Student musicians take the Wheeler stage for talent show |

Student musicians take the Wheeler stage for talent show

Prizes include recording time, production support at Mad Dog Studios

Marc Meeker works at a sound board at Mad Dog Ranch and Studios.
Joseph Bland/Mad Dog Ranch and Studios

What: Aspen Rocks music competition

When: Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Wheeler Opera House

Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for students at

Seven Roaring Fork Valley students will take the stage at the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday night to showcase their musical talent and vie for recording sessions and mentorship at a legendary local production studio.

“Aspen Rocks” will feature contestants from Aspen to New Castle in what organizer Julie Garside called an “American Idol”-style competition.

“We thought it would be a great way to bring in the youth in the valley, showcase them, get them live performance opportunities — and at the Wheeler, no less,” said Garside, who is the co-founder and co-executive director with Tami Word of the Inspire Aspen Foundation that’s producing the event.

The nonprofit foundation is focused on educational opportunities in music recording, engineering and production; it’s affiliated with Mad Dog Ranch and Studios in Old Snowmass, which Garside owns and where Word helms the artist concierge, events and public relations.

Participants include Dante Clark, a 13-year-old vocalist from Aspen Middle School; Kendall Vivanco, a 13-year-old from Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs; Gracie Feinberg, a 14-year-old from Aspen and the Interlochen Center for the Arts; Fernanda Andrade, a 16-year-old from Glenwood Springs High School; Lewis Brown, an 18-year-old from Aspen High School; and a duo, 17-year-old Gracie Miller and 18-year-old Lydia Dye, from New Castle’s Liberty Classical Academy.

The Inspire Aspen Foundation invited students from schools throughout the valley to “submit a one-minute video of their performances, what they do,” Garside said.

Garside, Word and Marc Meeker — the Inspire Aspen Foundation’s program director and Mad Dog’s studio operations manager — selected the finalists for Saturday’s show.

For the live competition, three local musicians will serve as judges: Pete Durrance, Dave Harding and Josefina Méndez.

The first place prize is a two-day recording and production session at Mad Dog Ranch and Studios, a site once owned by Jimmy Buffett and then The Eagles’ Glenn Frey. Second place wins a one-day recording session with mentoring and production assistance at Mad Dog Studios; third place is a live performance in the recording studio at Mad Dog Studios with a video of the performance.

Singer-songwriter Leila Sunier will perform as the opening act.

Several local businesses are sponsoring the event and there will also be a raffle.