You can’t say there’s a lack of music in Durango.
The fifth annual Durango Ragtime & Early Jazz Festival will be held March 24-26 at the Strater Hotel, and there are some pretty cool things happening this year.
Michelle Martinez, general manager at the Strater, says the festival is a nod to the area’s history.
“Ragtime has been such a facet of our history because of our 130 years, and what it’s done in the Diamond Belle,” she says. “It’s so synonymous of the West in its own way, the Wild West.”
At the beginning, the Strater teamed up with local musician Adam Swanson and decided to bring in musicians from around the world.
Swanson will kick off the festival at 10 a.m. March 24 with a talk about the Golden Age of Hollywood’s fascination with ragtime. The weekend then continues with Pullman Sessions, which are short programs (15 to 30 minutes) that focus on a specific piece of music. The cool thing about these sessions is not only do you see the piece performed, the musician also gives you a little insight into the history of the piece..
The afternoons will feature “Ragtime Roots” performances, and the evenings are for “Dixieland in Durango” concerts. “There’s a lot of fun stuff, and it all has a different theme,” Martinez says.
Something different this year, Martinez says, is the event that will be held the morning of March 26. Silent black-and-white film comedies will be shown, accompanied by live piano music.
And in a town full of music, Martinez says this is one you don’t see every day.
“It’s something different for Durango. These are musicians you’re not going to see anywhere else in Durango – they come here just for us,” Martinez says. “The Strater has always been about craftsmanship, and these entertainers are at the top of their craft; they’re also craftsmen, they create an emotion and a memory and bring the past alive. And they’re also moving into the future and helping set the pace for future music genres.”
Along with music, history talks and symposiums, there will be dinner specials throughout the weekend and after-parties from 9:30 p.m. to 1:45 a.m. at the Diamond Belle, where the musicians will show up and jam.
“Everybody packs the bar and they stay up and they sing and they socialize and you get to meet the entertainers one-on-one and just become friends with them and it’s great,” Martinez says.