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Fundraiser to benefit Roswell Symphony Orchestra

Submitted Photo/Daniel Driensky Renowned pianist Doug Montgomery said he is looking forward to his upcoming concert with violinist Elizabeth Young at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art.

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Renowned pianist Doug Montgomery and violinist Elizabeth Young to perform

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Two of Santa Fe’s most popular artists, pianist Doug Montgomery and violinist Elizabeth Young, will perform at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art (AMoCA). The concert is benefiting the Roswell Symphony Orchestra and takes place Nov. 4 at 6 p.m.

Both artists call Santa Fe their home and can be heard regularly at Vanessie’s, Santa Fe’s only piano lounge.

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Young graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and worked for more than 10 years as a full-time musician in New York City. She has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Oman. Living in Santa Fe, she has performed with the Santa Fe Opera, the New Mexico Philharmonic and the Santa Fe Symphony, among others.

In a phone interview, Montgomery talked about the upcoming event and his long career as pianist. He said that he has performed in Roswell going back to the early ’90s.

Asked if he was familiar with the museum’s Bösendorfer concert grand piano, he said that being able to play it is one of the biggest treats for him.

“I love that piano. I think it is one of the jewels in the Southwest,” Montgomery said.

This time, Montgomery isn’t coming as a solo act, he said.

“I am bringing a fantastic violinist by the name of Elizabeth Young, and we’ll have a show that’s incredible. But I’ll be also playing in between some of our selections (and) my own selections. We have some treats that people love — classical beautiful pieces and then improvisations. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” this is a piece that a lot of people will know, and we have a country fiddle tune, not to mention some beautiful standards in Broadway that we’ll like to play for you. I don’t think you’ll ever get bored; we’ll have a lot of variety. Something for everybody.”

Asked if he remembered his first time on stage, Montgomery said, “I fell in love with music when I was really young, but I didn’t get a chance to get proper lessons until I was 10 years old. I think I was on stage when I was 11. I took to it very quickly. And I can play things by ear, but my teacher warned me at that time. They were very quick to discover that it could be a bad habit to hear something by Bach and then try to play it by ear instead of the way Bach had written it.”

His biography states that Montgomery attended Northwestern University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1976. In 1978 he studied with Martin Canin and John Browning at the renowned Juilliard School of Music. Upon receiving his master’s, he was awarded the prestigious Joseph Lhevinne Scholarship in piano and returned to teach at Juilliard for a year. He attracted national attention as a top prize winner(1977) in the renowned Robert Casadesus Piano Competition. In 1976, he also won first prize in the Musical Arts Competition in Chicago, which is sponsored by the Society of American Musicians.

With all these awards, it was still difficult for Montgomery to make a living, and, at that time, classically trained musicians did not perform other styles of music. For a while, Montgomery stopped performing altogether, and, after a hiatus, where he was able to pay off debts, an evening in a piano bar with friends changed his life. He would indeed use his classical training to perform popular arrangements. Another change came with a visit to Santa Fe; where he relocated and has performed since 1983.

Asked if after all these performances he still gets nervous going on stage, Montgomery said that it would happen only when performing a piece that he didn’t know well.

“When I’m improvising, there is nothing to worry about, because I don’t know what I am going to play anyway until the microsecond before I actually execute the note,” he said and chuckled.

As the case for many artists, Montgomery couldn’t go on tour during the pandemic; and, though he had some savings, money was tight. Support came from his fan base, who would watch him practicing on his website and then send him money. His home base, where he performed when in town, Vanessie’s piano lounge, had been closed due to the lockdown. Only the attached inn remained open. Montgomery still maintained the piano in the lounge, taking care that the humidifier was filled. And, of course, he would practice. In a short time, some of his fans learned about it and — social distancing in mind — started showing up to listen and leave tips. “They didn’t have to,” Montgomery said. “I wasn’t soliciting it, but they left tips. That helped a lot because we only needed food money.”

Besides the ticket sales, funds for the symphony will be raised by allowing the audience to request songs in exchange for donations. That will occur after the main performances.

According to the organizers, only a few tickets are left. For more information, visit roswellsymphony.org or call 575-623-5882.

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