Cultured Cops

BY M. John Fayhee | July 13, 2017 | Feature Features

Aspen's men in uniform reflect on their former lives.
Juilliard-trained violinist Ritchie Zah fills the Pitkin County Courthouse with sweet sounds.

IF A YOUNG Ritchie Zah had been told he would end up being a cop, he likely would have laughed. While playing Vivaldi on his violin. Zah, a native of Atlanta, was too busy practicing scales to ponder the notion of one day reading a suspect his rights. Yet here he is—very improbably—a detective for the Aspen Police Department. A graduate of New York’s famed The Juilliard School, he is one of a trio of local law-enforcement officers that brings a big-time classical background to the upper reaches of the Roaring Fork Valley.

Seth DelGrasso, an Aspen Police Department patrol officer, was a professional ballet dancer for more than 20 years. And Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Department, attended the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, where he studied opera.

Zah started coming to Colorado in 2004 to play for the Aspen Music Festival. “Aside from playing cops and robbers as a kid, I never gave law enforcement any thought,” says Zah, whose younger brother, also a Juilliard-trained musician, is a state trooper in Georgia. “When you are a violinist, you have two routes—you are either a soloist, which means a lot of freelancing; or you get a job in an orchestra, which is like trying to get into the NFL.” He saw the writing on the wall. “I had been teaching violin to the daughter of Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor. He told me there was an opening. I think having my brother precede me in law enforcement opened my mind to the possibility of becoming a cop.”

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