8 Colorado-based Musical Nonprofits to Consider for Colorado Gives Day 2023

This year, Colorado Gives Day falls on December 5th. It’s a day of consideration, to take account of that which you hold dearly, that which matters to you and those you love, that affects the place you live and the people you know. It’s a day when you can take power into your own hands and put it towards causes that mean the most to you.

As you consider which nonprofits you’ll be donating to this year, think about how much music means to you, the impact it has had on your life. Remember what it feels like to toss your arms around your best friend as your favorite artist plays your favorite song. Remember feeling so low that you thought you’d never feel high again until that one song came on to drag you out of the depths. Remember what music can mean to the world, how much a song or a concert can affect a life.

There are myriad worthy nonprofits in Colorado covering all manner of issues, each earnestly seeking to improve this world. Some of the most impactful have to do with music. These 8 nonprofits listed below harness music, use it to make this world a better place. Some use music education to improve young people’s lives. Some use concerts to feed people. Some are there to protect the musicians and venues themselves. 303 Magazine encourages you to consider these organizations when deciding where to donate this Colorado Gives Day.

READ: 25 Colorado Nonprofits to Support This Colorado Gives Day

Conscious Alliance

Conscious Alliance is one of the most visible nonprofits in the music scene. Now headquartered in Broomfield after many years in Boulder, the nonprofit operates under the motto “Art That Feeds,” meaning that they use the inherent power of art and music to benefit impoverished communities. They serve Native American Reservations such as Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota — a place known as a “food desert” — as well as many other impoverished communities in Colorado and beyond.

While they partner with such food giants as Hormel, Justin’s and more, concerts are the organization’s bread and butter. They work with bands and poster artists to create unique prints that concert-goers can acquire by bringing 30 non-perishable food items or a $40 donation to one of their booths at Red Rocks, the Mission Ballroom, the Fillmore and many more. This has caused them to become beloved within the jam scene as they constantly work with such beloved bands as The String Cheese Incident, Goose, STS9, Greensky Bluegrass and many, many more. They’ve even recently branched out more to the EDM scene with booths set up at Daily Bread at the Mission.

Founded as a small food drive at a String Cheese show back in 2002, they have grown exponentially in the 21 years since and will continue to do so but not without help.

Check out the posters Conscious Alliance has available as well as ways to donate and volunteer opportunities here

Youth On Record

Youth On Record

Founded in 2008 by local legends Flobots — famed for their 2005 hit “Handlebars,” Youth On Record represents the power that can come when art and community collide. The nonprofit operates under the belief that exposure to music education at a young age can lead to a vastly improved, enriched life. It can teach a person how to use their voice, to speak up for what’s right, to understand themselves better, to make more sense of this world. 

Youth On Record calls on local professional musicians to act as mentors to Denver’s youth, teaching them musical tools that serve as universal truths that can keep them out of trouble and put them on a path to fulfillment. They work with Denver schools to establish these mentorship programs, having become a trusted and beloved organization as a result.

In 2015, they built their Youth Media Studio in the heart of Denver after noticing a lack of a centralized location where community and art can meet. This was made possible when the Denver Housing Association (DHA) shared Youth On Record’s concerns and donated $1.4 million so that the studio could be built. It’s since become a kind of cultural hub within the community, a place where art and music and people may come together and build each other up. The organization serves as a beautiful example of what can happen when a community embraces the power of art.

Youth On Record can be found at events and shows all over town, including but not limited to the Underground Music Showcase.

Find out how to support Youth On Record here

READ: Our 14 Favorite Sets From The Underground Music Showcase 2023

Colorado Music Bridge

Colorado Music Bridge seeks to bolster local communities through music and education. They acknowledge how systemic societal, economic and mental health crises have ravaged many Cololoradan communities, impacting the structural capacity for education and the general resilience of these communities’ young people.

In order to combat this, to create spaces for education where community resilience can be restored, Colorado Music Bridge has created a music-based curriculum known as the Music Atlas. This provides detailed, trauma-informed, step-by-step musical instruction that makes it easy for young learners to visualize their musical paths. They offer two general programs with smaller programs within them: Modern Music and Jazz. In addition to benefiting young people, these programs also benefit those who teach them, providing well-paying jobs to music educators, which have historically been pretty difficult to find.

In doing all this, Colorado Music Bridge bolsters its community, giving it a space to learn and heal and grow, to reconcile the systemic trauma ingrained in so many and allow them to turn it into art.

Learn how to support Colorado Music Bridge here.

Swallow Hill

By far the oldest nonprofit found on this list, Swallow Hill was founded in 1979 by a group of former employees of the famed music store, the Denver Folklore Center. Taking inspiration from their former place of work — which would offer music classes and community outreach in the 60s and 70s — the group sought to form a music education nonprofit with the goal of “bringing the joy of music to life every day.” Almost 45 years later, the organization is stronger than ever.

They focus on three main things: concerts and events; music education; and community outreach. Their shows are family-friendly and span a variety of genres ranging from folk to bluegrass to rock and much more. They do summer concert series at the Denver Botanical Gardens and Four Mile Historic Park and are partners with other venues such as Butterfly Pavilion, the Clyfford Still Museum and various others in Denver.

As for education, Swallow Hill accepts all. They teach classes for all ages, all proficiencies, from beginners just getting started to longtime professionals just looking to keep the chops up. This inclusivity has helped them grow to become the second-largest acoustic music education school in the country. 

Their community outreach is best repressed by their “Little Swallows” program which teaches music in under-resourced K-12 schools throughout the city. They also offer music therapy sessions for older community members.

This all shows how Swallow Hill has enjoyed the longevity and celebration that it has.

Find ways to support Swallow Hill here.

Music Is a Language

Music Is a Language is by far the youngest nonprofit on this list. It was founded in 2022 in direct response to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic on school funding for after-school music programs. Music Is a Language believes the youth are our future and that after-school programs and the funding of the arts are instrumental to young people’s development, encouraging them to become well-rounded individuals filled with curiosity and empathy.

Music Is a Language seeks to fund under-funded school programs and underserved youths in order to make a global impact on the world. They believe that if they help give just one student the opportunity to learn and grow, then they have made a difference.

As young as they are, Music Is a Language has already made an impact in the Denver scene, partnering with a number of beloved up-and-coming bands such as Rado, Sqwerv, Cycles, Sunsqabi and more. They’ve also started a scholarship that funds after-school music programs.

Find out more about how to support Music Is a Language here.

Roots Music Project 

Launched in 2021, Roots Music Project (RMP) looks at the long-term and dreams of the future. It sees the vast potential within the Colorado music scene and seeks to harness it, to build it so that it may become impossible to ignore, a musical epicenter recognized around the globe.

RMP does this in a few ways. The nonprofit provides local artists with a beautiful venue decked out in light and color. The space also doubles as an affordable place for young artists to practice, something not very prevalent in Boulder especially. In providing these spaces they allow for these young artists to connect, foster community and bolster each other. This will then grow into something big and beautiful, a music scene where artists help each other rather than seek to compete against one another. All there is to do from there is continue to flourish.

They also hold music classes and workshops, painting and community meetups and more.

You can donate to Roots Music Project here. 

Music Minds Matter

There was a time when madness and music seemingly went hand in hand. It was the myth of the crazed artist losing themselves in the depths of mania and finding genius. It became so normalized that many came to believe that a person has to be self-destructive and riddled with anger and depression in order to create.

This myth is now a relic of a bygone era, the days of trashed hotel rooms and glorified suicide are now long a thing of the past. The public has since become more aware of the incredible toll the musician lifestyle can take. The music industry can be beautiful yet brutal, soul and dream-crushing as much as it is affirming. Musicians spend long months away from their homes, their families and friends, trapped in cramped vans with the only immediate thing to look forward to being the seemingly endless road stretching out before them.

Music Minds Matter is a nonprofit that understands that years of living in such a way can wear a person thin. Comprised of musicians and others who work in the industry, they also understand how beautiful a creative life can be and seek to foster this lifestyle by caring for musicians’ mental health. They do this by organizing mental wellness meetups in which people who work within the industry however tangentially can show up and have a safe space to articulate how they are feeling and learn methods to cope. They also organize “Sober Sessions,” substance-free shows meant to celebrate creation unencumbered by drugs and alcohol.

You can find out more about how to support Music Minds Matter here. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or mental health, call SAMHSA’s national helpline, 1-800-662-HELP(4357).

Colorado Independent Venue Association

Colorado is overflowing with beautiful indie venues run by people dedicated to fostering the evergrowing local music scene. The Colorado Independent Venue Association (CIVA) works with 83 of these venues/production companies in order to preserve independent music statewide. These include such beloved places as Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, 10 Mile Music Hall, Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, the Belly Up, Lost Lake and so many more. If you know of an indie venue in Colorado, chances are they are members of CIVA.

CIVA operates based on a statistic that many of the general public aren’t aware of: every $1 spent at a local venue equals approximately $12 dollars spent in that venue’s community. People visiting the venues stop for food along the way. They get drinks at the bar next door and have a hotel room a few blocks away. This proves that venues are cultural hubs that serve to bolster communities and must be protected at all costs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, indie venues were ravaged as were the communities they operate within. CIVA did everything it could to help, including helping to promote the #SaveOurStages act in Colorado which helped venues nationwide.

If you love going to shows, these are the people that continue to make that possible. Find out how to support CIVA here

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