Youth on Record is a Denver-based nonprofit dedicated to providing young people from under-resourced communities with opportunities to find strength within themselves and their communities through music. They establish programs for people aged 11-24 where they can learn instruments, production, podcasting and much more.
In addition to all the incredible community work, they also are one of the organizations responsible for putting on the Underground Music Showcase (UMS) each year. For those who don’t know, UMS is one of the coolest events in the city. It’s a weekend-long festival right in the streets of Denver that highlights all the best music, food, fashion and people the city has to offer.
Last year, Youth on Record’s podcasting program debuted a show run almost entirely by Youth on Record interns titled “Underground at the Showcase.” It focuses on UMS by speaking to some of the most interesting artists in Denver, some new to the scene and still finding their footing, others veterans that have been around for a while and that UMS attendees might already be familiar with. The show’s second season recently debuted and 303 Magazine spoke with David Ladon, Youth on Record’s Youth Success and Podcasting Programming Manager, to find out more.
303 Magazine: Congrats on the second season! How’d the podcast initially come about? Why did you choose UMS to focus it around?
David Ladon: Thanks so much! We had so much fun making the second season. The show came about as a result of Youth on Record’s partnership and co-ownership of the Underground Music Showcase.
The idea for the podcast came from a remark by Jami Duffy, YOR’s Executive Director and festival Co-Manager. I latched onto the idea and quickly put together a team of interns to produce the show.
UMS seemed like a natural narrative landscape for the audio arts team at Youth on Record because we are committed to supporting and raising the profile of local artists. Our podcasting interns are also musicians and are deeply invested in their creative practice, so they bring effervescent enthusiasm and energy to the show.
303: Tell me a little bit about Youth on Record. They’re an incredible organization and do so
much for young musicians in the city. Why are organizations such as them so important for
young people to have access to?
DL: Youth on Record designs and implements strengths-based, music-centered programs intended to equip young people from historically under-resourced communities with the skills needed to find success in life by advancing their academic success, increasing their economic opportunities and career skills and strengthening their community connections and networks.
We offer for-credit classes in schools in Denver and Aurora, free afternoon programming in our recording studio for creatives ages 14-20, an all-ages open mic every first Friday, an annual youth music festival (The Block Party), a free summer camp for middle schoolers, paid and for-credit podcasting internships and fellowships, and a plethora of other workshops, field trips, and other career development opportunities for aspiring artists.
There is significant research showing that music and arts education support healthy emotional
and cognitive development among children and youth. Coupled with a strong community, arts
programs like Youth on Record provide young people with a safe third space to explore their
creative interests, engage with peers, and grow artistically. In a public schooling system in which arts funding and programming aren’t equally accessible to all youth, programs like Youth on Record provide culturally and generationally relevant music education in schools where there otherwise would be none.
303:Can you tell me about the Youth on Record Podcasting Internship? Why — and this is a
bit of a broad question — do you find podcasting such an essential and prevalent
medium these days?
DL: Youth on Record’s Podcast Production Internship offers a multimodal learning experience,
blending creative writing, audio production, social and emotional learning, artistic expression, media literacy and critical thinking skills. Through a hands-on approach, small teams of interns learn the skills to produce their own podcast pieces — from planning interviews and writing scripts to recording, editing and mixing.
At its core, podcasting provides a way for young people to amplify their voices, stories and
ideas — both literally and figuratively. In a media landscape where youth voices are mostly absent
and youth issues are covered through a sensationalist lens, the program seeks to carve out space for young people to express themselves safely and freely. We have also found that the process of writing, refining and telling a story facilitates social and emotional growth, community-building, and a sense of belonging among our participants.
303: You’ve been able to speak with some of the most interesting artists in the city. Can you
talk a bit about the Denver local music scene and what makes it so dynamic and
DL: I think the podcast — and UMS more broadly— exemplify the dynamic energy in the Denver Music
Scene. You hear it throughout the show – our guests convey a genuine excitement about other local artists. We often talk about Denver as a hub for national acts, but the local scene provides an eclectic soundtrack. Denver’s creative industry is small enough to build a real sense of community, but big enough to be interesting and innovative.
303: What is it about UMS that draws such a large portion of the city and so many of the
coolest artists in it?
DL: Through this season of Underground at the Showcase, our guests talk about UMS as if it’s a reunion or homecoming. So much of the energy that keeps local music scenes alive comes from other artists supporting each other. UMS is the kind of festival that everybody submits to, and even if you aren’t booked, you still go. It’s the kind of festival where you can expect to be surrounded by thousands of strangers and still run into your friends.
303: Is there anything else you’d like the people to know about?
DL: “Underground at the Showcase” is one of three youth-produced podcasts that we build on throughout the year. Youth on Record’s podcast programs are intended to prepare young creatives for work in the growing podcast and audio arts industry. The program has gained national attention with students featured on NPR’s Here and Now last spring after submitting short essays the students wrote and recorded during their internship.
We produce a podcast called “Generation Collaboration,” which is a youth-led podcast that aims to amplify young people’s voices across the state of Colorado. Our Season 2 hosts — Litzy Vasquez and Emanuel Morales-Gomez —are high school students with a passion for storytelling and learning from their community. In each episode, they connect with local leaders to discuss their work, critical issues in the state, and how to address change across generations. Generation Collaboration is produced in partnership with Colorado Young Leaders and Youth on Record with support from CiviCO.
We also produce a podcast called “Youth on Rewind,” which is a youth-produced series that features interviews, personal narratives, round-table discussions, poetry, music, and other audio art guided by the creative visions of podcast production.