A fundraiser for the Orpheus Music & Arts Festival.EXPAND
A fundraiser for the Orpheus Music & Arts Festival.
Photograph Courtesy of Mihana Johnston

DU Students Throw Orpheus Music & Arts Festival in Glenwood Springs

Between turning in term papers and studying for finals, a group of University of Denver students came together to create an affordable gathering for artists, musicians, students and families alike. The result: the eco-friendly Orpheus Music & Arts Festival, which takes place August 31 and September 1 near Glenwood Springs, at Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort.

The founder of Orpheus, Bridget Hartman, came up with the idea after she returned to Colorado from studying in Glasglow, Scotland, where she had been inspired by how casual that country's music scene was.

"She found that if you wanted to play in Denver, you had to be more established. She wanted to create this festival that showcased young, local and upcoming talent. The bands don’t have the means or funds to play at other festivals, but they are super-talented," explains Orpheus vice president and DU student Mihana Johnston. "I don't want to pay $300 to go to a music festival. We wanted to make this as affordable as we could, so tickets range from $40 to $60 for the day, which is awesome."

In addition to the affordability, Johnston is excited her team is keeping things local and sustainable. "We wanted to be in charge, and we are fully funded from the community and not big corporation sponsorships. ... We thought about it. They have so much money, and it could work well, but we wanted to stick to the core of making it what we want to make of it. I think people our age care about this stuff, too."

The festival will be working with the ski resort to have a free shuttle heading into downtown so people can explore local businesses; all food trucks at the event will be from Glenwood Springs, and a local nonprofit will recruit festival-goers to clean up trails. There will also be the hot springs and mountains to explore.

President of Orpheus Music & Arts Festival Bridget Hartman plays to help raise money for the festival.
President of Orpheus Music & Arts Festival Bridget Hartman plays to help raise money for the festival.
Photograph Courtesy of Mihana Johnston

Johnston is just excited to see the festival happen. "It's a shit-ton of work," she laughs. "I'm studying marketing, but I’m learning so much more from doing the work and figuring it out. None of us have put on a festival before. ... One of the coolest parts of just doing this is the willingness of people to participate. The majority of our funding has come from donations from the community, which has been incredible to see."

Hartman, Johnston and fellow student and organizer Aaron Dupis didn't just want to bring Denver to the mountains, then leave. "Anything that is not directly from Denver, we are using the resources from out there. It’s about meshing those two communities as organically as possible," Johnston notes. Another way the festival organizers are fostering the relationship between the cities is by hosting an open jam on Friday night, where musicians from both places will share a stage and improvise.

"The majority of what [Hartman] plays is improv and people stepping in and doing solos," says Johnston. "It's more of a crafty, small music festival. We didn't want it to be a strict lineup. We wanted to bring the community together."

A fundraiser for the Orpheus Music & Arts Festival.
A fundraiser for the Orpheus Music & Arts Festival.
Photograph courtesy of Mihana Johnston

Putting a festival together has been far from easy, says Johnston, who admits the group initially forgot about the need for porta-potties.

"Working with big priorities and communities with a tight budget has been difficult," she admits. "On the flip side, people are excited about this. They are volunteering, giving us big discounts, giving us resources of people we could talk to. The challenge was the outreach, and the rewarding part has been the outreach we received from the people in the community."

At times the organizing process has felt slow to Johnston, who often forgets that the festival wasn't conceived until January 2018. In half a year, the group has organized the event and recruited 25 artists and bands to play – no small feat for a group of students.

The festival's namesake is the Greek god of music, Orpheus.

"There’s a famous quote about when Orpheus sang, all the birds and rocks began to sing and dance, too," Johnston says. "So it was a perfect combination of nature and music."

Orpheus Music & Arts Festival, August 31 and September 1, Sunlight Mountain Resort, 10901 County Road 117, Glenwood Springs, $40 to $75.

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