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Colorado Spotlight: Swallow Hill Music

If you want to learn about the history of Denver’s music, Swallow Hill Music is the place to start. From folk to bluegrass to acoustic music, you can trace it all back to Swallow Hill.

Creators Harry Tuft and Julie Davis saw the opportunity to create a nonprofit organization focused on roots music concerts and teaching people how to play that music.

 

The Growth of the Legacy

Since its inception in 1979, Swallow Hill has drawn the top names in folk music to Colorado. As it celebrates its fortieth anniversary in 2019, Swallow Hill stands as the second-largest such organization in the United States.

However, this growth did not come without struggle. Interest in the organization waned in the 1980s, and Swallow Hill found itself without a permanent location. Fortunately, by the 1990s, it found a home at 1905 South Pearl Street.

As the Board of Directors and Executive Director Seth Weisberg led the organization from 1987 to 1995, enrollment in the school grew to 2,700, and Swallow Hill presented almost 100 shows per year.

Chris Daniels took over as the Executive Director in 1995, and the organization moved to the current location at Yale Avenue and South Lincoln Street.

Swallow Hill in 2019

In 2019, Swallow Hill Music draws more than 60,000 people to concerts each year. With 250 shows presented in three concert halls at the Yale Avenue location, Swallow Hill has expanded its offerings.

Here are just a few of the programs offered:

  • The Denver Botanic Gardens series at York Street and Chatfield Farms
  • The Oriental Theater
  • The Four Mile Historic Park

Swallow Hill’s music school continues to thrive as well, now welcoming 64,000 students visiting each year. Seventy teachers give private lessons and classes for all ages at the main facility as well as two satellite locations in Highland and Lowry.

The Community Outreach division reaches into Denver’s underserved communities through preschools, elementary schools, and other community organizations.

Honors and Recognition

Swallow Hill has received honors from multiple agencies within the city of Denver and the state of Colorado. The El Pomar Foundation, the Mayor and Governor’s offices, and Westword have all bestowed awards on the organization. Here are just a few of the kind words spoken about Swallow Hill over the years:

  • ”For me, Swallow Hill has been an enormous network of friends who have grown together since they worked behind the counter in their early twenties at the old Denver Folklore Center.” – Mary Flower, blues guitarist and founder of Mother Folkers
  • “There’s really nothing like Swallow Hill in that you can literally reach out and touch the performers if you don’t pass them in the hall before the show.” – Paul Kashmann, guitarist and Denver City Councilman
  • “It’s wonderful to see them growing. It’s an encouraging sign for the power of acoustic music. The intellectual-circle places, like the Northeast, have ongoing music venues that have always presented acoustic and folk music. But in the heart of the country, it’s a little more rare. It’s great that Denver has one.” – Tish Hinojosa, singer and representative for the National Association of Bilingual Education

Swallow Hill and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame

From the earliest days of operating out of the Denver Folklore Center to the icon that it is in 2019, Swallow Hill has earned its place in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame (CMHOF).

The organization is known all over Colorado and the United States as a living, breathing heart of music. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame welcomes Swallow Hill to the ranks of the great names in music.

To experience all that Swallow Hill has to offer, visit the website and the calendar of events for all of the upcoming activities.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Roman Zaiets

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Listen up, Colorado!

Colorado’s music scene is about much more than its famous musicians: Without the support of music-minded businesses, this state’s award-winning scene might never have developed.

ListenUp’s Beginnings

Definitely deserving the status of best-supporting player, ListenUp has been an intrinsic part of the scene for almost five decades. The business got its start in 1972, when college friends Walt Stinson, Mary Kay Stinson and Steven Weiner opened a small storefront in Denver with a single goal: to offer the very best in sound. From there, ListenUp has grown into a company with over 100 employees and stores in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque and Portland, as well as a robust online presence that’s given it a global reputation. But providing incomparable sound and service remain the primary missions. “To put it simply, our goal is to create loyal and enthusiastic customers,” says Walt Stinson. “From staying ahead of the latest technologies and trends to hiring and retaining the people best qualified to take care of our clients, we are totally focused on that goal.”

ListenUp on The Road

To realize that goal, ListenUp has often taken its show on the road. In the mid-’70s, it orchestrated regular weekend concert broadcasts for KFML at the legendary Ebbets Field (where “Sound by ListenUp” became a hallmark), then went on to install the sound system as well as a recording studio at the legendary Rainbow Music Hall, founded by Colorado Music Hall of Fame members Barry Fey and Chuck Morris and which, like Ebbets, was named Billboard magazine’s Club of the Year. “We created a pretty amazing system – it still gets talked about,” remembers Stinson. “We were doing more live broadcasting than had ever been done in Denver’s history.”

LIstenUp & Technological Innovation

But soon ListenUp became known for another technological innovation: The founders bet the company’s future on compact discs, laying the groundwork for the CD market before the product even hit the streets in the early ‘80s and helping CMHOF inductee KBCO become one of the first stations in the country to adopt that digital format. A few years later, they created a custom installation department, focusing on the best in high-fidelity, high-definition sight and sound, an emphasis that continues to this day. When ListenUp moved its longtime headquarters at the start of the millennium, it created the cutting-edge Reference Theatre as a testing ground for new technologies.

LIstenUp’s Commitment to Excellent Service & Products

And since everything old is new again, ListenUp has rededicated itself to analog perfection with its world-class selection of turntables, accessories and service. From ListenUp’s hands-on customer service to its stellar reputation for commercial sound reinforcement, the company is a part of Colorado’s music past, present and future, continuing to provide sound systems for businesses and venues like Fiddler’s Green, as well as outfitting homes around the country. “Our knowledge of commercial systems prepared us well when home systems began to get more complex,” recalls Weiner. Adds Phil Murray, longtime ListenUp marketing manager, “We’ve helped music fans bring the excitement of a night at Red Rocks to their home audio systems.”

ListenUp Supporting the Music of Colorado

As Listen Up’s reputation continues to expand, it hasn’t forgotten the state it calls home, or the music fans who live here. And just as Walt Stinson was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2009, ListenUp has recognized Colorado’s own music all-stars. The company recently renewed its sponsorship of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, in an extension of its commitment to the music community. ListenUp helped design and install the screens for the CMHOF’s archived movies and videos on display throughout our Trading Post location at Red Rocks; those movies bring the history of Colorado music to life for the thousands of music fans and visitors who see the Hall exhibits. “We’re proud to continue to support the state’s musical heritage through our involvement with the Colorado Music Hall of Fame,” says Murray.

Listen up, Colorado!

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Gov with Award BEST Dec 3

Hickenlooper Has a Winning Soundtrack for his Campaign

On March 4, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper made it official: He’s running for president. He joined an already crowded Democratic field, but as Hickenlooper’s March 7 kickoff rally at Denver’s Civic Center Park showed, he’s got a winning soundtrack for his campaign.

The rally included performances by local singers SuCh and Mary Louise Lee, and ended with a three-song set by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. 

Hickenlooper was a music fan long before he became a successful brewpub owner, much less a popular politician. And as mayor of Denver and then governor of Colorado, no one did more to support this state’s music scene than John Hickenlooper. 

“I have never known a politician so involved and caring of the Colorado music community as John,” said promoter Chuck Morris, who had to miss the rally because he was at a concert in Uganda with Michael Franti. “When tragedies like the Boulder floods and fires hit, John was there, helping us reach out to artists to come and perform, helping get donations from corporations and literally emceeing and partaking in the events themselves.” At the rally, the former mayor of Jamestown lauded Hickenlooper’s work dealing with the 2013 floods.

In his push to elevate Colorado’s music industry, Hickenlooper did not just respond to emergency requests, though. As mayor of Denver, he helped propel Red Rocks Amphitheatre to its top-tier status, tripling the number of shows at this legendary venue to more than 100 a year. He used property tax discounts to encourage live music downtown, and today Denver rivals Nashville and Austin for the number of spots booking music. He also worked with established organizations like the Colorado Symphony and Swallow Hill so that they landed on solid footing. And certainly, one of his lasting legacies as governor is Take Note Colorado, a statewide initiative he introduced to provide access to musical instruments and instruction to every K-12 student in Colorado.

Hickenlooper’s support of the scene has earned him many fans, including musicians themselves. “Old Crow Medicine Show, The Lumineers, One Republic, The Fray, Bonnie Raitt and Dave Matthews are only a few of the acts that he calls friends, and he is usually seen when they appear in our great city,” Morris added. “My favorite story is when the Denver Art Museum called me to get a band to surprise him when John was awarded the Man of the Year at its 2019 gala. It took five seconds of asking The Avetts to fly all the way from North Carolina and surprise John with a beautiful show to end the evening. The look on John’s face was priceless.  If there is one person who personifies the greatness of Colorado music for the last 25 years, it would be hard to top John Hickenlooper.”

Hickenlooper was honored with the Barry Fey Visionary Award at the December 2018 induction ceremony for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. How to top that? Running for president, of course, backed by a winning soundtrack.