Part of Augment's focus will be to foster increased opportunities for local musicians to perform while maintaining COVID-safe boundaries, such as at outdoor house concerts. Here, the Birds of Play perform earlier this summer at a small outdoor gathering. (Photo by Bria Light/Telluride Daily Planet)

If you’ve ever sung along to the Beatles tune “All My Loving” while admiring Paul McCartney’s penchant for penning catchy choruses, then you’ve enjoyed the musical application of the “augmented” chord, wherein a major or perfect musical interval is “made one half step greater,” according to the Merriam-Webster definition.

“To make greater” is exactly what the new nonprofit Augment aims to do for the careers and opportunities of local musicians in the Telluride region. Founded by Alex Paul, a local singer/songwriter and member of the Americana band the Birds of Play, Augment will officially launch with a fundraising kickoff Friday and Saturday at the Transfer Warehouse, where the Birds of Play will perform each evening at 8 p.m. Tickets, on a sliding scale from $15 to $100, can be purchased by following the link in the Telluride Arts District email invite or by contacting Telluride Arts.

“The definition that we like to use for Augment is ‘to make something already developed or well under way greater, as in size, extent or quantity.’ Our aim with this organization is to support and encourage the growth of the local music community and culture around the greater Telluride region,” said Paul, who began dreaming up the concept of a musician-focused nonprofit last winter while considering the kinds of support that would help him to develop his musical career.

“I really wanted to commit full-time to music, but wasn’t sure exactly how to get to that point,” he said. “So I came up with a few things that I felt could be really beneficial, namely a bit of financial help and some structured mentorship in various realms of the music business world. After having spent a good amount of time thinking about the nuts and bolts of this concept, it occurred to me that if I could benefit from a program like this, there are likely plenty of other folks who could benefit as well.”

The idea initially revolved around an incubator model in which a musician would receive funds for a year along with mentorship with music industry professionals and support to create an album. Though this model will continue to be a focus for Augment in the future, with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fledgling nonprofit pivoted to accommodate the dramatically different landscape musicians now face in order to make a living through their art.

“We decided that there might be more pressing and beneficial uses of our time and resources to be of more assistance to more folks in the community here,” Paul said. “We’re now focused on working with Kate Jones and Telluride Arts to help organize and fund the Main Street stage for Friday and Saturday evenings this summer. We’re also aiming to raise some extra funds for a handful of small grants for local musicians, similar to the idea of Telluride Arts’ small grants. These will be for specific projects that will in some way benefit both the careers of the recipients and the Telluride community.

“Another focus is offering resources and connections for both musicians and homeowners in order to help encourage and foster a greater house concert culture around the area. House concerts are an ideal avenue for both music fans and artists to come together in the COVID era for safe, small, intimate performances in backyards, front yards, driveways, and/or decks. There’s a unique exchange between artist and attendee that takes place at house concerts that really lends itself to connection and community building.”

Tom Nading, Augment board member and owner of the Telluride Music Company, agreed that adapting the current focus of the nonprofit has been a necessity to meet the evolving needs of local musicians during the ongoing pandemic, but one that’s been in alignment with the local music community’s culture of encouragement and collaboration.

“I'm really encouraged by what’s going on with music locally,” he said. “It’s been really cool to see so many different musicians playing these outdoor, socially distanced gigs, up in the Village, on Main Street, and the difference between the way that it normally is and the way it is now is that it’s all local musicians.”

“I'm most excited about being able to help to encourage that community, to push it along, and do what we can” to support musicians in pursuing their craft and music careers, Nading said. “Music is such an integral part of the Telluride cultural framework. Being able to have some support structure there to make these outdoor, socially distanced gigs be a reality for more and more musicians, and help them in a way that can help them pay the rent and the bills so they can focus on their craft, that’s really exciting.”