The Stillwater Foundation Building Performance Venue


The Stillwater Foundation has been teaching music since 2005. Now the non-profit is fundraising to add a two-thousand square foot performance space for the community. This story is sponsored by Alpine Bank

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Hi, I'm Beth Drum, and I am a proud employee owner at Alpine Bank. Giving back to the community is one of Alpine Bank's core values, as it is with the many nonprofits that serve our community. We invite you to meet some of these change makers as part of our series, Community Matters.

One local nonprofit is trying to strike a chord with more Durango residents. Founded in 2005, the Stillwater Foundation isn't new, but it is emerging out of the pandemic, still renovating the space it acquired in 2018 when Cats and Music closed. The vision? A performing arts venue. At about 2000 square feet, it fills a need in Durango's performing art space options.

And we're making it sort of like a black box theater, where it'll have a stage that can be there. It can be any size, up to 10 by 20, or no stage at all. It can be anywhere in the space. All no fixed seating, so seat up to 120 people, either kind of traditional sort of theater seating or in the round, or no seating at all, or anything in between.

Director Jeroen Van Tyn says the foundation is fundraising to complete phase one of the project. He wants the space to be a community asset. It will represent significant growth for the organization that is pioneering a non-traditional approach to teaching music. Van Tyn is a classically trained violinist who's now a proponent of Stillwater's holistic approach after seeing it in action, watching it work with both of his children.

Teach kids kind of in an everything-at-once way. So getting them playing on instruments that are easy to play, don't take too much technique to get a decent sound. So steel pans, which are interesting for adults to look at because they're non-linear, electronic keyboards, malletinstruments like vibraphone, marimba, drum set, hand percussion, and singing, and he got them playing cool pop music on real professional great instruments, and he would arrange the tunes so that each kid was kind of playing at their edge.

It may not be the same old song and dance, but he believes the approach makes a more well rounded musician.

And so by the time a kid has done it for a couple of years, they've not only had the exposure to a wide variety of music that everybody listens to and everybody knows, but they also are proficient on instruments to the degree that they can not only play them, but when they're playing the bass and the kid next to him is playing the drums and the kid over there is playing keyboards, they know how it all works, 'cause they've actually played those kinds of parts before. And so that whole thing kind of seeps in.

Van Tyn says that even if a student doesn't believe music is their forte, Stillwater's unique approach might help them change their tune.

So everybody gets a lot of individual attention, number one, number two, they get to play lots of different instruments. Number three, they don't have to have previous experience, and they get to sound really, really proficient in a way that if you go into a school music program, they simply can't do that.

As a former consultant for Fortune 500 companies, and as someone who left a job in the business field to lead Stillwater's music education efforts, he knows what Stillwater gives its students.

The hard skills on the resume are almost irrelevant. You can be in, as long as you're somewhere between here and here-ish, that's okay. It really has to do with how do you think, how do you react to ambiguity? How do you work together as a team? How do you take your idea and reflect on another person's idea and synthesize that into something that actually is something real?

Stillwater plans to start showing off its renovated space sometime next month. To check on the private lessons and classes Stillwater offers for musicians of all ages and abilities, visit Thanks for watching this edition of Community Matters, brought to you by Alpine Bank and the Local News Network.


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