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Pagosa to host Nashville Songwriter’s Symposium

Snagging another festival for Pagosa Country’s boom-and-bust summer season, CDC Executive Director Steve Vassallo and Janice Moomaw, former chairperson of the Pagosa Springs Music in the Mountains steering committee, scored a coup for the area, bringing a Nashville Songwriter’s Symposium to Pagosa Springs next July.

Set for July 8 and 9, the festival will feature performances by notable Nashville songwriters on both Friday and Saturday nights, with those performers leading a symposium for aspiring musicians and songwriters on Saturday.

According to Dickey Lee, event promoter and one of the featured songwriters, “The symposium will take the musician from the inception of a song all the way through release ... how they get paid, the different royalty streams, all of that.”

Buzz Cason, another songwriter and event promoter, added, “The symposium is open to the public, any aspiring songwriters. There will be a special rate for students. We’re also going to have a Song of the Year contest that will be judged by the writers.”

According to Moomaw, the event will also offer a scholarship for music students, “Paid by the semester and not up front. They’ll have to report back every semester with their grades to retain the scholarship.”

For the moment, event organizers are continuing to solicit sponsors, a determining factor in the amounts for the scholarship and the Song of the Year prize (which would include studio time along with other industry perks).

Vassallo said that, in talks with Governor-elect John Hickenlooper, “The state of Colorado has pledged $200,000 in seed money for this. They’re very ecstatic about this,” adding that Hickenlooper, “... is a big music fan himself ... in talking to him, he suggested a Colorado songwriter to perform.”

Vassallo also stated that Hickenlooper has promised to attend to help kick off the event.

Heading the CDC since early August, the event is the first success for Vassallo, not only as a potential money-maker for the area, but also as a major promotional tool. The hope is that, through promotion in national music industry publications, songwriters from all over the nation will attend and, seeing the natural beauty of the area, a few will decide to make Pagosa Springs their new home.

More than that, however, the hope is that the symposium will become one of the premier Nashville music events worldwide, making Pagosa Springs a “must-do” destination for aspiring and established musicians and songwriters alike.

Still in the planning stages, all Moomaw could say was that performances would not be held on Reservoir Hill.

“It will be in downtown Pagosa Springs, but we’re still confirming the venue,” she said, adding that, “the Saturday songwriters symposium will be held at the same place as the performances.”

While the pending Nashville Songwriters Symposium is certain to please local fans of Country and Western music, it is good news for all local residents. With one more event added to Pagosa’s summer season, the economic and promotional boost provided by the event is almost certain to provide a much-needed economic benefit to the area.

jim@pagosasun.com