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Jessica Peterson stars in Cool to ¡Caliente!

Cool to ¡Caliente!, a concert featuring Jessica Peterson playing the exciting flute music of the Americas, accompanied by pianists Sally Neel and Harvey Schwartz and percussionist Jeff Heintzleman, takes place at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

Advanced tickets for $18 are available by calling 731-7469 or online at www.pagosacenter.org. Tickets at the door are $22.

 “One day I was listening through flute CDs, searching for something new to play,” recalls Jessica Peterson. “A piece by William Grant Still titled ‘Summerland’ just reached out and grabbed me. The next day I ordered the music. As I got to know the piece, and others by Still, an idea came into my mind: how about a concert of flute music from the New World? I knew I wanted something a little different from the typical flute recital repertoire by U.S. composers. I searched through more and more of the colorful music of the Americas until I found just the pieces I wanted. And so the idea that began with one piece grew into this dynamic program, Cool to ¡Caliente! ”

Jessica lives in Pagosa, where she makes Nighteagle Native American style flutes. She also writes music books with CDs and currently has 15 in print.

We asked Jessica some questions in a recent interview.

What do you feel is special about American music?

“When you’re talking about music from two continents, there is a great variety of styles. Yet I believe there is a recognizable sound: American music is fresh, energetic and optimistic. To me a lot of it has a great sense of place about it. Sometimes it sounds familiar and intimate, as if you’re sitting on the front porch one summer evening and catch the scent of your favorite flower. Sometimes it sounds unimaginably vast, as if you are flying into the depths of space.”

What will you perform in Cool to ¡Caliente!?

“A lot of American music has the popular sound and the classical sound mixed together. Astor Piazzolla, one of the composers whose music we’ll be performing in this concert, is an Argentinian composer who created a whole new genre of music called Nuevo Tango by blending together elements from classical, jazz, and folk music.

“In this concert you will also hear flute music written by the first African American to have had one of his symphonies played by a major American orchestra. You’ll hear a very popular song written by a sixteen-year-old girl from Mexico who was inspired by hearing a Spanish opera aria. You’ll hear Abraham Lincoln’s favorite tune, Brazil’s first popular urban music, and a gorgeous piece written by a woman flutist and composer whose musical soul was nurtured high in the mountains of Montana. In addition to concert flute, the Native American flute will make a brief appearance, as will a little clay bird ocarina from Washington. The rest of the program will be a surprise.”

Jessica comes from a musical family. Her grandmother was an opera singer, as are various aunts and cousins. Her father played clarinet. Her mother, Anita Briggs (formerly Titsworth), is a concert harpist. Anita now splits her time between New York and Pagosa, and the duo play together when she is here.

Jessica began performing in high school, playing in a flute and harp duo with Anita here in Pagosa. Later, they played together in New York, including at the Hyde Hall summer music series and the Cyr Center in Stamford.

“When I lived in New York working as a production assistant for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, I was immersed in music almost every day and every night. But I missed the mountains. It took me 20 years to get back to Pagosa,” says Jessica. “Now I have it all: living here and having wonderful musicians to play with, like Sally, Harvey and Jeff.

“Sally Neel is a music teacher and is music director of Curtains Up Pagosa! I’ve gotten to play with Sally quite a bit this past year, both as a duo and with our violin, flute, and piano trio with Heidi Tanner. Sally is a fabulous pianist and a great inspiration to me as I try to match her deep connection with and understanding of this music.

“Harvey Schwartz is a music teacher and pianist who volunteers countless hours in the music programs here in Pagosa. He has used his unique approach to the keyboard to develop a program of piano study. Harvey has been a terrific collaborator as we have explored this music together. Every time I rehearse with Harvey, I learn something about music or music history.

“Jeff Heintzleman is a sound engineer and percussionist who, fortunately for all of us, has joined our community of musicians and is getting back into playing and performing. Jeff is sensitive to all of the music we are playing and adds so much to the sound. Besides, he gives our shark its teeth; you’ll see what I mean by that at the concert.

“I’ve been thrilled with what all three have contributed from their various stores of musical and personal experience. We have worked hard together shaping and honing this concert, and we’ve had such a good time doing it. Our rehearsals, like American music itself, have been a satisfying blend of playful and serious.”

The unique beauty and energy of American flute music will be presented by Jessica Peterson in Cool to ¡Caliente! Tuesday at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts.

Cool to ¡Caliente! is part of the Summer Concert Series produced by the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts in collaboration with Elation Center for the Arts. Sponsors are Mountain Landing Guest Quarters, photographer Jeff Laydon and The Pagosa Springs SUN. For further information, call 731-7469.

 Upcoming concerts

 Aug. 21 — “Jeff Scroggins and Colorado,”award-winning musicians perform high-energy, high mountain bluegrass.

 Aug. 28 — Cherise Lukow. A gifted opera starlet conveys emotions with rare artistic beauty.

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