Here in Colorado, we like to have fun, we like our music and we like to help people. But when all three of those get combined, it’s even better. That’s why we wanted to give some attention to local non-profit organizations that are helping people and using a means of music to do it. There’s plenty of variety on the Front Range that falls into the “music non-profit” category, and we wanted to shed some light on what these amazing organizations are doing, and how we, too, can help.
Youth on Record
In their mission statement, Youth on Record (YOR) explain their work as, “Empowering adolescents from Denver’s most vulnerable communities through music.” Students involved in Youth on Record (YOR) are typically between high school and college-age and are encouraged to discover their “voice and value” during this transitional time in their lives. The end goal is to guide students to make positive choices that will create a better future for the world and for themselves. In most recent news, electronic duo Big Gigantic’s charitable initiative, A Big Gigantic Difference Foundation, is partnering with YOR to bring a permanent digital music computer lab to Youth on Record’s campus.
Alba Molina-Nogal, an organization volunteer, expressed her feelings about YOR to 303 Magazine. “I was in a very dark place for awhile, and taking the leap and actually becoming involved with the organization was the change I needed,” explained Alba. “I feel I have purpose and have sometimes been left speechless with everything that has come with it.”
The simply named non-profit music coalition Detour is a sub-project of Colorado Music Strategy, whose mission statement is, “Strengthening Musicians. Strengthening Communities.” Detour brings together Colorado musicians and their communities to “program performances, workshops, field recordings, creative education, community celebrations and more.” The objective of this project is to strengthen the relationships between artists and their audiences, thus strengthening Colorado community ties.
Conscious Alliance was founded in 2002 with the mission of hunger relief through music. “Art That Feeds” is the ideal way to describe the non-profit, whose volunteer booth is set up at the vast majority of bluegrass, jam and electronic shows across the Front Range. With an extensive list of local and national acts they’ve partnered with, Conscious Alliance collects canned goods, other non-perishable food items as well as monetary donations at shows. The incentive for concert-goers to donate are the exclusive and limited show posters created by local artists that you earn per donation to Conscious Alliance. The collected food and money are then brought to the local food banks of wherever the volunteer crew might be. Additionally, the organization prioritizes their own “food pantry and backpack program” on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where volunteers make frequent visits throughout the year to bring food, clothing, toys and more. String Cheese Incident’s Michael Travis is just one of many local musicians that have spoken glowingly of Conscious Alliance — “Their commitment to going the extra mile to help those in need is so deep and genuine. It’s incredibly humbling to see their cause in action.”
Just last summer, Governor John Hickenlooper accumulated local musicians, community leaders and financial backers to give life to his music initiative, in the form of Take Note Colorado. The aim of the initiative is to make music education and musical instruments more accessible to K-12 schools in the state. Back in May, the 1st Bank Center hosted Take Note the Concert, a fundraiser for Take Note Colorado. The star-studded evening included performances from an entirely local lineup — Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Isaac Slade of The Fray, Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Bill Nershi of the String Cheese Incident, Tracksuit Wedding and comedian Josh Blue.
Take Note’s executive director, Karen Radman shared her feeling about the organization. “Music is such a powerful connector of people. I’m so excited about our Take Note Colorado initiative, as we are creating a statewide movement that will increase students’ access to music education and musical instruments.”
Girls Rock Denver
Founded in 2007, Girls Rock Denver (GRD) is a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center 501(c)(3) whose mission is to empower girls, trans and gender-nonconforming youth through music education, creation and performance. The organization holds music-centered summer camps funded by donations from the local community. GRD is growing rapidly — the first summer camp in 2009 saw 25 campers, whereas the 2017 summer season hosted 81 campers/”rockers” and around 100 volunteers.
Tallulah Cluff, age 14 and a rocker at GRD, told us about her experience with the organization. “I have been in GRD for six years and I went from not knowing how to play an instrument to being in multiple bands that have performed all over Denver,” she explained. “The friends that I have made and support of kick ass women in Denver have shown me what it is to be fun and fearless!” Girls Rock Denver co-director, Laura Morocco, also spoke about GRD. “Girls Rock Denver is unique in creating a safe space for girls, women, trans and gender-nonconforming youth and adults who love music.”
303 Choir pairs local musicians and music educators — such as artist and producer Adam Duncan — with Denver’s middle and high-school students to collaborate on and create music. Weekly workshops strive to empower Denver’s youth through these musical collaborations. The program wants students to be “inspired to connect with the world around them and empowered to find their own creative, artistic and social voice through locally created songs and experiences.” The groups are able to then perform the music they’ve created to their own local communities.
Amp the Cause
Unlike the majority of organizations on this list, for Amp the Cause, music is the means rather than the end. Since 2004, Amp the Cause has raised more than $6 million in donations that have gone towards helping children with life-threatening illnesses, as well as, “providing opportunities for kids to participate in educational programs in a safe and healthy environment.” The organization has 50-plus beneficiaries today, ranging from children’s hospitals to foster care groups, K-12 schools to social services programs, and many more. In May, Amp the Cause hosted their annual Denver Day of Rock, and in June, attendees of the third annual Sounds of Summer experienced an intimate evening of music from Andy Grammar.
Swallow Hill Music
Upon its founding in 1979, Swallow Hill Music offered music lessons and community performances. Originally as a suburbanization of the Denver Folklore Center, volunteers formed what is today’s Swallow Hill Music non-profit following the closing of the Center, with the straightforward mission of bringing “the joy of music to life, every day.”
Barry Osborne is Swallow Hill’s content marking and publicity manager, and he shared with us some thoughts on the organization’s programs and the effect they’ve had on the community: “I am always struck by the power of placing an instrument into a child’s hands,” Osborne said. “I have been fortunate to be part of programming that allows children to hold a ukulele or a guitar or a banjo for the first time in their lives. I think many people think instruments are something that other people play. Swallow Hill Music helps break down that barrier.”
Based in Boulder, but too important not to mention, eTown‘s mission statement explains its goals are, “to educate, entertain and inspire a diverse audience through music and conversation in order to create a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable world.” Downtown Boulder’s eTown Hall is where all this magic happens, with shows and concerts typically recorded live in front of an audience. eTown Hall also has a house band called the eTones and a youth songwriting program called the Handmade Songs Series. They also award individuals who are known for making their communities a better place with the “eChievement” Award.
Colorado Public Radio’s Open Air and Classical
Colorado Public Radio, or CPR, aims to establish thoughtful connections throughout Colorado and does just that with three regular programs. The first is CPR News, which takes global news and analyzes it in accordance with its effect on the local community. Second, CPR Classical offers listeners a broad range of classical music, particularly boasting the music from Colorado’s classical community. Third, CPR’s Open Air brings the music of up-and-coming Colorado musicians to listeners across the state, helping to jumpstart the careers of our local artists.