to perform benefit concert to offset state budget cuts
|Pianist George Winston
will be playing a benefit concert July 2 at the Durango
Arts Center to raise awareness for the arts and state
budgetary cuts affecting them./Courtesy photo.
With the Colorado State Legislature slashing funding
for the arts, community arts centers across the state
are struggling to deal with budget cuts – and the
Durango Arts Center is no exception. In an effort to help,
internationally renowned pianist George Winston is performing
benefit concerts to raise money for centers like Durango’s
and will be performing in Durango on Wednesday, July 2.
a phone interview from his home in Santa Cruz, Calif.,
Winston said he’s playing the benefit concerts because
art is crucial.
“It’s essential in a different way than basic
necessities, but they’re both essential,”
Winston said. “After you’ve eaten, what do
you do? Some form of human expression.” Though it
may be viewed as essential, funding for the arts has been
under fire for years. The most drastic cut came this spring
when the state slashed its $1 million budgeted for arts
to only $200,000, said Brian Wagner, executive director
“The arts took an inordinately high blow,”
Wagner said. “We’re a small portion of the
(state) budget, but the cuts were significant.”
Wagner added that government support of the arts is particularly
bleak in Colorado, “Depending on which statistics
you believe, Colorado ranks 46th or 50th in public support
of the arts.”
As a result of the cuts, Wagner said DAC, which is in
its 37th year, will lose 5 percent to 8 percent of its
annual budget, or about $28,000. The cuts will affect
the center’s bottom line in areas it is difficult
to raise funds for, such as utilities, as well as the
center’s Exhibits Program, which showcases local
and emerging artists.
That’s where Winston comes in.
handful of Winstonisms...
On recreational music: “I
rarely listen to music unless it’s something
I’m working on. I listen to what’s inside
me – I’ll put on...Sam Cooke and listen
to it in my head.”
On never singing: “The
thing about music is, it’s hard to translate
into words. It’s like trying to tell someone
about green: you can get the idea across, but you
really need to see it.”
On playing solo: Though
he admires groups like The Doors, he doesn’t
intend to start a band, though he was in one in
the ’60s “like most people my age.”
On learning guitar after playing
piano: “It’s hard, but because
of the piano, I knew what all the notes were. All
I had to do was be able to find them.”
On the differences between guitar
and piano: “The same note will occur
in more than one place on the guitar... It’s
like driving a car and riding a bicycle: it’s
the same general idea to move forward without hitting
anything, but the way of moving forward is totally
On playing a number of instruments:
“None of these instruments comes easy
On art in the schools:
“Sports are great, but it costs a fraction
of sports to have a music program, and some places
On advice to aspiring musicians:
“Don’t just memorize written music.
Learn chords and later music theory. It’s
like knowing the names of streets.”
– Jennifer Reeder
Wagner said the concert will help offset the center’s
costs as well as raise awareness for the plight of arts
funding in Colorado.
“It’s been a consistent aspect of his using
his gifts, his talent and his name for raising awareness
and support for important causes, and we’re grateful
that he has chosen the Durango Arts Center as an organization
worthy of his attention,” Wagner said.
Anyone familiar with Winston’s recordings is familiar
with his versatility, which ranges from “Peanuts”
tunes by Vince Guaraldi, to his “Seasons”
recordings, and Doors covers on his latest album, “Night
Divides the Day.” Likewise, anyone who has seen
him in concert has experienced the awe of watching the
piano maestro leave his Steinway to pick up a guitar or
“It’s not enough to just play the piano for
me. With those three (instruments), I basically say what
I want to say,” Winston said.
Winston will play all three instruments at the DAC show,
including slack key guitar, the Hawaiian solo finger-style
guitar tradition that began in the early 1800s. Winston
is recording the masters of Hawaiian slack key guitar
for a series of albums on his label, Dancing Cat Records.
“I love the tradition, I love the music –
that’s it,” he said.
Wagner said that though Winston is passionate about the
causes he supports, he doesn’t “preach”
at his concerts.
“He comes and he performs – it’s a
concert,” Wagner said.
For his part, Winston said he loves playing benefit concerts
and touring – he averages 110 shows a year in the
United States, Europe and Asia. He said that each place
“has a feel to it,” which he enjoys.
“I like going to each place and seeing how it changes
the music and adds to it – it might be subtle, something
in the improvisation, or it might be a whole new introduction,”
And Winston believes Durango should have a positive effect
on his music, since he has visited numerous times to play
and visit close friends.
“I can’t be in Colorado and not play Durango,”