Facing the music: Aspen’s housing challenge
ASPEN The Aspen Music Festival and School brings about 1,000 people into one of the tightest housing markets in the county in order to put on a nine-week summer music festival. But now, the West End rarely features the sounds of a practicing violinist because many of the affordable lodges have become scarce. To cope, the Music School has had to be creative to find beds for those budding yound musicians.This year, two free season passes (a $1,950 value) were made available to anyone who could provide a free place for a musician to live. “Whether that was what did the trick, I don’t know,” said Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School. “We’re extremely grateful to about 10 residents who opened their house and took a student in.”In the large scheme of things, those homes are only a tiny dent in the need. Renting Burlingame and Marolt Ranch rooms from the city covers 60 percent of the housing for the 750 students. That, however, does not include 140 faculty and 130 seasonal staff members who sometimes get help – and sometimes end up on their own.
Every area of the Music School and Festival, from fundraising to student services to backstage personnel gets bigger in the summer. Many are college-age interns, but there are also midcareer professionals from all over the country. The high school-aged kids are guaranteed housing, as well as resident supervisors and food. The college-age musicians often have to work a little harder to find a room. “We had the highest request for our housing that we’ve ever had,” Fletcher said. “Previously, half the students who came found housing on their own and were happy to do that. As it gets harder, we get more requests.”Last year, the school rented the Holland House, but this year it was undergoing renovation. Chaffin/Light Associates – also owners of the Holland House – opened the Skiers Chalet for rent to music students.
“Chaffin/Light saved the day for us by saying they would open up the Skiers Chalet,” Fletcher said. “That was the decisive factor when we knew we would make it this year.”On top of that, the Aspen Skiing Co. also opened some Snowmass housing for the music school to rent this year. It’s the first housing for students outside Aspen. Though the school cobbled together enough housing this year, Fletcher said, “It will only get harder.” With housing costs rising and fractional ownership increasing, there are steadily fewer options. “We need a long-range plan,” Fletcher said. “I can’t speak for these other people, but I can say RFTA has a crisis, Skico has one, the hospital has one, and I would venture to say housing teachers is a problem that will become acute.”
Fletcher said the Aspen Music Festival and School has looked into joining other organizations for some ambitious housing programs but that the numbers didn’t work. Now that renting is getting so expensive, he thinks those projects might not be that far away. For now, the school needs to find rooms for three more students – all pianists. “A pianist is someone who is good to house because they have to be on campus practicing all the time,” Fletcher said. “It’s not like taking in a tuba player.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Aspen Skiing Co. invited uphillers to fill out a survey this week. It asks about habits such as how often they skin, where and when. It also asks if they would be willing to pay to play.