Samantha Altenau is one of five women performing at the upcoming Salon on Jan. 23. Courtesy photo

“At its linguistic root, the word ‘courage’ comes from the word ‘heart’ — an invitation to meet what is most difficult in our lives with our hearts flung wide and willing to risk. And ‘strength,’ in my experience, can be a paradox. The more vulnerable I am, the more open; the more I notice other people say to me, ‘You’re so strong.’” Thus defines Western Slope Poet Laureate (2015-2017) Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer the themes for an upcoming Salon at The Launchpad. It’s the first in over two years and promises to impress.

The Salon Series, founded in Philadelphia by Andrea Clearfield in 1986, surfaced in the Roaring Fork Valley in 2012 thanks to a partnership with Michele Kiley and Justice Snow’s, a former Aspen restaurant. The concept, blending diverse forms of artistic expression, then jumped to Carbondale with help from co-curator Alya Howe.

“At the beginning of this new year, I believe we need inspiration, courage and strength to meet together the challenges that lie ahead,” wrote Alya Howe in a press release. This is the first intentionally all-female Salon in the series’ history, and most of the participants met Howe through yoga.

“Courage and strength are very important in my daily life,” said Stéphanie Ortega Waltman. Prior to the pandemic, she was performing with Cirque du Soleil’s show called Corteo. “I’ve had to find the courage to face my career, realizing everything was gone [and] find the strength to come back to what I love the most,” she told The Sopris Sun. After two patient years, she looks forward to rejoining Corteo for an international tour.

Ortega Waltman will give the Salon’s audience a glimpse into her work with “the suspended pole,” albeit in a more stationary fashion than with Cirque du Soleil.

Erica Ogihara, one of five AmeriCorps Music Fellows teaching in local schools, will treat audiences to cello preludes by Bach and Gubaidulina. “To be an artist in itself is an act of courage and determination,” she told us. “One must always have conviction in their voice and execution of their ideas.”

Ogihara was finishing the first year of her master’s degree at Juilliard when the pandemic hit. “As concert halls closed, social interaction became confined to a computer screen, and tensions rose in streets and apartments alike,” she said. “I looked within myself for inspiration.”

Poet Wahtola Trommer, quoted earlier, will be doing what poets do best: conveying the seemingly unspeakable, somehow, in words. She’s known her calling since the fourth grade, “because poetry was fun. Because it was playful and creative and opened doors I didn’t know were there.”

Wahtola Trommer will open up about the loss of her son, asking that the audience meet her in that vulnerable place. “My way has been to turn toward grief, to meet it again and again and again and see what it has to teach me. The five months since my son Finn’s death by choice — followed by my father’s natural death — have been the most important, life-honoring, death-honoring, love-affirming, transformative times of my life. I have been rewired, rewritten, remade.”

Her blog ( has featured a new poem every day since 49 days after her son’s death. She wrote of Howe, “I am ever in awe of her communal vision, of her ability to curate and find the message that most wants to be heard.”

Writer Michelle Marchildon will present “How to Make a Comeback When You Haven’t Gone Anywhere.”

“I always knew I would write a book,” she told The Sopris Sun, “it just took forever. First, I had to support myself. I chose journalism as a way to put pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard, but I knew I was still sidestepping the thing I needed to do. Then life, love, marriage and a baby (or two) in a baby carriage, as the nursery rhyme goes. What also went was a single minute to myself for many years.”

She looks forward to the warmth generated between an audience and the stage. “Community is the best medicine, especially after being isolated for so long. I am looking forward to being with others who often work in the quiet, dark places of both our minds and our homes. It’s time to be in the light and with each other.”

The fifth performer, Samantha Altenau, helped to found DanceAspen, where she now works as a dancer and program director. According to a recent Aspen Daily News feature, she “plans to demonstrate her creative process behind choreographing new work … providing the audience insight into her sourcing and storytelling through bodily movement.”

The show, at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23, is already sold out. Thankfully, there will be a live stream on Facebook accessible at