, doesn’t matter your experience level. There are kids who are in our program (who) are bent on becoming professional musicians, and there are kids that may put music aside and pick it up as an adult later on. There are weekend warriors, (and) everything in between,” said van Tyn. “I just think that the richness that music brings to all aspects of life for a whole lifetime is really irreplaceable. There’s nothing else like it that humans do.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]