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FARMINGTON — Aspiring local musicians who feel like they've outgrown open mic night but who aren't quite ready to start booking shows in local nightclubs now have another option, thanks to officials at the Bonnie Dallas Senior Center.

Stephen Dick, the center's coordinator, said local musicians are being solicited for performances at the center's weekday lunches between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Performers will not be paid, but they will get the chance to hone their skills and gain experience before a daily audience that includes between 150 and 200 people, Dick said.

"This is a new program," he said. "It was something we've been talking about to bring in local talent and to entertain our patrons. We're really excited about seeing more talent."

Bands or solo performers have been brought in to the center to play during lunch on occasion in the past, Dick said, and those performances have always been well received by diners. But this is the first time center officials have tried to make live music a regular feature at lunch.

The outreach effort already has yielded results, Dick noted, explaining that Kirtland gospel and blues artist Julia Redhouse and her brother Chris Chavez performed a one-hour show for diners at the center on Feb. 8.

"We had a tremendous response," Chavez said, describing the reception he and his sister got. "They want us back."

Julia Redhouse is a singer-songwriter and guitarist, while Chavez plays harmonica and sings harmonies. Redhouse said she has recorded five CDs of her own songs, so she has plenty of material from which to choose.

Redhouse said her own introduction to live music came when she was just 11 years old and former Shiprock Chapter official Donald Benally spied her playing her guitar in front of her mother's house. He asked her if she'd be willing to play on Sundays before the chapter meetings.

Even though she only knew three chords, Redhouse agreed, and for the next few years, she would open the chapter meetings by singing "Amazing Grace" and a handful of other songs. The experience she gained doing that led her to help put together a band of family members, The Exodus, that spent many years playing not just in New Mexico and Arizona, but from Oklahoma to California, as well.

Dick hopes the opportunity the center is offering to aspiring musicians leads to more stories like Redhouse's.

"It's a great opportunity for people who have talent who haven't gotten their foot in the door to perform in front of people," he said. "It's a great opportunity for us, as well, to enjoy their talent."

Dick would like to schedule performances at the center as often as possible, he said, up to three or four times a week if there are enough bands or artists willing to perform. The center has its own sound system that performers are allowed to use, but they can also bring their own equipment if they are more comfortable with it, he said.

Dick said the crowd on Feb. 8 seemed especially taken with Redhouse and Chavez, and he noted she seemed to sell quite a few of her CDs when the show was over.

No audition or demo recording is required, he said, and all types of music and performers are welcome.

"Even one person with a guitar or five or six people that have a band – that works, too," Dick said. "We're open to all of it."

To book a show at the senior center, which is located at 109 E. La Plata, call 505-599-1380.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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