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Jodi Peterson and Curtis Stigers: Playing by Heart

Pair collaborates on McCall Jazz series in Boise and McCall, August 4-6

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The partnership between Jodi Peterson, the director of development and programs at Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter, and internationally renowned musician Curtis Stigers is a bit like a jazzy song: it has elements of sentimentality, melodrama and improvisation.

"It was a safe way to fall in love," said Peterson.

"It took some time, and the friendship was always there," said Stigers.

The best way to describe the couple, now engaged, is to say they are partners. Their latest collaboration is a cool trilogy of music events dubbed McCall Jazz: on Wednesday, Aug. 3, it's Jazz in the City at The Egyptian Theatre in Boise; then Jazz by the Lake, a limited-seating, intimate session on Friday, Aug. 5, at Rupert's on the shores of Payette Lake; and then Jazz on the Mountain on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Jug Mountain Ranch. The concerts benefit charities near and dear to the couple: the Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter in Boise and nonprofit organizations in the McCall area.

In fact, it was through charity that Peterson and Stigers began collaborating in 2005. Victor Pacania, the long-time host of Boise State Public Radio's "Private Idaho," was dying of cancer. Peterson had been asked by friends of the ailing radio host to put together a fundraiser to help with expenses in the final year of Pacania's life.

"We were both married at the time," said Stigers. "Jodi helped produce that concert—there must have been seven bands—at the then-Big Easy in Boise. It was a major success."

Within a year, Stigers had his own major idea.

"It was the Xtreme Holiday Xtravaganza," said Stigers who, with Peterson's help, turned the event into an annual tradition to raise money Boise's homeless population. For the past 11 years, the Xtravaganza has been held at The Egyptian.

"And it was about five years ago that we began looking to each other for an even greater friendship. We were both divorced by then and..." Stigers stole a glance at Peterson. "Well, I started noticing how good-looking she is."

For all of their success, privately and professionally, nothing would affect Peterson and Stigers than what followed over the next 12 months.

Peterson had been a long-time contract worker and volunteer at Interfaith Sanctuary. By the summer of 2015, an increasing number of homeless adults had started camping outside, only steps away from the shelter's doors. As the encampment, dubbed Cooper Court, grew in size, so did the controversy.

"The Cooper Court debacle was eye-opening," said Stigers. "But I must say that I first saw that through Jodi's eyes."

Peterson said her view of Cooper Court was initially the same as the then-administration of Interfaith Sanctuary. Simply put, she said, the theory was to "freeze them out" and, eventually, the homeless of Cooper Court would walk back through the doors of the shelter.

"But then one day, I went out to talk to the Cooper Court people. I quickly learned that they weren't out there in the sweltering heat or freezing cold just because they wanted to smoke crack every night," Peterson said. "I truly learned about those who are shelter-resistant. Suddenly everything turned on its head."

The City of Boise eventually cleared Cooper Court in December 2015. In the wake of Cooper Court, things were changing inside Interfaith Sanctuary as well. Peterson was tapped to become the shelter's new director of development and programs.

"It's a huge commitment for her," said Stigers. "I have to admit, I'm always the one that is skeptical, but she keeps going. She's got to have the biggest heart I've ever seen."

While Peterson and Stigers have put together jazz concerts in McCall before, the plan this year is to offer something intimate and something grand to benefit The Alpine Playhouse, the Shepherd's Home, the McCall Arts and Humanities Council, the McCall Education Foundation, the McCall Folklore Society and the McCall Music Society.

"The Aug. 5 event by the lake? Honestly, it's a very small event, by design," said Stigers. "We'll have very, very few tickets for that. It should be quite intimate."

The following evening, however, Stigers and his band will tear it up at Jug Mountain Ranch where, as with the Boise show, he'll be joined by Emily Braden, The Sneider Brothers, Paul Wells, Cliff Schmitt, Matthew Fries and more.

When asked if the trio of jazz concerts could be considered a "bookend" for the December Xtravaganza, Stigers said sure.

"Yes, I think we can say that's what becoming," he said.

Stigers recently returned from a series of concerts in Europe, which he said was "hurting deeply" in the shadow of terrorist attacks. That, and the recent death of jazz great and his dear friend Paul Tillotson, had triggered an introspection into loss.

"But then I'm reminded of how much I've found as well," Stigers said, glancing once again at Peterson.