Museum of Boulder's 'Music Buffs' showcases history of CU's College of Music, iconic venues and more

·6 min read

Oct. 13—It's no secret that the Front Range has an insane appreciation for music.

While Nashville may be deemed "Music City," Boulder could easily snag this title with its array of singers and players busking on the Pearl Street Mall, in barrooms and at storied concert halls.

From reverent Deadheads to fans of Beethoven's repertoire, live music enthusiasts have packed stadiums and trickled into architecturally stunning auditoriums to escape into stirring worlds of sound.

Museum of Boulder's latest exhibit, "Music Buffs: A Century of Music at CU," looks at the University of Colorado Boulder's lineage of onsite music programming, sought-out on-campus concert venues and provides a glimpse into the College of Music's future efforts.

The layered collection — a two-year endeavor, delayed due to the pandemic — is much welcomed given the fact that 2020 was marked by empty stages and nearly all major live music events being canceled or postponed.

"What I personally found inspiring about this collaboration was that not many people know about how much musical history there is in Boulder, and the College of Music overall," said Addie Tomsyck, coordinator of guest services at Museum of Boulder. "Through this exhibition, patrons are able to get a glimpse into the rich musical history of Boulder and the College of Music proper."

Within the myriad of materials, visitors can learn about the unbelievable talent that sprouted from CU throughout the years.

Among the creatives spotlighted is CU alum Pamela Z — an award-winning producer and composer known for her digital-looping techniques — who grew up in Boulder and studied voice at the College of Music in the '70s.

"Patrons can expect to learn about how a single piano in Old Main grew into a thriving program with over 500 students and a new state-of-the-art building," Tomsyck said. "They will be able to learn about some of the most iconic music venues in Boulder, such as Folsom Field and Macky Auditorium, and also get a glimpse into what the college is planning for its next 100 years."

Lovers of the Grateful Dead can feel nostalgic with a look back at photographs from the band's packed gig at Folsom Field in 1972, where 35,000 people were in attendance.

When not being the locale of football games, the large stadium venue was also rocked by greats like Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones.

Just last month, Macky Auditorium hosted the Bluebird Music Festival — an annual event that drew fans from around the country and featured Otis Taylor, Daniel Rodriquez, Molly Tuttle and many others.

From previous performers like singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne to Japanese-born American violinist Midori, Macky continues to welcome a diverse number of artists to its stage.

Jason Mraz and Toca Rivera will play the cherished CU venue Dec. 17-18.

"I think learning more about these iconic venues was one of my favorite parts of working on the exhibit," said Chelsea Pennington Hahn, curator of collections at Museum of Boulder. "They are so well-known in Boulder — and around the country — for their concerts and other performances, but so few people know the history behind how these spaces came to be. The exhibit explores this little-known history, as well as some of the wilder stories of concerts at Folsom and the reason why it's not used as much as a concert venue other than special occasions anymore."

The exhibit also gives a nod to the Takács Quartet — a world-renowned string group founded in Budapest, Hungary, that is now based in Boulder.

On Saturday, an opening reception for the "Music Buffs" exhibit will take place from 4-7 p.m. Admission is included with the purchase of a standard museum ticket. For youth, college students and seniors admission is $8 and for adults it's $10.

"The opening reception will be a fun evening for people to see the exhibit and also have a chance to meet the people who helped make it happen — the curators at the museum and our collaborators at CU," Hahn said. "We are planning to have live music, but are still waiting to hear back from a few people so we don't have details yet."

Museum of Boulder hopes to provide a platform for local musicians to entertain patrons during the duration on the exhibit that will be up through Nov. 28.

"Throughout the run of the show, we certainly want to use this opportunity to showcase local musicians, both from CU and the Boulder community," Hahn said.

The eclectic stroll down a musical memory lane is something that will resonate with musicians, scholars of rock 'n' roll, historians and anyone who considers concert tickets money well spent.

"Working with the Museum of Boulder has been a wonderful collaboration with the CU Boulder College of Music," said Laurie Sampsel, professor of Musicology at the University of Colorado Boulder. "Partnerships of this kind help bridge the gap between faculty research at the University and the community in Boulder."

Sampsel will give a presentation on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m., "A Guided Tour of Colorado Songs," — which will provide a look into 20 songs inspired by the Centennial State.

The talk covers tunes from a variety of genres dating back to the late-19th century up to today and highlights lyricists, composers and performers that have found Colorado to be a great muse.

While some songs focus on the magnificence of the mountains, others explore the state's history. The presentation also will dive into Colorado's positives and negatives through music.

"My earliest folk song is 'Colorado Trail,' but I also include some composed in response to the 2013 flood by Justin Roth and Taarka," Sampsel said. "The rap song I picked is 'Colorado' by TechNine."

Tickets to Sampsel's talk are $10.

Also adorning the wall, visitors will find the eye-catching mosaicked guitars made by artist Emily Dwan, a creative based in Denver's RiNo Art District.

The decked-out musical instruments bearing flowers and skulls — a nod to the Grateful Dead — were crafted especially for the exhibit and are for sale.

"If there is one positive takeaway from all we have moved through in the past year-and-a-half, it is gaining appreciation for partnership," said Lori Preston, Museum of Boulder's executive director. "We are honored to partner with our local university, educators and students — past and present."

With venues opening back up and more musicians hitting the road, this exhibit provides a timely look at memorable concerts of yesteryear and aims to get folks excited about the musical offerings to come.

"If we are open to it, music is proven to help heal and express emotion," Preston said. "We need to explore the stories of our local music venues and musicians and collectively create some new stories and music together."

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