The Musical Intersection

By Devin Odell


An acquaintance said to me recently that she wished that she could live in New York.  I was surprised. I rarely meet anybody in Northern Colorado who would rather live somewhere else, and so I asked her why.

“Oh,” she said, “just to be able to go out any night of the week and see something great.” 

I didn’t want to argue with her, so I let the comment pass. But I felt like saying, Look around! You can almost do that here.

We’re not New York (and almost all of us are grateful for that), but no one person could see even a quarter of the music, theater, dance, art, and literature going on in this area. Dedicated music lovers have to maintain a good calendar to keep from double- or even triple-booking themselves.

And a lot of those performances are as good as anything in New York. In fact, I recently attended a chamber music concert at Alice Tully Hull, one of New York’s famous classical music venues, to hear a premiere of a work by Bruce Adolphe, Are There Not a Thousand Forms of Sorrow. But it was only the New York premiere; the world premiere, played by an equally distinguished ensemble, took place in Fort Collins this summer! 

You just never know what you might find if you venture out in this area.

Several weeks ago, I went out on a Wednesday night to hear Mark Sloniker hold court in the Sunset Lounge atop the Elizabeth Hotel, where he plays jazz four nights a week with a solid mix of musicians. Snow was in the forecast and I was in the mood for an Old Fashioned and some thoughtful takes on the standards. 

But I was stopped in my tracks on the ground floor, as I passed through the Magic Rat, by a singer-songwriter named Emily Scott Robinson. Accompanying herself on guitar, she sounded like a young Nanci Griffith and sang a beautifully crafted song about small towns. 

I sat down and she sang another and another, and I watched as the small crowd in the bar became enraptured by her stories of pain and healing. (Check out “The Dress,” the song she wrote about her recovery from a sexual assault.)

I’d never heard of her, but it turns out she’s been written up by Rolling Stone, Billboard, and American Songwriter and recently released her third album. And here she was, Wednesday night in Fort Collins, no cover, and a few lucky people who showed up on the first snowy night of the year caught some musical heaven. 

So that’s the kind of thing that we–a rotating cast of writers associated with Off the Hook Arts –hope to do with this column: to help you get out there and find some of the magic you might otherwise miss.

And we especially want to highlight the ways that this music intersects with all the other parts of our lives: with science and medicine, visual art and literature, philosophy and politics. Hence, the name: The Musical Intersection.

In an upcoming column, we will introduce you to the Brentano Quartet, which is coming to the Rialto Theater in Loveland on February 9, 2020, as part of Off the Hook Arts Winterfest. One of the world’s greatest chamber groups, they will play some incredible Beethoven, along with a world premiere of another Bruce Adolphe work, as part of a week of concerts and events focused on music’s power to heal and regenerate.

An ongoing focus will be collaborations between scientists and musicians. Two outstanding examples come to mind from last summer: the River Voices concert at the Lincoln Center, in which hydrographs–records of river flow–were transformed into music, and the many Off the Hook Arts’ Summerfest concerts and talks about the connections between music and cognitive psychology. 

And we will seek out stories of young people who are reaping the many benefits of learning about and performing music and the groups and individuals who are trying to guide them and help get them the instruments and instruction they need. 

As you can tell from all this, we will not limit ourselves to any one genre of music. We plan to write about everything from bluegrass to Bach–and if Chris Thile comes to town, Bluegrass and Bach–with the idea that great music knows no borders and can connect with anyone and anything.

So please look for this column a couple of times a month and feel free to send us your comments and your thoughts on what you would like to see us cover. We hope to see you soon at a show!


Devin Odell is a retired judge who lives with his family in Old Town Fort Collins. Off the Hook Arts is a Fort Collins non-profit that provides low-cost music performance education for students while cultivating a love of the performing arts through public concerts and special events.



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