Mesa State instructor’s poem inspires new piece for Best of the West Festival



Prior to the Best of the West Music Festival concert, there will be an unveiling and dedication of the Boelter-Combs Rehearsal Hall at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Theatre lobby in the Moss Performing Arts Center.

Stephen Boelter, a longtime friend, visionary and supporter of Best of the West, lost his battle to skin cancer in July.

His wife, Karen Combs, continues their support and vision.

It is the hope and dream of many poets that their work reaches as many people as possible, inspiring readers’ hearts and souls.

To have a poem become the inspiration for a new piece of music is an experience not many poets get. Mesa State College English instructor Luis Lopez will get that opportunity during the Best of the West Music Festival on Friday, Dec. 4, when his poem, “Abiquiu,” becomes music through a piece by David Gillingham.

Best of the West is a two-day music festival during which more than 180 high school students participate in rehearsals, sectionals, master classes and concerts.

Through the generous financial support of Stephen Boelter and Karen Combs, Best of the West has grown from one band and one guest conductor to two bands, two guest conductors, a guest artist and a guest composer from whom a new piece of music is commissioned.

This year’s piece, “Abiquiu,” came about after Gillingham discovered Lopez’s poem while searching for inspiration for the piece of music for the Mesa State College Wind Symphony’s Best of the West concert.

Intrigued by the poem, Gillingham approached me, the conductor of the wind symphony, and asked if it would be appropriate to use the poem as inspiration.

After reading the poem, I enthusiastically agreed and approached Lopez, who was excited and honored. Thus began the artistic collaboration of two composers, one of poetry and the other of music.

Using elements common to the arts forms, the rhythm of the words inspired the rhythm of the music. The lines of the poem inspired the melodies of the music. The choice of words inspired the choice of harmonies and tone colors.

The world premiere of this artistic collaboration will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, in Robinson Theatre in the college’s Moss Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for students and children.

The concert will feature another popular piece composed by Gillingham, titled “With Heart and Voice.” It will be guest conducted by Gillingham. The program also includes Alfred Reed’s “The Hounds of Spring,” Shostakovich’s ever-popular “Folk Dances” and “In Memoriam” by Mark Camphouse.

Along with the world premiere of “Abiquiu,” the concert will feature the Colorado premiere of Gillingham’s “Summer of 2008,” a euphonium concerto. Mesa State College was a member of the commissioning consortium for the concerto.

Brian Bowman, an internationally known euphonium performer and former soloist with the U.S. Air Force band for 20 years, is the guest artist for this year’s Best of the West.

Bowman will present a recital at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, in the Recital Hall in the Moss Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students and children.

The final concert featuring the high school students participating in Best of the West will be at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, in Robinson Theatre. The concert is free.

The guest conductors are Gillian MacKay, director of bands at the University of Toronto, and Craig Ketels, retired director of bands at Lewis-Palmer High School.

A full schedule of the events for the Best of the West can be found on Mesa State’s music department’s Web site,


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