Steamboat loses musician to Big Easy

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By the time you read this, there will be a hole in the fabric of Steamboat Springs where Andy Pratt used to be.

He will have watched the Welcome to Steamboat sign become smaller and smaller in his rearview mirror, his view partially blocked by a pile of his belongings.

After four years in the valley, playing in numerous bands and performing with Cabaret, Ski Town Productions and We're Not Clowns, Pratt decided it was time to move on. He left Wednesday for New Orleans.

Those missing Pratt can shake their fists at Dan Isbell, who left Steamboat this summer to pursue his music and inspired Pratt to do the same. They can shake their fist at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, too, where Pratt decided to slingshot himself toward his next life chapter.

He moved to Steamboat when he was 27 on the invitation of two hometown friends, Kelly Anzalone and Scott Parker.

Parker met Pratt in high school, and they became friends when the two ran against each other for student body president.

Pratt won by 75 percent of the votes, Parker said, but they stayed friends.

"My earliest memories of Andy were from high school when he would emcee all the assemblies," Parker said. "He would juggle, and I thought about how cool that was."

Since then, Parker learned how to juggle and they toured Europe together with their We're Not Clowns juggling act.

"He was the one who made We're Not Clowns take off," Parker said. "He's always motivated to move to the next level, and he's hard to say 'no' to because he's such a charismatic guy."

Pratt saw his arrival in Steamboat differently.

"I came to party and ski and have fun," Pratt said. "I didn't think I would be playing much music. I didn't think there would be a big market."

Moving to Steamboat was a lifestyle choice between New York City and a mountain town to help his friends with the juggling troupe.

"But now the city thing is getting to me," he said. "I think I've learned all I can here. I'm ready to grow. I want to get to know (New Orleans) and learn from some good musicians."

Pratt has been playing music since elementary school, when he asked his parents for piano lessons. Then he took up the French horn, which he played through college, and the bass. But when it came time to go to college and decide the direction of the rest of his life, he chose to major in computer science instead of music.

He was working odd computer jobs in Buffalo, N.Y., when Anzalone and Parker started their campaign to bring him to Steamboat. They were trying to get We're Not Clowns off the ground and knew that Pratt was a great juggler.

When Pratt moved to town, the arts community embraced him almost immediately. Over the years, he sang in the Columbine Chorale, played keyboards for Flashback and played with the Koniko drum troupe. He helped start the Steamboat Jazz Quartet and was in the Cabaret band for three years, serving as the music director last year. Out of Cabaret grew Ski Town Productions, and Pratt followed.

"I've gained a lot of confidence since I moved here," Pratt said. "I think people have seen me evolve as a musician."

As Pratt enters his new home, his goals are musical.

"I want to put together a band that wants to travel," Pratt said. "And maybe get into another jazz quartet. I want to play bass in a funk/rock band and sing in a gospel choir. I want to play piano in a salsa band.

"But when I get there, I won't be choosy. Music is in my heart, and no matter how much I've tried to deny it, it's always been there."

A little doubt creeps into his voice when he says he's moving to New Orleans without a job lined up or any friends.

"I'm not going to scare myself out of it. If I do what I love, I'll make it," he said.

Pratt is leaving Steamboat, but he's leaving with a long leash. He's storing his hockey and ski equipment at a friend's house and promised to return for certain juggling and theater gigs.

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