Stapenhorst steps back into scene with odd niche |

Stapenhorst steps back into scene with odd niche

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times Staff Writer

Back in Ellen Stapenhorst’s first round as a local musician, things were cooking. It was the ’70s; local bands like Starwood, Liberty and Tanglewood, whose seven members, including Stapenhorst, all sang, and played a combined total of 25 instruments, played regularly at Aspen spots Red Onion, the Blue Moose and Jake’s Abbey.”It was a great time,” said Stapenhorst. “There were lots of places to play. And among the bands, it never felt particularly competitive. It was very supportive.”Stapenhorst has been mostly away from the scene for the last 20 years. Since the early ’80s, she has lived mostly in Petaluma, Calif., where she studied the martial art aikido, worked for local Tom Crum’s Aiki Works conflict resolution company, and played solo gigs and in a succession of bands. But Stapenhorst, who spent much time here, always kept her eye on the valley. “I knew I wanted to come back. It just took me 20 years,” she said. Last summer, Stapenhorst returned, settling in Carbondale. And though she confesses she’s not an authority on local nightlife – “I don’t go out unless I’m playing,” she said – she has seen the musical hot spots dwindle down to almost nothing. She is, though, encouraged by the places that have come along where the focus is on listening. Stapenhorst has played Carbondale’s Steve’s Guitars, a most positive experience. On Wednesday, Aug. 20, she makes her debut at the valley’s latest listening room, Main Street Bakery. Stapenhorst, who sings and plays guitar and fiddle, will be joined by cellist Jane Robertson and possibly other guests.Stapenhorst is accustomed to the coffeehouse setting. Following in the footsteps of her older brother, Steve, another member of Tanglewood, she performed on the Southern California coffeehouse scene as a teenager. Later Stapenhorst managed the Whole, in her native Glendale, Calif.One odd niche Stapenhorst has made for herself is as a writer of conflict resolution repertoire. Doing her conflict resolution work, Stapenhorst often performs songs at the workshops as part of the resolution process.Most of the songs were not originally intended for such use. But Stapenhorst found that her material was suited to resolving conflicts. “Usually, it was songs out of my own experience of working through things. Or failing to work through things,” said Stapenhorst from Paonia, where she is conducting a weeklong songwriting workshop. “So a lot of the songs would work through the issues that came up – communication, freedom.”Only once did Stapenhorst write a song specifically for the Aiki workshops. “Get Centered” was the conflict resolution checklist set to music.Currently, Stapenhorst is recording a new CD at Bobby Mason’s studio, with Smokin’ Joe Kelly producing. The Double Diamond brings a world of music in the days ahead. Common Thread, an offshoot of marimba band Jaka, plays the last of a two-night stand on Thursday, Aug. 14. The Phix, a Colorado-based Phish tribute band, is set for Friday, Aug. 15. Frame of Mind, a funky, hip-hop rock band, plays Saturday, Aug. 16. Seattle soul-rock band Maktub makes its Aspen debut Sunday, Aug. 17, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band brings its horny New Orleans sound to the Double D on Monday, Aug. 18. Local funk-jazz group the Ben Diamond Band follows on Tuesday, Aug. 19, with Los Angeles groove-jam band the Family Groove Company set for Wednesday, Aug. 20. Tre Hardson, aka Slim Kid Tre from hip-hop group the Pharcyde, returns on Thursday, Aug. 21. Tuscarawas River Band, a funk-grass outfit from Ohio, plays Friday, Aug. 22.For those looking for reggae straight from the source, the Wailers play Aug. 24, with Toots & the Maytals on Aug. 28.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User