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Tent workers delivering their final performance

Sarah S. Chung

As of Wednesday afternoon, 590 seats in the new Benedict Music Tent were still without cushions, only three days before it is scheduled to host its first event.

Nevertheless, after nine months under deadline pressure, the director of the Aspen Music Festival is confident everything will be ready for the tent’s first event – Aspen High School graduation ceremonies on Saturday afternoon.

A collective sigh of relief is not quite at hand. Festival president Robert Harth expects the tent to receive its certificate of occupancy on Friday, one day before the graduates take the stage.

“I don’t think I could be happier about how things turned out,” he said. “It’s pretty phenomenal what’s been done in the last nine months. There are still finishing touches being made, but everything major is done.”

Harth has reason to be proud of how well the project was orchestrated. He said a 12- to 14-month project was squeezed into nine, with no big surprises or insurmountable hurdles. When asked if he ever thought the task was impossible, construction supervisor Warren Burke replied, “Every day.”

The secret to missing the original completion date by only two days has been “real tight coordination upfront.” And a “great attitude” from the hundreds of subcontractors didn’t hurt, Burke said.

“This was a huge project and everybody’s real proud,” Burke said.

During the last two months, an average of 128 people have been working seven days a week to finish the tent.

There were “no major cost overruns,” Harth said, but the construction costs did rise from $10.6 million to $11.3 million. The difference, however, has been covered with funds raised for the project.

“There were no surprises in terms of the kind that make you gulp and wonder if you’re in over your head,” Harth said. “But a little more time would have been nice.”

The project won’t actually be completed until after the festival is over this summer. Harth said some “tweaking” will be done after the music students leave.

A grand opening and public dedication for the new tent will be held Friday afternoon.

The music festival’s first concert will be a pair of free performances of Mahler’s Second Symphony on June 23 and 24.


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