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It's a Bluebird Day

Folk music living legends swoop through Boulder for 3rd annual Bluebird Music Festival

Article by Ben Wiese

Photography by Ty Hyten and Molly McCormick

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

For Travis Albright, music is a key that unlocks the potential of a community. 

His understanding of such a concept is on full display in his work: each summer, Albright puts on a slew of music education-based summer camps for Boulder students with his nonprofit organization, Future Arts Foundation, and he kicks the season off with a celebration of the art form itself in the form of the Bluebird Music Festival. 

Albright’s work is the best of both worlds: an entrepreneurial spirit, accompanied by grand ideas and vision, and the day-to-day involvement and work ethic of a person with true conviction about his purpose. 

Since beginning the festival in 2014, after numerous performers, audience members, students, and employees have participated in his work, Albright is unwavering in his belief that there’s still more potential to unlock for the present and future generations of Boulder.  

Boulder Lifestyle: What would you want first-timers to know about the Bluebird Festival? 

Travis Albright: First-timers should be aware of the unique setup for the day. There are two, separately ticketed events that day. In the afternoon during Strings & Stories, Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Jade Bird, Josh Ritter, and Adia Victoria will each play a few songs from their catalogs and also tell stories of how those songs came to light. 

The evening will include full solo sets from Colin Meloy and Josh Ritter, while Jade Bird and Dave Simonett (of Trampled by Turtles) will play full sets with their bands. There is also a kickoff concert on April 16th at eTown Hall. Dave Simonett will play a full Strings & Stories show that evening to kick off the weekend.

How has your understanding of the importance of the Bluebird Festival changed over time?

Well, the event is now important for a variety of reasons. First off, proceeds from the event supply local schools with musical instruments they cannot afford and pays for art classes for the children of local teachers and first responders. Secondly, it has become an economy boost for the city of Boulder. The city estimated that the one-day event brought in around one million dollars to Boulder's economy last year. 

How has running the Bluebird Festival shaped your understanding of people and music? 

The success of this event has shown me that there is a thirst for "listening events" in a beautiful setting. I love a fun, dancing concert as much as the next person (I attended nearly 100 Phish concerts in my younger days), but there's something special about a festival that takes place in a beautiful, seated auditorium. It's very rare and special in that aspect. The unique Strings & Stories component just adds another beautiful layer to that. 

How has your role in organizing the festival evolved over time? 

Not at all. I still book all the musicians, do the marketing, meet with local businesses to acquire the sponsors, and put together staff/logistics. I feel like if an event founder stays well connected with all these aspects, it keeps a festival grounded in its roots and identity. Authenticity can be difficult to find in large music events these days with corporations running most large concerts and festivals. I like that Bluebird feels like a family event from the musicians, to the staff, to the attendees. That's important to me. 

If you could make one improvement to the festival and didn’t have the budgetary/logistical hurdles you have, what would it be? 

I would eventually like to grow it into a full weekend event, whether that means more days at Macky Auditorium or adding venues. We feature many national and international musicians, but there are so many great local musicians around here. Over 60% of our attendees come from out of the state or country. I'd like to draw them in with the national acts, and turn them onto our local acts while they're here. I'd also like to tie other fun aspects of the city into the event. We live in such a beautiful place, folks should experience all of Boulder while they're here, not just the music.

Why do you keep doing this? What do you get out of it beyond knowing you’re putting on a successful show that people enjoy? 

I LOVE it. Curating an event that so many people have come to love is my passion. Then, when I see proceeds benefitting the kiddos of our community, I feel so proud that it's become such a well-rounded community event.

What’s the next step for the festival and what does taking the next step look like on a day-to-day basis?

I think the next step will be adding more days, venues, and musicians to the event without getting out of control. I want it to keep its identity, but also want to show off more of Boulder and Colorado musicians. To be continued...

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