BUSINESS NEWS: How the Governor and Music Heavy Hitters Plan to Make Sure Every Colorado Kid has Access to an Instrument and Instruction
Take Note Colorado’s warm-up act will be a fundraising concert headlined by Nathaniel Rateliff, Todd Park Mohr, Isaac Slade on Thursday, May 4th!
Gov. John Hickenlooper smiled wide as he watched a video of 2-year-old Judah Alexander Slade air-drumming to his father’s band at Red Rocks Amphitheatre last summer.
“Watch the ending!” Hickenlooper said from his office Monday, as Judah’s dad and Fray lead singer Isaac sat next to him. “I’ve deleted like 80,000 things from my phone, but not this, because when I’m depressed I just want to watch Judah drumming.”
Hickenlooper’s goal of giving every Colorado child the same chance at musical self-expression moved a step closer to reality Monday with the unveiling of his ambitious new music-education nonprofit, with help from some of the region’s most powerful music-industry machinery and creative talent.
The goal of the newly named Colorado Music Coalition — and its Take Note Colorado initiative — is to give every child in Colorado, from kindergarten through 12th grade, access to musical instruments and professional instruction.
As a warm-up act, Take Note will hold a fundraising concert May 4 at the FirstBank Center with marquee Colorado acts Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Slade, Todd Park Mohr (Big Head Todd and the Monsters), Tracksuit Wedding, Billy Nershi (The String Cheese Incident) and others to be announced. Tickets are $25-$55 and on sale at 10 a.m. March 10 via http://altitudetickets.com.
More than 28,000 students in Colorado attend schools that do not offer formal arts education, and 50 percent of the state’s high schoolers are not in art classes, according to a 2014 survey by Colorado Creative Industries. Multiple national studies have also shown that children with music education have higher overall academic achievement and lower dropout rates, the Colorado Music Coalition said.
However, the current state of music education in Colorado is so poorly understood that one of the first goals for Libby Anschutz, chairwoman of the Colorado Music Coalition, is to research it more fully. That’s why the coalition hired Karen Radman, formerly of the Denver Public Schools Foundation, as executive director.
“I’m much more tactical than creative, so having that experience in one of the country’s biggest school districts will be extremely beneficial to us,” Radman said.
“We don’t want to just come in with a formula, because if one exists we certainly don’t know it,” said Slade, who serves as co-chairman of Take Note with Hickenlooper. “We want to be known for listening before we tell everybody what they need.”
Hickenlooper and musician Anschutz, who plays in Tracksuit Wedding and is the daughter of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz (as well as director of community relations at AEG Live), hatched the concept in June at an event for the national Little Kids Rock program at Libby Anschutz’s home.
“When I got into this I thought I was going to be developing a board of directors for Little Kids Rock,” Anschutz said. “It was the governor and these other folks who really broadened that vision.”
After they brought in Slade and some of their friends and business connections, including AEG Live Rocky Mountains president Chuck Morris and Pat Stryker, the billionaire backer of the Bohemian Foundation in Fort Collins, the coalition began looking for models for the type of work they wanted to do — only to find there were none, at least at the statewide level.
Supporters of music education have increasingly relied on charities and unconventional financial support to keep programs alive amid widespread cuts to arts education. On Monday, for example, Grammy-winning Chicago artist Chance the Rapper announced he will donate $1 million to pay for art programs after he learned of Chicago Public Schools’ $215 million budget shortfall.
Hickenlooper is, by any standard, unusually supportive of local music. In addition to appearing on stage at Red Rocks and other venues with Colorado musicians, he has sung their praises nationally and welcomed them into his office — starting with Slade a mere six months into his job as mayor of Denver.
“I don’t know of any other person in a major political office who has supported music like he has,” said Morris, a longtime Denver promoter. “He has made all of our jobs easier — for a band to become famous, for a promoter to do well.”
Between ticket sales and sponsorships, Colorado Music Coalition hopes to raise $500,000 from the May 4 concert, which it will add to gifts of an undisclosed amount from the Anschutz and Bohemian foundations. Mile High United Way will handle the Colorado Music Coalition’s finances until the group gets its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS.
For the program to be self-sustaining, it will have to exist for about a decade with an annual budget of $8 million to $10 million, Hickenlooper estimated.
“We’ll have to reach out there and create that critical mass,” said Hickenlooper, who said $10 million seems modest compared with the estimated $4.5 billion the state already spends on public education (42nd in the nation) and nearly $1 billion spent by education nonprofits. “If Colorado musicians really buy into this, I think the public buys into this and it becomes a national model.”
Despite having a board that includes employees of AEG Live, which dominates the Denver market and owns AXS — the company that officially sells tickets at city-owned venues — Hickenlooper and Slade said other promoters and musicians will have a chance to take part.
“We’re still working that out, but trust me, once we get the language right and figure out how to make this vision a reality, people are going to want to participate,” Hickenlooper said. “This is something no other state in the country has ever done.”
“One of my greatest regrets in life is that I never put in the time when I was young to be good enough to play in a band,” Hickenlooper added. “Now I have a chance to start fanning those flames in a whole new generation.”
John Wenzel | [email protected] | The Denver Post
UPDATED: March 7, 2017 at 4:05 pm