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Music on the Hill Returns to Santa Fe

May 2, 2018 | By Eve Tolpa

Musicians perform at Music on the Hill in 2017.

Ask Santa Feans where they will be on Wednesday nights in June and July, and chances are they will say St. John’s Music on the Hill (MOTH).

The popular community outdoor concert series runs from June 13 through July 25, with a different band each week entertaining crowds from 6 to 8 p.m.

John Trentacosta is a MOTH board member and musician. When the college’s annual summer program began 13 years ago, he says, the lineup consisted primarily of jazz. But a few years back, “We decided we’d break up the (musical genres featured at the) concerts into two jazz, two rhythm and blues, and two world music, to represent the taste of the diverse community that we have.”

World music is largely represented by salsa and other Latin music.

“That gets them dancing,” Trentacosta says. “The whole focus has been to get the audience more interactive with the music. Upbeat is a big part of what we are looking for.”

MOTH’s jazz roots remain strong, however. As Carolyn Kingston, St. John’s director of community events and outreach, explains, “We partner with the New Mexico Jazz Festival. With our combined efforts we can offer one national act each summer.”

For 2018, that act is Ranky Tanky, a jazz-Gullah roots ensemble from Charleston, South Carolina, performing on July 18. In any given year, Kingston continues, “at least two or three of our concerts are from out of town.”

Community is almost as big an element as music. Part of that is due to the wide cross-section of Santa Feans that consistently come together for the festivities.

Crowds gather for Music on the Hill.

“People’s worlds connect—people you know from work, people from your kids’ school, families and babies and kids and grandkids,” Kingston says. “One supporter said that it’s one of the few places where you see all of the generations together. All ages can truly enjoy the music.”

In addition, Summer Classics and Summer Academy attendees are on campus during the series, and MOTH offers them a glimpse of life in Santa Fe.

Then there is the food, which for the last decade or so has been provided by Walter Burke Catering, which has become a sponsor of the music series.

“It’s nice to have something available for people who are coming straight from work, but a lot of people bring picnics and do their own thing,” Kingston says.

Douglas Maahs has been MOTH’s board chair for three years. His involvement in the program began, he says, because “I love music, and this series in its setting moved me.”

Maahs is also a photographer, and his “labor of love,” as he puts it, consists of capturing the enjoyment the Santa Fe community gets out of the concerts.

“We just seem to have a venue here where the crowd that we’re drawing from has every age group and every strata of the city,” he says. “What happens on that field, it’s magic.”

Between the dancing and the sunsets, MOTH attracts an average of 2,000 people a week.

Says Maahs with a laugh, “The biggest problem is getting people to go home.”