The spirit of art
3rd Ave. Arts fills artistic and musical niches

SideStory: 3rd annual Chamber Music Festival draws to a close

C. Scott Hagler, musical director for St. Marks Episcopal Church, stands inside the church. Under Hagler’s direction, the church is now providing a nonsecular venue for musicians and artists, “Third Ave. Arts.”/Photo by David Halterman

by Stew Mosberg

Art and music have been a vital element of sacred rituals and church interiors for centuries. As such, they are an appropriate addition to the core of Durango’s St. Marks Episcopal Church, which is now providing a venue for musicians and artists and a nonsecular audience.

Attracting people to the sanctuary for artistic programs became a key goal for C. Scott Hagler when he joined St. Marks as music director almost seven years ago. Following several years of success, the concept grew into the 3rd Ave. Arts Organization. Today, a year and a half after its inception, it has attained status as a not-for-profit cultural events organization that presents a litany of music programs and arts education opportunities to all in our community.

A full compliment of programs, ranging from the current Durango Chamber Music Festival and solo-artist exhibits, to the broadly based Sacred Arts “ICON” show, draws attendance from around the region. St. Mark’s is also the scene of four recitals each year featuring acclaimed musicians and singers, plus the weeklong Bach Festival with its “Bach’s Luncheon” recitals and “Bach to School” program; the latter of which offers children a chance to play marimba, mandolin, harpsichord and organ.

Hagler, a professional graphic designer, is best known as a keyboard virtuoso, frequently performing at the Durango Arts Center where he also filled in as interim director two years ago. The affable Hagler’s versatility, enthusiasm and love of the arts led him to establish the 3rd Ave. Arts Organization and become its director.

According to Hagler, separating the organization from the church made sense, “It was time for transition,” he says. Yet, the ultimate goal, he acknowledged, was to help fund educational arts programming while providing a distinctive setting for art and music. Hagler took advantage of an existing nonprofit structure held by St. Mark’s and began pulling together a board of directors, while retaining the encouragement of the church. “The vestry and rector are very supportive,” Hagler says, and there were clear guidelines drawn to give him freedom to expand on programs, present exhibitions and performances, and to seek donations and grants from outside the congregation. Though Father Andrew Cooley, an ardent advocate of Hagler’s plan, is scheduled to leave St. Mark’s at the end of May, Hagler was given assurance that he will be able to continue 3rd Ave. Arts and its projected course. In fact, while the organization is supported by St. Mark’s through the generous use of space, it will remain independent and has no allegiance to any one faith.

The nascent organization has seen the audience increase in size (as many as 125 people have filled concert seats) and so, has enhanced the programming and created new educational opportunities. Two recently added ventures are the Chamber Music Academy, a five-day conservatory for children ages 7 to 13; and the “Care and Feeding of the Mature Singing Voice,” a program for adult singers and choir directors with professional coaching from acclaimed educator and conductor Heather MacLaughlin-Garbes.

Buoyed by increased public interest, Hagler says he’ll be “keeping an eye out for other niches to fill,” while also expanding on the Chamber Music Festival.

Meanwhile, established programs and events are gearing up for this year’s presentations. In the fall, the Sacred Arts Festival will mark its sixth year celebrating artistic expressions of the sacred, including visual art, music and poetry. As in the past, the gallery will feature the nonsectarian multi-media “ICON” exhibit.

The ongoing Durango Chamber Music Festival, under the artistic direction of violinist Kasia Sokol, returned with three concerts in the sanctuary, May 13, 20 and 27. Programs featuring the music of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz and Beethoven, as well as some lesser performed composers, will be given by two dozen artists.

Marking its sixth year, the recently concluded recital series has been a perennial favorite of music lovers, and this year included performances by Hagler as well as oboist Danielle Menapace in a celebratory return after a frightening illness; the highly regarded Soprano Gemma Kavanagh; and Jonathan Latta, who gave an impressive performance on his marimba. In the something for everyone category, the Salsa Festival will return later this year, featuring spicy Latino music, the dance and the zesty condiment. This one-day fun-filled and tasty event helps 3rd Ave. Arts raise money for charity. Then, of course, there’s the year-end “Majesty of Christmas” production featuring Kavanagh, Hagler, Menapace and flutist Rochelle Mann, which is fast becoming a holiday tradition. •

For additional news about 3rd Ave. Arts and a complete schedule of events and programs, as well as ticket information, go to



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