Songwriters Expo moves to Telluride

There will not be much Durango in the Durango Songwriter's Expo this year. The top national songwriting event, which has taken place for the last eight years at Tamarron, has pulled up roots and moved to Telluride this year. The event's organizers cited financial differences with Tamarron and its property manager, Durango Mountain Resort, as responsible for the move.

The Durango Songwriter's Expo brings together hundreds of songwriters from throughout the country and world with industry professionals for a weekend of music and networking. Each year, the event also puts on a free concert for the community with the likes of Rickie Lee Jones, Rodney Crowell and Leroy Parnell performing.

"The three-day event is geared toward artists and songwriters and is a huge national event," said co-founder Jim Attebury. "People come from all over the world for this event, and it's been right here in our back yard."

This year, the expo is not going to be in Durango's immediate back yard. Attebury said that because of hikes in the costs of rooms at Tamarron and a new $5,000 conference facility fee, the event will be known as the Durango Songwriter's Expo/Mountain Village.

"I would have never moved it," Attebury said. "But they wanted to jack up our rates for rooms and charge us $5,000 for meeting space. They've never charged us for meeting space. We're their biggest money maker of the year."

Attebury said that the Expo could no longer afford to stay at Tamarron, and the Peaks Resort at Telluride stepped in with more favorable rates.

"The whole thing has been a mess," he said. "It's the Durango Songwriter's Expo not the Telluride Songwriter's Expo. I certainly want to have it in Durango and bring it back as soon as we can."

Matt Skinner, DMR marketing director, said that the differences were unfortunate and that resort would also like to see the Expo return to Durango. "In the transition between the previous property managers and Durango Mountain Resort at Tamarron, the Songwriters Expo was unfortunately let slip," he said. "We're sorry to see the group head out of town, and will do everything we can to have them back in 2005."

The event takes place from Oct. 7-9 at the Peaks Resort in the Mountain Village.

Raider Ridge dispute nears resolution

Two local groups the Friends of Raider Ridge and Don't Raid Our Ridge are continuing to meet head-on. A proposal for a new trail above the Skyridge neighborhood and up the front side of Raider Ridge remains contentious. However, there is hope that the issue will be resolved next month.

When the Skyridge development was approved for construction, much of the subdivision's backdrop was dedicated to the city as permanent open space. Since that time, a connector trail linking Skyridge with the extensive Telegraph trail system in Horse Gulch has been discussed. Skyridge residents Seth and Jody Furtney brought the idea back to life last February when they asked the city to build a better trail to the top of Raider Ridge. While some view the proposal as an amenity for Durango as a whole, others have called it a physical and aesthetic threat.

Larry Hock, of Don't Raid Our Ridge, has continued to maintain that a new trail would carry numerous impacts, affecting wildlife, erosion, fire danger and quality of life. "We've presented five degreed people backed up by the National Resource Conservation Service with evidence against cutting this hill," he said. "We believe that there are still numerous wildlife concerns that haven't been addressed."

Seth Furtney remains committed to the trail connection and during several meetings of advisory boards has worked to counter the arguments of Don't Raid Our Ridge.

"Is connecting the Skyridge community to the Horse Gulch trail system a valuable thing or not? We believe so and the results of our polling show so," he said.

The trail connection recently went before the city's Open Space and Parks advisory boards. Kevin Hall, Parks, Open Space and Trails development manager, said that the city is taking it slow in an effort to resolve differences.

"We're moving pretty slowly on this one just to make sure we do it right," he said. "In October, we're going to ask the board for a recommendation. If they say yes, we'll probably go out there and flag an alignment and have some specialists walk it."

Furtney said that the Friends of Raider Ridge have been open to different configurations and are interested in the best possible trail with the fewest impacts.

"The alignment of the trail is all up for evaluation and debate," he said. "I think the intent is to build the trail that is best for the community and minimize the negative impacts to the best degree possible."

For his part, Hock remains adamantly opposed to any trail on the hillside. "I'm not about to quit on this thing," he said.

Spotlight to Stardom finalists named

The long search is over, and the competition is heating up. The Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College has selected the finalists to perform in "Spotlight to Stardom," the first Four Corners talent search. Eighteen acts will perform before six industry professionals for cash prizes in the American Idol-style event on Oct. 17.

Gary Penington, Concert Hall managing director, commented, "We had a whopping 56 acts enter, and we auditioned every one of them over a three-day period. Originally, we were only going to choose 10 to 12 for the final show, but given the quality, we accepted 18 acts, and we could have easily added more."

The finalists are: Alien Resident, a four-man garage rock Durango band; ASA, a trio of fire dancers; local classical guitarist Jim Beck; The Few, a Bayfield High School band; Denny Finn, a one-man band from Arboles; Formula 151, a contemporary rock Durango band; Jonas Grushkin, jazz pianist; Shelby Janz and Tristin Montoya, clogging-tapping teens from Mancos; Piper Kuntz, classical, operatic vocalist; Quinn Kuntz, a 12-year-old comedian; The Lindells, a singer-songwriter couple from Dolores; Native American flautist Charles Martinez; Tommy McKinzie, or Tommy the Tremendous, a young Bayfield magician; Julia Morgenstern, a Durango-based singer/songwriter; the Pagosa Hot Strings, the already noted bluegrass band; Angelica Pozo-Dei Portes, a 16-year-old Durango High School student and rock singer; Ilima Umbhau, a singer and, at 7, the show's youngest performer; and Amy and Steve VanBuskirk, a country folk duo.

"One of our primary goals was to create a variety' show, and I think we've accomplished that," said Penington, citing the diversity of age, hometowns and performing-arts disciplines. "All these folks are incredibly talented and have shown great professionalism and spirit. We're looking forward to working with them all."

Fort Lewis enjoys boost in enrollment

More stringent admission standards seem to be paying off for Fort Lewis College. As the 2004-05 school got under way recently, the college retained 4 percent more freshmen students than the year prior.

This year, Fort Lewis welcomed back 59.5 percent of freshmen who enrolled in classes a year ago, up from 55.5 percent.

"We are extremely gratified to see a 4 percent increase in retention,"

Fort Lewis College President Brad Bartel said. "This is a significant accomplishment."

Enrollment at Fort Lewis College also grew by eight students this fall, with 4,190 students enrolled on the college's Sept. 14 census date. "This is part of our plan to gradually increase enrollment at Fort Lewis College," Bartel noted.

Fort Lewis adopted a long-term strategy three years ago to reduce the number of students who are not prepared to do college work. By state policy, the college is permitted to accept 20 percent of its applicants who do not meet the specified standard for admission. However, the college has chosen to focus its recruiting strategies on students who are better prepared.

In spite of tightened admission standards, the freshman class grew by 67 students from a year ago, and this year 990 freshmen are enrolled in the college.

Director of Admission Gretchen Foster credited a campus-wide recruiting effort, saying, "We've been the best kept secret in the state, but the secret's getting out. People are discovering that Fort Lewis is filled with caring people who help students get a great education."

compiled by Will Sands





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