Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Crested Butte Music Festival brings much-needed live music

In-person and virtual events offered through October

By Kendra Walker

As one of the few Crested Butte staple events still taking place this summer, albeit under coronavirus restrictions and protocols, the Crested Butte Music Festival kicked off in full swing this week and will be incorporating a mix between live and virtual performances, camps and lectures through October 3.

Thirty events are scheduled for this season, bringing a variety of music genres, including past favorites of bluegrass, gypsy jazz, indie rock and classical performances.

“We did work really hard to make the programming work this far,” said Crested Butte Music Festival executive director Erica Vernon, addressing how much the pandemic changed the original plans for the annual festival. “We really wanted to bring some vitality to the community and have it feel like there’s something to look forward to.”

Leading up to the event, festival organizers worked with the county’s Public Health Department to ensure safe protocols were in place for all scheduled in-person events.

“It’s been interesting with COVID—everything has been so up in the air and we are just hoping to be a good community partner and have a safe and meaningful impact,” said Vernon.

All live music performances are being held in outdoor venues, with the bulk of the performances taking place at the Center for the Arts courtyard and select events scheduled at the Wedding Garden in Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison Arts Center and I Bar Ranch.

Monday’s “Beethoven + Now” performance was moved into the Center for the Arts’ atrium due to rain, because the number of patrons met current public health standards approval for indoor spaces. Since all performances are scheduled rain or shine, festival organizers are currently working with the Public Health Department to fine-tune procedures for inclement weather.

Additionally, live performances are capped at 50 people. “I wanted the patrons to feel safe,” said Vernon. “We are taking all the precautions and maintaining social distancing.” In addition to taking temperatures of the organizers and staff, high-touch surfaces and seats are being wiped down and everyone entering an event is required to wear a facemask.

“We haven’t had any issues. We haven’t really had to point out to anyone to put on their mask,” noted Vernon. “People are just excited to have something to attend.”

Because smaller audience limits could potentially sell out events, including the festival’s kick-off show “Beethoven + Other Good Stuff” this past Sunday, Vernon confirmed that the festival is filming every performance, which will be available to purchase on the Crested Butte Music Festival website. “We would love people to view and have the chance to be involved and have something to look forward to,” said Vernon.

The festival’s first virtual camp, RISE, has gone well so far, said Vernon. It’s taking place over Zoom with professional musician instructors in New York. “They are outstanding and they’ve been working really closely with the RISE students. We had way more applicants than we initially thought we would,” said Vernon. “We’re working on interviews with them to talk about their experience so people feel more connected and involved with that aspect of the festival.”

And even though organizers had to reschedule and replace several musicians who would have been traveling from other states this year, Vernon said this was actually a silver lining. “It fortunately turned our focus on having a local impact and we found some amazing Colorado musicians. We have a great lineup of local classical musicians who didn’t have jobs this year. Every single person we’ve contracted is within driving distance, so the travel is very close.”

With an influx of visitors to the valley and a rise in positive COVID cases, Vernon knows there’s always a possibility the county may initiate tighter restrictions before the season ends. However, she remains optimistic the festival can make it work and will continue offering as many virtual events as possible. “We have some fun things coming up that we’re excited about. We’re planning the best we can and if we have to reschedule for the 2021 season, we will.”

Vernon concluded, “Our mission is to bring different varieties of music and offer that educational experience. We want to make sure we’re reaching people who are interested in learning about music and also those who just want to hear that band that they love.”

To view the Crested Butte Music Festival lineup, visit

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