Talon News - Good Local News



October 6, 2017

David Edward Albright

George Rowe, outside the Old Aztec Theater where Crash Music has operated since 2012

"People take the power of music for granted," according to George Rowe. Crash Music, based in the Historic Aztec Theater for the last five years, is closing up shop in November. Along with teaching most stringed instruments and drums, Rowe has produced many exceptional live music acts, mainly in the blues and folk genre.

The decision to shut it down was "purely economic," Rowe shared. "I love the people I work with. We're in a hard time financially, but that doesn't mean everybody is poor. We have live music around here, but it doesn't seem like a lot of people really care much about it."

He takes full responsibility for the situation, stating, "I don't know if it was a failure on my part with marketing - I certainly tried. You'd think there would be enough people in Aztec to make it go. I stand behind and feel very good about what I brought in." Asked if he thought more diversity and appealing to wider musical tastes would have helped, he agreed that may have enabled him to have "weathered the storm."

Rowe grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, the son of a high school principal. Franklin Park, about two miles west of Chicago, was home to people of mainly Polish and Italian descent. Rowe's musical influences, though diverse, are rooted in the blues, and he has studied folk forms from all over the world. He mentioned Norman Blake, Doc Watson, Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson as musical icons.

Hitchhiking and venturing out west to Boulder, Colorado, George intermingled his college education with mountain climbing and working and living at a food/restaurant cooperative. Playing music was always a part of the scene that enabled him to hone his skills creatively and spontaneously. He met Allen Ginsberg at Naropa Institute and lived the moment in full nomadic style.

Graduating from Eastern Illinois University with a music degree, he again headed west. Teaching music in the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico gave Rowe the opportunity to continue his traveling ways, as he visited a different school every day. "They gave me a tape machine and said play these songs and the kids will sing along." He didn't care much for that idea. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but I knew it would be better than that. So I got my guitar. I was always a pain, just to make them think."

He eventually started the first guitar program in the schools there. Moving on he taught for ten years in schools on the west side Albuquerque. Thirty-four years of teaching music in public schools included stretches in Kirtland and Bloomfield, where Rowe introduced the first drumming classes in the area.

The idea of making music happen in Aztec was a shiny gem he had to pick up. Rowe and his partner, Susan Rys, arduously worked to create an art-filled venue for parties, special occasions and musical acts, including regional favorites Indigenous, The Levi Platero Band, Lionel Young Band, Eddie Turner and the Trouble Twins, Studebaker John, Coco Montoya and many other professionals.

When asked about what he felt could be done to stimulate the local economy, without hesitation he said, "It's real simple ... promote tourism, entertainment and the arts."

For now his goals are to close the venue down, and possibly maintain contact with students and with the community. He said, "The ground is fertile here, there's good values here. But it's very hard for people to form coalitions." As for anyone interested in continuing to utilize the Aztec Theater, they should simply contact George.

Rowe insisted on acknowledging his friend, teacher and mentor of thirty years, now afflicted with Parkinson's. He met Rikk Morris, who worked with the severely emotionally-impaired, while they taught together in Albuquerque. George made notes of their ongoing dialogue and has applied them as his life principles. He rescued Rikk in California and brought him to Aztec a few years ago. "I place a high value on friendship," he said. Music helps to heal and ease a tough situation. Rowe once took his guitar and played in the hospital room of a newborn not expected to live when asked by the grandmother friend. "It helped us all to get through a difficult scene."

A final show, Saturday, October 14, will welcome back bluesman Eli Cook. "He's so good, so to go out with a highly-aclaimed act like this, we're just happy," proclaimed Rowe. A "Crash Goodbye Party," featuring bands tutored by George, will be held Oct. 29 at 4 pm. "Anyone who valued what we were doing for the community is invited," Rowe said.


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