Telluride Bluegrass: Steve Szymanski looks back at 21

Telluride Bluegrass: Steve Szymanski looks back at 21

[click “Play” to hear interview with Steve Szymanski]

CraigSteveJDTBF08-2047 In 1970, Tellurider Kooster McAllister hooked up with John “Picker” Herndon, Fred Shellman and J. B. Matteotti to form a band. Fall Creek jammed regularly down valley from Telluride. After returning from the second annual Walnut Valley Festival and National Flatpicker Convention in Winfield, Kansas, Fall Creek decided to start its own festival.

In 1973, Telluride Bluegrass  was born with the idea of turning locals on to the music and musicians on to Telluride. In 1989, Craig Ferguson and Steve Szymanski took over the show, but kept true to the roots.

Thirty-six years and counting, some of the greatest performers in the world continue to thrill growing crowds of Festivarian fans, picking Telluride over hundreds of wannabe events as the place to bring their families for a mini vacation. To them, to us, Telluride is not just another gig.

Telluride Bluegrass, however, is more than meets the ear. A lot of what happens behind the scenes and around town is thanks to Steve.

It was Steve who oversaw the development of the contests, Telluride Troubadour and band, and workshops, as well as the festival partnerships. Steve has become the Jolly Green Giant of his Festival, pushing Kris Holstrom of The New Community Coalition to do more.

“Steve Szymanski is constantly asking me what more Telluride Bluegrass can do. The Festival started the ball rolling with composting and, I believe, some biodiesel generators. Now that composting is as common as dirt, he and his team are now offsetting the estimated carbon from all Festivarians’ travel, hoping to quantify the carbon impact of camping versus staying in a hotel, etc. He has also effected a ‘Pledge for the Planet’ and there’s lots more Al Gore up his sleeve.”

A little known fact about Steve is that he himself is a talented musician, skilled on a variety of instruments: mandola, guitar and piano. He also has numerous producer credits to his name. So when Steve collaborates with Craig on the lineup, it is a case of takes one to know one. This year as every year, Telluride Bluegrass brags of a mix of names you know and names you will want to know.

Oh, and, Steve is also a pilot,  but no different from the rest of us today, flying high as  Bluegrass weekend gets off to a rousing start Thursday morning with  the duo of Jerry Douglas, celebrating his 25th Telluride Bluegrass anniversary, and Grammy winner Tim O’Brien, another Festival regular.

Press the “play” button and listen to Steve talk highlights of the 36th annual event.

Bluegrass stage photo by:
Tim Benko
Benko Photographics
5836 Park Lane Road
Longmont, Colorado 80503

studio 303-449-7180
cell   303-517-1371

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