The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area has supported musical endeavors since its inception. They are particularly fond of a recently completed project with Adams State University’s music program and  Dr. Beth Robison Music Department Chair, to perform some original pieces about the San Luis Valley.

The original musical pieces were played by the ASU Winds and Percussion group at various events during the past few months. The pictured event you see is at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The composers shared their inspiration for creating the pieces:

Sisnaajiní, or Dawn Mountain, is a fanfare composed for the Adams State University Winds and Percussion during the fall of 2016. “Sisnaajiní,” the name given to Mount Blanca by the Navajo people, is the eastern boarder of their homeland. The legend says that the Holy people traveled to the mountain by rainbow and sun beams to decorate it. They used white to bring positive thoughts and thinking, and then fastened the mountain to the earth with a great bolt of lightning. The main theme of the piece represents the Holy ones leading their people to Dawn Mountain. The horn glissandos throughout signify the rainbows and sun beams, while the B section characterizes the decorations and positivity the people brought to the mountain. There is a percussion break tying the B section back to the A section which symbolizes the lightning bolt. The piece ends with a magnificent fanfare to portray the gift of the mountain.”  ~Brandi Quinn

Querencia was commissioned by James Doyle and the Adams State University Wind Ensemble for premiere at the Colorado Music Educators Association Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs on January 27, 2017. It is dedicated to Lillian Gomez, Marcella Garcia, and the Adams State Title V Office for their support of the project. Querencia comes from the Spanish verb meaning “to desire” and is a concept that describes a place where one feels safe, and at home.”  ~Jennifer K. Bellor

“The inspiration for Montaña Blanca sprouts from the roots of Mt. Blanca. The mountain sits at a grand height of 14,344 feet and is the fifth tallest peak in Colorado. Two cultures that have great prevalence in the area surrounding Mount Blanca are the Native Americans of the region and the prevalent Hispanic culture. Both cultures are featured in the piece in two very different styles of music, and in both sections there are quotes of the other culture. The piece is representative of the diversity and cultural mixing present at the roots of the beautiful mountain resting at the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley.”  ~Ryan Watters

A World in this Grain of Sand is inspired by three geologic processes that formed Colorado’s San Luis Valley.  You will hear: rifting (as repetitive patterns interrupted by percussive fissures), the La Garita Caldera Eruption (as the percussive shock wave of the eruption, falling debris, and the accelerating pyroclastic flow), and sedimentation (as shakers, rain sticks, maracas, and ocean drum, mimicking the sound of sands filling the Valley floor). The piece takes its title from two poems that express Earth’s rugged beauty: Blake’s Auguries of Innocence (“To see a World in a Grain of Sand…”) and Service’s A Grain of Sand (“…Life’s mystery might be solved in this grain of sand.”).  Fittingly, the piece ends with the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth, recalling and celebrating the magnificent creation of one of Earth’s most beautiful places. This piece is presented in collaboration with Dr. Tracy Doyle and with special thanks to Dr. James Doyle, Dr. Angela Winter, and the Adams State University Wind Ensemble.”  ~Chelsea Oden

“The overall concept of El Ranchero was to depict the life of this rancher: the day-in-day-out, ‘fingers to the bone’ hard work, coupled with the merriment and celebration of time spent with family and friends. While the main theme is a melancholy one, it is contrasted by the happier, livelier sections… hard work with ‘hard’ play. My mother’s side of the family is Hispanic, and only a generation from working out on the ranch. If I have learned one thing from my family’s stories or from my great uncle, Tío Pete, it is that the work is long, and the work is tough, but in that work lies a great sense of pride to counter its great pain. When the week draws to a close, there’s time for music and fun to wash away all the hardships of the daily work. In this rancher’s world I see the San Luis Valley. I see the scrub grass and the chico brush, the sand dunes and the mountains, and imagine this rancher working from sunup to sundown, with the land’s intense and harsh beauty as his backdrop..”   ~David J. Pierce

San Luis Snapshots for solo horn and wind ensemble was commissioned by and written for Angela Winter and the Adams State University Wind Ensemble for their 2017 CMEA conference performance.  Before writing the work, I downloaded several photos of the San Luis Valley depicting it at various times of day and various seasons. It is amazing how many moods are reflected in these photos. One photo made the valley look almost like a lunar landscape and that is reflected in the introduction. The fast section represents the great expanse of the area and the freedom of nature.. The waltz reflects the simple beauty of the valley with its various grasses and wildflowers. The hymn-like horn chorale is a “nod” to the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. The work also exhibits compositional processes other than programmatic, which include a fugue and simultaneous recapitulation.”  ~Jack Stamp

ValleViejo: The Colorado San Luis Valley is an overture-style piece in five main sections written for the Adams State University Winds and Percussion during the 2016 – 2017 academic year. The five sections of this work are meant to reflect the towering majesty of Mt. Blanca, the annual Bear Dance ritual of the Utes native to the San Luis Valley, Mal Acogido reflecting the disdain and frustrations of both the early Spanish and Mexican settlers in the valley as well as the native peoples, La Calamidad signifies the cultural losses on both sides of the Spanish / Ute conflict and the closing section represents the Renewal of both the spirit and lives of the people in the valley as well as a re-kindling of the sense of honor and beauty of this unique landscape.”   ~ John Brindle


For more information about the types of projects funded by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit their website at