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Promotional brochures from the 2000 and 2001 summer concert series at Red Butte Garden. Courtesy image
A look back at Red Butte Garden’s concert series
Music » Shows began in 1987 on four Sundays only — with season tickets costing $10.
First Published May 22 2013 05:02 pm • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:32 pm

Before he became founder and director of Salt Lake City’s Twilight Concert Series, Casey Jarman was a working musician. And in 1987, he and his band, the Jarman Kingston Quartet, were one of the first four concerts at Red Butte Garden.

At that point, the botanical garden on the University of Utah campus held concerts on the second Sunday of each month from June to September. A season ticket cost $10.

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"I don’t think they had a canopy," Jarman said recently. "It was a much smaller thing."

Since those inauspicious beginnings, the Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series has become one of the most popular summer music events in Utah.

The shows, which originally featured local artists, now include well-known musicians such as Tony Bennett, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne and She & Him. On Tuesday, pop-rock quartet Vampire Weekend opened the 2013 season, which will include a record 28 concerts.

Ticket prices have changed, too. A season-ticket package (with added perks) for two seats on the Eccles Terrace Lawn will set you back $4,500.

"It’s super-gratifying to see it grow," said Chris Mautz, the garden’s concert promoter. "It’s hard to imagine it from a decade ago."

The growth of the concert series can be traced to two individuals (if you don’t take into account donors): Susan Kropf and Mautz.

Kropf became the garden’s development director in 1989 and continued in that role for 17 years. Today she is the director of development and marketing at KUER.

Early on, she recognized that a concert series was "really the gateway to Red Butte Garden," attracting people who otherwise wouldn’t think of visiting a botanical garden, much less buying a membership to secure early concert-buying privileges.

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In a savvy decision, she hired Mautz.

"He dropped out of heaven," Kropf said of Mautz, who — with the help of Derrek Hanson, Red Butte’s director of events — has booked almost all of the acts since 1998. (He’s taken a few seasons off.)

Here are some other historical tidbits:

1985 » Red Butte Garden opens.

1987 » Concert series starts with four Sunday shows.

1988 » The second season of the concert series consists of six shows, all on Sundays. Season tickets are $20.

1989 » David Grisman is the first nationally known musician to perform; one concert features the Texas Songwriters Evening, featuring Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen and the late, great Townes Van Zandt.

1990 » Ground was broken for the first of two amphitheaters at the garden.

1991 » On June 22, the Utah Symphony is the first to perform at the new amphitheater. Later the same year, the first sold-out concert occurs with headliners Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin.

1992 » Up-and-coming bluegrass artists Alison Krauss & Union Station perform. Season tickets are $60.

1993 » Richie Havens headlines.

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