Local teacher and organist competes in Colorado Classic | VailDaily.com

Local teacher and organist competes in Colorado Classic

Andrea Buttine competes for ALP Cycles Racing

Andrea Buttine, a classically trained pipe organist and music teacher at the Vail Mountain School, is competing in her second Colorado Classic this week.
Daily file photo

AVON — As Stage 2 of the Colorado Classic ran through Avon and Beaver Creek on Friday, yes, there were a lot of women cyclists, but how many were classically-trained organists?

Meet Andrea Buttine, of ALP Cycles Racing. Born in New England, and now teaching music at the Vail Mountain School, she’s not your average Colorado Classic participant.

“It’s really hard to play church services and race on Sunday mornings,” she said of her time as an organist and choirmaster at a church in the Dallas area. “I even had a few races where I had my kit on underneath my surplice.”

Pulling out the stops

Sports and music have always been a part of Buttine’s life. Growing up in Rockport, Massachusetts, she was near the Boston chapter of the American Guild of Organists. There was a young organist initiative, and Buttine, already having got her feet wet in piano, received free lessons through the program.

With some parental prodding — on the music side — she found herself at Bowdoin College in Maine, as an accomplished rower and organist.

While at Bowdoin, she and a classmate started a Lessons and Carols service — the program tells the story of the birth of Christ with bible readings and iconic music of the season.

“The organ at Bowdoin, it was big and it had a romantic sound. I remember playing, ‘The First Noel’ and we packed the chapel and I was going for it, playing pretty ornately,” Buttine said. “The whole congregation was singing robustly, and I had chills going down my spine. Those moments are really cool.”

She ended up studying music and European history at the University of London, expanding her pipe-organ repertoire, eventually getting a masters of management degree in organ performance at the University of Oklahoma.

Some of her favorite works to play are Bach’s “Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542,” the finale of Vierne’s “Organ Symphony No. 1” — “It’s great for Easter,” she said — and Frank Bridge’s “Adagio in E Major” — “It’s really luscious.”

Conspicuous in its absence is Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” likely the most recognizable work for the instrument.

“That piece is, of all the Bach pieces I’ve played, is not the most interesting,” Buttine said. “He wrote a lot of fugues, preludes, and toccatas that I think are more interesting. But for a crowd-pleaser, it’s fun to pull out most of the stops and play that opening. Everybody knows the opening, but the fugue is the fun part to play.”

Oh, yes, cycling

While in the Dallas area, Buttine took up cycling, first as a fitness activity and then for competition. When she moved up to Vail to work as a teacher at the Vail Mountain School, she wanted a local cycling coach.

That led her to Alison L. Powers — and, eventually, ALP Cycles Racing in the Colorado Classic.

“I think it’s important to ride with people who are faster than you,” Buttine said. “I ride with folks here in the valley who challenge me on a weekly basis. You only get faster by pushing yourself to stay with those folks. It’s kind of similar to the organ. You have that one friend who can play cleaner than you can and you work on it harder.”

Riding with and/or against professional and Olympic cyclists during the first two stages of this four-day event has been an experience. Friday’s home stage — the were some VMS youngsters cheering on “Ms. Buttine” — was a tough one.

Buttine was behind a wreck during the seventh lap in Avon. That accident separated her from the main group of riders, forcing her and others to expend more energy to return to the peloton before the uphill climb through Bachelor Gulch.

And that left her spent before the climb, which tested everyone in the field. Buttine’s legs cramped up three-quarters up the climb. She soldiered through that last push.

“I feel a very strong sense of accomplishment,” she said. “I go day by day for a race like this. Did I accomplish a goal or goals I had set for myself that day? Today, I made it to the top and descended strongly. At three-fourths of the climb, both my legs started cramping, so I was able to pedal through it and get to the top. Maybe, a less-mature me would have stopped. I know I can get through it. I’m happy about that.”

Buttine and ALP Cycles Racing continue with Stage 3 in Golden today and the finale in Denver on Sunday. Monday is the first day of class at VMS, where she teaches general music to the lower school (kindergartners to third grade) and leads the middle-school choir.