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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

The Voice of the San Juans: Altrusa raises money for a song

Aug 31, 2017 01:52PM ● By April Martinez

Steve Warner and his coach, Jane Pierrepont, rehearse weekly in preparation for the competition.

The television show “The Voice” has had great success on NBC, earning three Emmy awards in its 12 seasons and boasting number-one ratings. Viewers tune in again and again to watch hopeful singers work to achieve their dream of doing what they love professionally by attracting the attention of celebrity coaches.

A few years ago, Rose Price, a long-time member of Altrusa International of Montrose, had the idea of bringing the magic of “The Voice” to western Colorado to celebrate local talent and simultaneously help the community.

Thanks to Price and her fellow Altrusa members, the first Voice of the San Juans competition in 2016 featured 36 contestants and a great audience turnout.

The contest returns on Saturday, September 23. This year, 12 finalists will compete at the Montrose Pavilion, sharing their gift and helping the community that has supported them throughout the contest.

Singing for a cause

Voice of the San Juans is a fundraiser for Altrusa, a charitable organization that has sought to “fill needs in the community for a variety of different organizations that may not have had help in another form,” the competition’s co-chair Erin Smith-Berge said.

The 2016 competition raised nearly $20,000 to support local organizations.

The Montrose chapter has supported Bosom Buddies, highway clean-up efforts and Season’s Readings, a literacy program that donates books to children. To continue supporting these efforts, the club hosts regular fundraisers, such as its annual Spring Luncheon, which sells out every year. Smith-Berge, who’s been involved with Altrusa for about 10 years, hopes that The Voice of the San Juans will eventually become just as popular.

“It would be great if people started looking forward to it every year and wondering, ‘Who’s going to be in “The Voice” this year?’” she said.

One of the things that makes the contest so unique is that the audience chooses the winner. The finalist with the most audience votes will walk away from the competition with a $1,000 prize. It’s rewarding for the audience members, too.

“[Last year’s competition] really was great entertainment,” Smith-Berge said. “The performers had such a variety of talent. The comment I heard the most was that people were surprised at the caliber of singing talent we have here.”

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Voice of the San Juans finalist Steve Warner prepares for September’s final performance.

A nerve-wracking experience Steve Warner, 64, is one of this year’s finalists. He grew up on a farm in Kansas City, Missouri. There, he’d go out into the fields where no one was around and sing. Music and performing remained mainstays in his life. He performed in high school drama productions and the praise team at his church. He also played the fiddle.

More recently, Warner has taken a liking to community theatre. His debut performance was as a pickpocket and a prisoner in the Magic Circle Players’ 2013 performance of “Man of LaMancha.” He has since appeared in three other musicals, taking on significant roles in shows such as “Annie” and “Guys and Dolls.”

Although Warner is an experienced performer, he admitted that competing in the first round of The Voice of the San Juans, which took place in July, was nerve-wracking.

In “The Voice,” contestants perform a blind audition for a panel of celebrity coaches who will mentor fledgling singers as the contest progresses. Each coach sits with their back to the performer. If he or she decides the singer has potential, they turn their chair and face the music. The

Voice of the San Juans operates the same way.

“There’s something about the mic just standing out there and the judges sitting with their backs to you,” Warner said. “You think, ‘What if none of them turn around?’”

But all four judges turned to face him and gave him scores high enough to send him to the finals.

The Voice of the San Juans raised nearly $20,000 in 2016 for Altrusa International of Montrose and the organizations it supports.

Weeks of training

Warner chose Jane Pierrepont, 67, as his coach for the competition. Since his blind audition, they have been working together weekly to prepare for the final competition in September.

The two of them—along with accompanist Becky Northey—know each other from Magic Circle Theatre. It helps make the atmosphere during rehearsals calm and enjoyable, even as the group discussed pre-performance nerves.

Northey, 75, has played piano and sung since she was 4. She believes nerves are a good thing.

“If you’re not a little bit nervous, you’ll be flat as a pancake!” she laughed.

As a coach, Pierrepont likes to focus on technique. She knows what she’s doing, as she has sung in amateur and semi-professional choruses, performed with community theatre and opera choruses, coached singers and directed choirs and has even sang at Carnegie Hall. She is pleased with Warner’s work.

“He listens! He’s like a sponge, and then he produces,” she said.

She said she enjoys hearing the differences in the performance between the first round and the finals.

“It’s really fun to see what people can do,” she said. “I’m very grateful that I have [Warner] and that he chose me. We’re having a lot of fun.”

Warner is looking forward to the competition at the Pavilion, and said he’s thankful to have the opportunity to share his love of music with others.

“I’m 64. It was time to go for it. You need to make time for the things you believe are important,” he said. “I think God loves to bless people— we’re given gifts, but they’re not ours to keep,” he said. “They’re meant to be given away.”

Tickets for The Voice of the San Juans are $35 for general admission and $75 for VIP, which includes a catered reception prior to the show. Tickets are on sale now at Fabula, 317 E. Main St. in Montrose, and online at On September 23, doors will open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 6:30 p.m. A cash bar will be available. Audience members are encouraged to bring their smartphones to vote for their favorite contestant.

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