Student musicians take to the Wheeler stage for a talent show

Marc Meeker works on a soundboard at Mad Dog Ranch and Studios.
Joseph Bland/Mad Dog Ranch and Studios

Seven students from the Roaring Fork Valley will take the stage at the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday night to show off their musical talent and compete for recording and mentorship sessions at a legendary local production studio.

“Aspen Rocks” will feature contestants from Aspen to New Castle in what organizer Julie Garside called an “American Idol”-style competition.

“We thought it would be a great way to attract young people to the valley, to showcase them, to give them live performance opportunities – and at the Wheeler, no less,” said Garside, co- Founder and Co-Executive Director. with Tami Word of the Inspire Aspen Foundation producing the event.

The nonprofit foundation focuses on educational opportunities in the fields of music recording, engineering, and production. it is affiliated with Mad Dog Ranch and Studios in Old Snowmass, which is owned by Garside and where Word manages the artist’s concierge, events and public relations.

Participants include Dante Clark, a 13-year-old singer from Aspen Middle School; Kendall Vivanco, a 13-year-old from Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs; Gracie Feinberg, a 14-year-old from Aspen and the Interlochen Center for the Arts; Fernanda Andrade, a 16-year-old from Glenwood Springs High School; Lewis Brown, an 18-year-old from Aspen High School; and a duo, Gracie Miller, 17, and Lydia Dye, 18, from Liberty Classical Academy in New Castle.

The Inspire Aspen Foundation invited students from schools across the valley to “submit a one-minute video of their performance, what they do,” Garside said.

Garside, Word and Marc Meeker – the Inspire Aspen Foundation’s program director and Mad Dog’s director of studio operations – selected the finalists for Saturday’s show.

For the live competition, three local musicians will serve as judges: Pete Durrance, Dave Harding and Josefina Méndez.

The top prize is a two-day recording and production session at Mad Dog Ranch and Studios, a site once owned by Jimmy Buffett and then Glenn Frey of the Eagles. Second place wins a one-day recording session with mentorship and production assistance at Mad Dog Studios; third place is a live performance in the Mad Dog Studios recording studio with a video of the performance.

Singer-songwriter Leila Sunier will perform as the opening act.

Several local businesses are sponsoring the event and there will also be a raffle.

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