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New music series gets underway this weekend in Aztec


Shows planned second Friday of each month through October

FARMINGTON — As someone who always has made his living at music, the last 15 months have been a difficult time for Aztec resident Hoyle Osborne.

Aside from performing a few virtual concerts with his partner, Jane Voss, Osborne has been largely idled during the COVID-19 pandemic, like so many of his fellow musicians. He's the first to acknowledge he didn't always use that down time constructively.

"I wasn't terribly ambitious," he said, chuckling and confirming this has probably been the longest stretch of his career that he has gone without performing for a live audience.

But Osborne, a pianist, has taken on two projects lately that have gotten him moving forward again. He acquired a requinto, a small, high-pitched version of a guitar often used in Mexican music, and has been spending his mornings of late teaching himself to play it.

"I've always subscribed to the theory that everything you learn contributes to everything you do, even if the connections aren't obvious," he said, explaining his reasoning for taking up the new instrument.

His other project is likely to have a more straightforward impact on his career. Along with Debbie Klein, the vice president of the Aztec Museum Association, he has organized an outdoor concert series in Aztec that will feature many of the area's top musicians, including Osborne himself.

The Music at the Museum Concert Series begins this weekend and continues the second Friday of each month through October. The concerts are free and will take place in the Pioneer Village, with visitors entering the site from Park Avenue on the west side of the Aztec Museum complex.

Osborne said he pitched the idea for the series to his friend and neighbor Jack Scott, the head of the Aztec Museum board, before taking it to Klein, the association's vice president.

"She had the time and energy to make this happen," Osborne said. "As soon as we started talking, we could see our thoughts were in alignment."

Osborne put together a proposal for a grant to help pay for the series and took it to the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation. That organization quickly agreed to supply a key part of the funding, he said.

"We just couldn't have done it without the association," he said.

Osborne and Klein quickly settled on using an outdoor space in the Pioneer Village for the series, specifically a pavilion-like structure where antique wagons and carriages usually are displayed.

"Most of the audience will be in the shade, which is crucial for a concert in July or August in the Four Corners," Osborne said. "I think it's going to be a very comfortable space."

Osborne recruited all the talent for the series, which includes four groups of which he will be a part.

The series kicks off at 7 p.m. on June 11 with a show by Voss and Osborne performing American popular songs from 1921, a year Osborne targeted because he said it marked the date that the first commercial gas well in New Mexico came into production near Aztec, marking the dawn of the energy industry in the state.

Osborne is planning a program that includes such tunes as "April Showers," "There'll Be Some Changes Made," "(I'll See You in) C-U-B-A" and "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me."

Osborne said other selections will reflect the foundations upon which much of 20th century popular music was laid – not just jazz, but country, blues and rock, as well.

The series continues July 9 with Kristen Chen performing a lineup of piano classics and on Aug. 13 with an 11-member ensemble led by Mick Hesse delivering a program called "Hope, Not Hate," which features music composed in Nazi concentration camps.

Voss and Osborne return on Sept. 10 to perform a program called "The Romance of the West in Song," then the series wraps up on Oct. 8 with the Ragtime Band, a seven-member group led by Osborne that will perform ragtime and other vintage band music.

A vintage piano donated to the museum by Step Back Inn owner Tweeti Blancett will be used in the series. Osborne said the instrument is approximately 100 years old but is in good condition, and has long been a part of Blancett's family, which goes back several generations in Aztec.

Osborne said it has been several years since he has performed a full concert in the Pioneer Village, although he and Voss used to play there regularly, drawing sizable crowds.

He said the idea of the new concert series seems to have been warmly received so far, and he hopes residents who are eager to take in some live entertainment again will give it a chance.

"There's real meat to the concerts in this series," he said, adding that he hopes to see plenty of families with children in attendance.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.