eTown

Inducted: April 22, 2021

eTown

eTown Hall; above photo credit: Tim Reese

Photo credit: Tim Reese

Founded by Nick and Helen Forster in 1991, eTown is a live, music-based radio show recorded in front of an audience but with a new twist: every show included conversation or information about social and environmental issues. Launched on Earth Day 1991 (just a month before their wedding day), eTown quickly grew into a nationally syndicated radio program through NPR. The resulting mix of live music and commentary surrounding climate change, community and sustainability forever changed what was thought possible in broadcasting. 

Music ran deep in the Forsters’ DNA. Nick began his career in Colorado at the Denver Folklore Center repairing guitars. There he met his future bandmates in Hot Rize, the award-winning bluegrass band that he’s been a part of for more than 40 years.  Helen got her start in Telluride where she was an actor, singer and one of the early partners in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Because of their experience and connections, eTown got off to a strong start. In their first season, artists like Shawn Colvin, The Fairfield Four, Lyle Lovett and James Taylor all made their way to Boulder to record eTown shows. eTown went off the air briefly in 1992 but came back six months later and has been expanding their audience ever since.

The Forsters had produced most of their shows at the Boulder Theater with a few presented at other venues around Colorado and across the country. In 2008, eTown found a new home in a nearly century-old Boulder church at 1535 Spruce Street. Over the next four years, donations, grants and fundraisers brought in enough money to support the extensive renovations eTown had planned. Their new home, eTown Hall, opened in 2012 as a 17,000 square-foot, solar-powered, zero-carbon, live music venue and recording facility unlike any other around the globe. Colorado bands like Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Elephant Revival and Hot Rize have all recorded albums at the eTown Hall studio.

Today, eTown continues to aim for diversity in its musical guests knowing that part of the show’s mission is to make connections across cultures through music. That means inviting top-tier musicians from different genres: Americana, Blues, Celtic, Cajun, Bluegrass, Afro-Cuban and more. At the end of each show, the two musical guests play a song together. This finale, arranged and rehearsed right before showtime, is one of the highlights of every show because of the unusual pairings, song selection and the joy of watching something come together live.

Photo credit: Steve Stone

Photo credit: Tim Reese

Visiting musicians often come out solo for an eTown taping knowing that the house band, the eTones, will show up ready to play, having learned their songs. The eTones — consisting of Nick on guitar, Helen on vocals, bassist Chris Engleman, drummer Christian Teele and pianist Ron Jolly – are able to serve the songs and deliver them with feeling to a discerning audience – both live and on the air. The list of performers who’ve played with the band is long, but it includes legends like Mavis (and even Pops) Staples, James Taylor, Joan Baez, Jack Johnson, Buddy Guy and hundreds more. 

Each eTown episode includes live performances and spoken segments, including the show’s famous eChievement Award, which recognizes regular people who selflessly address issues in their community — from cleaning up towns to feeding the hungry. Celebrity guests, such as President Jimmy Carter and Dr. Jane Goodall, have also appeared on the show to talk about their community work.

Thirty years to the day after eTown’s launch, Colorado Music Hall of Fame helped celebrate the nonprofit’s “B’Earth Day” through The Hall’s only virtual induction ceremony so far. The livestream event produced by eTown featured music and conversation with artists including Lyle Lovett, Bob Weir, Nathaniel Rateliff, Black Pumas, Los Lobos, Sam Bush and Sarah Jarosz.

eTown is a Colorado treasure, a calming voice in troubled times heard around the world. We’re proud to include them in our list of inductees to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Tim Reese

Photos from top of page to bottom:

  • eTown Hall
  • eTown co-founder, Nick Forster, with Nathaniel Rateliff, 2014
  • Members of Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Hazel Miller, Rosie Flores with
  • eTown founders, Helen and Nick Forster, 1994
  • eTown Hall audience
  • James Taylor, Nick Forster, David Crosby, Helen Forster, and Graham Nash at the Democratic National Convention, 2008

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Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Andrew Woolfolk

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Earth, Wind & Fire’s

Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Andrew Woolfolk

 

Few bands transcend genres and audiences like Earth, Wind & Fire, which reshaped the music industry forever with its unique blend of jazz, pop, rock, soul, blues, folk, disco and African music. 

Though Maurice White founded Earth, Wind & Fire (originally known as the Salty Peppers), it was Colorado-born Philip Bailey who helped carry the group to new heights, bringing his famed four-octave vocal range to many of the band’s biggest hits, including “Reasons,” “Fantasy,” “September,” “Sing a Song” and “Shining Star.”

Since its founding in 1969, Earth, Wind & Fire has amassed seven Grammy Awards, four American Music Awards, the BET lifetime achievement award, the Soul Train Legend Award and Kennedy Center Honors — more than enough accolades to secure its spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fam

In all, Earth, Wind & Fire has sold more than 90 million records and earned more than 50 platinum and gold albums. Two songs, “Shining Star” and “That’s the Way of the World,” have been added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

When members of the original band split off to pursue new interests, Bailey turned to his two Denver East High School friends to fill the gaps. Larry Dunn, a keyboardist, and Andrew Woolfolk, who played saxophone, had played with Bailey in an eclectic Denver group called Friends and Love, which had opened for Earth, Wind & Fire years before. Each member of the trio found their own success in the music industry, even after their work with Earth, Wind & Fire.

Philip Bailey

Born in Denver in 1951, Bailey grew up listening to the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughan and Stevie Wonder. He attended East High School, Metropolitan State University and the University of Colorado, where he and White crossed paths.

Though he is primarily known as an R&B and soul singer, Bailey’s body of work grew to encompass gospel, funk, television and even Broadway. Berklee College of Music awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in 2008. His legacy also includes charity efforts that support foster children through music.

Larry Dunn

Dunn was also a Denver-born musician, who had expressed a love of music from a young age, encouraged by his musician father and music-loving mother. At 11, he formed his first musical group and at 15 (with his mother’s permission), Dunn was playing paid gigs at clubs seven nights a week. With Earth, Wind & Fire, he helped introduce the funky keyboard, organ, clavinet and synthesizer playing that would become a staple of the band’s music.

After his stint with the band, Dunn joined Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White’s record label, Kalimba Productions, where he signed several new artists, including The Emotions and Deniece Williams. Skilled in the studio as well, Dunn produced albums for The Emotions, Lenny White, Ramsey, Lewis, Level 42 and Stanley Turrentine. He also released a solo album in 1992.

Andrew Woolfolk

Woolfolk had always been a versatile musician, even as a teenager. He studied soprano and tenor saxophone, percussion and flute, and performed with the Echoes of Youth gospel choir, where he honed his vocal talents and worked with the choir’s organist, future actress Pam Grier. But before Bailey invited him to join the group, he had plans to begin a career in banking.

Woolfolk has also collaborated with notable musicians like Phil Collins, Valerie Carter, Deniece Williams, Level 42 and Ricky Lawson.

Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Andrew Woolfolk were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame Jazz Masters & Beyond class of 2017.

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 28: 2017 Colorado Music hall of Fame induction at Paramount Theater on November 28, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Michael Martin.)
Larry-Dunn
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Earth, Wind, & Fire Discography

1980 – Faces

1981 – Raise

1992 – The Eternal Dance

2002 – That’s The Way of the World – Alive in ’75

1979 – I Am

1974 – Open Our Eyes

2002 – Live in Rio

1977 – All ‘N All

1972 – Last Days and Time

1975 – Gratitude

1973 – Head To The Sky

1983 – Powerlight

1976 – Spirit

1983 – Electric Universe

1975 – That’s The Way of the World

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John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper

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BILL SZYMCZYK

Bill Szymczyk

Inducted: August 13, 2017

Bill Szymczyk

Produced by Bill Szymczyk

Self-proclaimed professional listener William Szymczyk was born in Muskegon, Michigan on February 13, 1943. Szymczyk’s future career as a producer had its origin in the U.S. Navy where he took a course in radio and TV production while he was serving as a Sonarman Petty Officer.

Once he was discharged from duty, he accepted a position making acetate copies of recorded demos at the Dick Charles Recording Studio. He later recalled listening to a studio session with Carole King and Gerry Goffin which got him hooked. Within a year, he became one of the studio’s engineers.

His first break came when songwriter Helen Miller referred him to an uptown studio called Regent Sound, owned by Bob Lifton. Under Lifton’s tutelage, Szymczyk wound up managing the studio. A few years later in ‘67, he met R&B producer Jerry Ragovoy, who was preparing to open a new studio called the Hit Factory. Ragovoy needed talent, and Szymczyk accepted, becoming the Hit Factory’s first regular engineer, where he also learned how to be a producer. 

When a staff producer position opened up at Paramount-owned ABC Records, he took it. While there, he heard the music of blues artist BB King who was under contract with ABC. Szymczyk asked to make a record with King and, after some pushback, was told he could do it if he pitched his idea to King himself.

Szymczyk’s plan was to try another band behind King to produce a more energetic recording. King took to the idea but considered it a risk. The two agreed to do the first half of the album with King’s regular band and the second half with new musicians. The result was Live & Well (1969) and the last song on the second side, “Why I Sing The Blues,” made a dent on the charts. This success convinced King and ABC to try again. Completely Well (1969) was released later that year and won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance. Afterwards, ABC gave Szymczyk the power to sign his own acts, and one of the first was the hard rock James Gang with singer-songwriter Joe Walsh, with whom Szymczyk became close friends.

Around this time, ABC merged with Dunhill Records and Szymczyk had to move to Los Angeles. The move was short-lived as an Earthquake struck the city and Szymczyk decided to leave LA. In early 1971, he moved to Denver and started a record label with Larry Ray, a colleague from New York. Tumbleweed Records was the result. After some financial trouble at the beginning, Szymczyk and Ray began production on clients like Walsh, The J. Geils Band, and others.

Produced by Bill Szymczyk

Produced by Bill Szymczyk

Three years later, Szymczyk became involved with Walsh’s new band, the Eagles, after hearing about creative differences with their then producer, Glyn Johns. Szymczyk was asked to step in, but he didn’t want to offend Johns; so he called for permission and received the reply, “Better you than me, mate!” The Eagles and Szymczyk booked Criteria Studios in Miami and finished On The Border (1974) in three weeks.

The next album, One of These Nights (1975), took 18 months to complete. From there, each record began to take longer and longer to make. Producing for the Eagles became Szymczyk’s full-time job. Hotel California (1976) began with just a handful of songs, and the band developed the rest during studio jam sessions. The Long Run (1979) took nearly three years to make, and all the while the band’s inner turmoil was boiling over. The band broke up a year later and the projects they were working on collapsed.

Due to his financial success from the previous decade, Szymczyk’s production work tapered in the 1980s. He officially retired in 1990, though he re-emerged in the mid-2000s to work on the Eagles album The Long Road Out of Eden (2007).

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Bill Szymczyk Discography (as producer)

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Dianne Reeves

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Dianne Reeves

Colorado is home to many talented jazz musicians, each of whom have contributed their unique style and sound to the state’s musical legacy. Among the many beloved names that have earned well-deserved spots in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame is Dianne Reeves, an award-winning jazz singer with a long and storied career.

row1-diane-reevesReeves has spent more than thirty years sharing her incredible talents with the world, both as a solo artist and as a contributor to the work of other jazz groups and artists. The unique timbre of her elegant, evocative voice and the style and sensitivity she brings to her songs have made her an American treasure.


Friends and family played a huge role in Dianne’s life.

Dianne Reeves hails from a family with deep musical roots, including well-known musicians George Duke and Charles Burrell. Her mother played trumpet and her father sang, so it is perhaps no wonder that she was passionate about music from the very beginning.

Reeves has spent more than thirty years sharing her incredible talents with the world, both as a solo artist and as a contributor to the work of other jazz groups and artists. The unique timbre of her elegant, evocative voice and the style and sensitivity she brings to her songs have made her an American treasure.

Dianne Reeves hails from a family with deep musical roots, including well-known musicians George Duke and Charles Burrell. Her mother played trumpet and her father sang, so it is perhaps no wonder that she was passionate about music from the very beginning.

Born on October 23, 1956, Reeves spent her first two years in Detroit before relocating to Denver with her mother after her father’s passing. Burrell, her uncle, was a bassist with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the person who would forever change her life—and music history—by introducing her to jazz.

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Congratulations to Dianne on Being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

Spotlight on Dianne Reeves

While a student at Denver’s George Washington High School, Reeves sang in a big band that was invited to perform at the National Association of Jazz Educators. There she was discovered by jazz trumpeter Clark Terry, who would go on to become her musical mentor. After graduation. Reeves spent a short time studying classical voice at the University of Colorado.

In 1976, she moved to Los Angeles at the suggestion of fellow Denverite and founding Earth, Wind & Fire member Philip Bailey, and began to pursue music full-time.

The heart of Reeves’ career has always connected back to jazz, but she has also proved herself more than capable of performing other types of music. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she hopped between various forms of session work, touring with the band Caldera and artist Harry Belafonte, and partnering with Sérgio Mendes.

In 1982, Reeves began her work as a recording artist, quickly becoming known for her eclectic stylings. Her music introduced fans to a new realm that blended jazz with pop, world music, and African-inspired folk music. Much of her early work is distinctly autobiographical, with Reeves crafting extraordinary lyrics with superior skill.

After spending several years playing and touring with Mendes, Belafonte and others, Reeves signed with Blue Note Records in 1987. The eponymous Dianne Reeves claimed the number-one spot on contemporary jazz music charts for an impressive eleven weeks. She went on to record several other albums of note with Blue Note, including The Grand Encounter, Never Too Far and I Remember.

Between 2001 and 2015, Reeves won five Grammy Awards, including for her work in the George Clooney film Good Night and Good Luck. She was also honored with honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School in 2003 and 2015, respectively. In 2018, Reeves achieved one of the ultimate career milestones for an American jazz musician when she was designated a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Reeves moved back to Colorado in the 1990s, and while her career had taken her beyond her hometown, she has always maintained a passionate base of fans in the state. Dianne Reeves songs are a staple on the soundtrack of famous Colorado music, and for decades, Reeves has stood as a shining example of the state’s diverse musical talents, an essential part of the state’s music history.

Today, Reeves’ story is told at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and she is an integral part of the museum’s carefully selected honorees. Congratulations to Dianne Reeves on her induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

Dianne Reeves Discography

2014 – Beautiful Life

1987 – Dianne Reeves

1984 – For Every Heart

1990 – Never Too Far

1996 – The Grand Encounter

1991 – I Remember

2004 – Christmas Time is Here

2000 – In The Moment, Live in Concert

1994 – Art and Survival

1994 – Quiet After the Storm

1997 – That Day

2003 – A Little Moonlight

1989 – Never Too Far

2005 – Good Night, and Good Luck

1982 – Welcome to My Love

2001 – The Calling

1996 – The Palo Alto Sessions

1999 – Bridges

2016 – Light Up the Night

2002 – The Best of Dianne Reeves

1997 – New Morning

2008 – When You Know

2007 – Music for Lovers

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Ron Miles

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Ron Miles

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A 2017 inductee into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, cornet and trumpet master Ron Miles has made an indelible mark not only on the Centennial State, but on the global jazz world, as well. An internationally renowned composer, collaborator and educator, Miles summited the peak of the jazz world with his 2020 release Rainbow Sign, on the iconic Blue Note Records label. For Miles, recording for Blue Note is a high point in a career filled with milestones

Miles was born in Indianapolis in 1963 and moved with his family to Denver at age 11, around the same time he started playing the trumpet. He honed his early musical chops as a member of the jazz combo at Denver’s East High School, where he’s said that he learned to be “subtle and musical, not overly flashy.” Under the tutelage of band director Jerry Noonan, Miles played alongside gifted alto saxophonist and future Hollywood megastar Don Cheadle before heading to the University of Denver to study electrical engineering. While at DU, Miles was in a jazz improvisation class taught by pianist Ron Jolly, who encouraged him to pursue a career as a full-time musician, a possibility that had not previously occurred to the young horn player. According to Jolly, Miles was “the most talented student” he’d ever taught. Heeding his teacher’s advice, Miles changed his major and his life’s path. He also began a long-lasting relationship with the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble and its founder, saxophonist Fred Hess. 

After completing his bachelor’s degree at DU, Miles earned a scholarship for graduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music and moved to New York City for a year. In 1987, back in the Mile High City, the Ron Miles Trio (Miles, drummer Mark Fuller and bassist Mark Simon) released its debut, Distance for Safety, on Denver’s Prolific Records label. During this time, Miles was also completing his master’s degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder with his eye on a potential future as a college music professor. While finishing up at CU, in 1988 he began a teaching gig at what was then Metropolitan State College in Denver, forming a relationship with the school that continues to this day.

Since the release of Distance for Safety, Miles’s recording career has been a whirlwind of creativity and collaboration. Recording for Blue Note was particularly rewarding; Miles describes the imprint as “the last American label where you’re able to make the record you want to make.” Blue Note’s Rainbow Sign marks his 12th album as a bandleader, and the next release after Joshua Redman’s Still Dreaming, on which Miles played cornet, earned a nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards

Recognized as one of the finest melodists of his era with a gift for improvisation, Miles has lent his distinctive style to the work of a diverse list of musicians, including composer Mercer Ellington, fellow Coloradan and saxophonist Fred Hess, saxophonist and arranger Redman, and legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Coward of the County, a 1999 Baker/Miles recording with the DJQ20, a group comprising fellow members of Colorado’s jazz elite, remains a source of pride for Miles, who wrote all but two of the album’s songs. Most notably, Miles’s friendship and partnership with 2017 CMHOF inductee and fellow East High School graduate Bill Frisell spans decades, with each musician adding his unique sound to a multitude of recordings and live performances on stages across the globe. 

Equally resounding is the legacy Miles has created throughout his 31 years at Metropolitan State University Denver, where he continues to inspire and mentor budding Colorado musicians as an instructor and Musician in Residence.

The Colorado Music Hall of Fame is proud to honor 2017 inductee Ron Miles for his deep contribution to the global legacy of jazz musicianship, composition and musical education. 

Ron Miles was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

Ron Miles Discography

2020 – Rainbow Sign

2003 – Laughing Barrel

2006 – Stone Blossom

2017 – New American Songbooks

1990 – Witness

2012 – Quiver

1996 – My Cruel Heart

2009 – 3ology

2018 – Still Dreaming

2009 – Go Home

2002 – Heaven

2014 – Circuit Rider

2017 – I Am A Man

1987 -Distance For Safety

1997 – Women’s Day

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Bill-Frisell

Bill Frisell

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Bill Frisell

Many different paths have led talented artists to become part of the Colorado music scene. Bill Frisell’s journey began in Denver, where he spent the majority of his youth. Now, decades later, Frisell’s story is intertwined with both the history of music and the history of the state.

Type of Music

Although Frisell is known as a versatile musician, he’s undeniably an icon of the jazz world. Over his long and storied career, he has worked in jazz fusion, Americana, folk-jazz, country and even classical music, showing just how far his impressive abilities extend.

Among the many defining characteristics of Frisell’s talents are his capability for improvisation and his passion for weaving thematic connections into his music.

Early Beginnings in Colorado

Frisell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951, but Denver served as the backdrop to most of his youth. While his professional experience has been centered on his work as a guitarist, he started as a clarinet player.
Frisell studied with Richard Joiner of the Denver Symphony Orchestra, nurturing a growing passion for the clarinet. Simultaneously, the pop hits played on the radio served as the initial spark for his interest in guitar. His fascination rapidly grew to include the Chicago blues, and Frisell began drawing inspiration from such musical greats as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Paul Butterfield and Otis Rush.

As noted in the biography page published on Frisell’s website, a significant turning point in his musical interests came in his teen years:

When I was 16, I was listening to a lot of surfing music, a lot of English rock. Then I saw Wes Montgomery, and somehow that kind of turned me around. Later, Jim Hall made a big impression on me, and I took some lessons with him. I suppose I play the kind of harmonic things Jim would play but with a sound that comes from Jimi Hendrix.

 

Bill-Frisell

 

Throughout high school, Frisell’s involvement in music never wavered. He contributed his talents to various bands, covering everything from James Brown songs to current pop. After graduating from East High School, he enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado to pursue music studies.

Musician Dale Bruning, who hailed from the Denver area, was Frisell’s first guitar teacher in college. Bruning would continue to be a significant influence throughout Frisell’s, career and remains one of the artists he cites as an inspiration today.

After Frisell graduated from UNC, he continued his studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. There, he worked closely with such well-known names as Jim Hall and Jon Damian, and continued to zero in on his signature style.

A Professional Career that Crossed Genre and Geographical Boundaries

As with so many legendary musicians of our time, Frisell’s big break was one that seemed fueled by the forces of fate. When guitarist Pat Metheny had to miss a recording session for ECM Records, Frisell was recommended as a fill-in. Soon after, Frisell was chosen to be ECM’s in-house guitar player, a role in which he would work closely with various artists.

In 1983, Frisell released his debut solo album, In Line. The tracks featured his work as a solo guitarist and a few duets with bassist Arild Andersen. Around the same time, Frisell relocated to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he quickly leaped into New York’s flourishing jazz scene. There he met several artists that he continued working with throughout his career, including John Zorn, Paul Motian and Joe Lovano.

The 1990s saw Frisell make another big move, this time to the Pacific Northwest. He touched down in Seattle, the city where he released two of his best-reviewed albums: Have a Little Faith and This Land.

From the late 1990s to the present day, Frisell has continued to wow critics and fans alike. Several of his songs have been featured in hit films, and he has also completed work for the Walker Art Center. With dozens of notable albums, the most recent of which debuted in 2020, Frisell shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Take a Deep Dive into Colorado’s Fascinating Music History

Bill Frisell is one of the countless artists who have contributed to the music history of Colorado. Learn more about his work as well as that dozens of other talented musicians by visiting Colorado Music Hall of Fame today.

Bill Frisell Discography

1999 – The Sweetest Punch

1998 – Songs We Know

2001 – Blues Dream

2001 – Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones

2014 – Guitar In The Space Age

2008 – History, Mystery

2011 – Sign Of Life

1987 – Lookout For Hope

2018 – Music IS

2010 – Beautiful Dreamers

2020 – Valentine

2013 – Silent Comedy

2019 – Harmony

2006 – Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian

1999 – Good Dog, Happy Man

1990 – Is That You

1992 – Have A Little Faith

1996 – Quartet

1997 – Nashville

2000 – Ghost Town

1984 – Rambler

2007 – Floratone

2017 – Small Town

2005 – East West

2009 – Folk Songs

2013 – Big Sur

1995 – Live

1995 – Go West

2003 – The Intercontinentals

1983 – In Line

1998 – Gone, Just Like A Train

1989 – Before We Were Born

2011 – All We Are Saying

2008 – All Hat

1998 – Gone, Just Like A Train

2016 – When You Wish Upon A Star

2019 – Epistrophy

1991 – Where In The World

2009 – Disfarmer

1995 – The High Sign One Week

2005 – Richter 858

1994 – This Land

2011 – Lagrimas Mexicanas

2004 – Unspeakable

2002 – The Willies

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Denver East High School

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Denver East High School

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Colorado has an incredible wealth of musicians, actors and artists to call our own. Artistic minds require a certain set of conditions in order to unlock their latent potential; so it may come as no surprise that so many of these creators came out of one place: Denver East High School. Many of our Jazz Masters & Beyond class inductees attended East High—Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Andrew Woolfolk of Earth, Wind & Fire; jazz cornetist Ron Miles; and jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. Prior inductees Judy Collins and Paul Whiteman, also roamed this historic school’s halls before moving on to bigger and better stages. Other notable musicians who are alumni include jazz pianist Purnell Steen of Le Jazz Machine, and Hattie McDaniel who got her start as a musician and songwriter before becoming the first African-American to win an Oscar for her role in Gone With The Wind. 

According to East High’s historian, Dr. Marcia Goldstein, many of the high school’s teachers, especially in the music program, stay at the high school for decades and become masters at mentoring students. Mariane Padboy, a retired choir teacher at East High, was said to have instructed both Philip Bailey – teaching him to master falsetto to help him achieve notes higher than his normal vocal range – as well as opera singer Alan Titus who went on to become an internationally famed baritone. The current choir director, Wil Taylor, has been at the school for over thirty years.

A Denver Historic Landmark built in 1875, East High School, located at 1600 City Park Esplanade, was designed by architect, George H. Williamson, a graduate himself of the original East High. The choir room windows open up over the courtyard at the front of the school allowing passers-by to hear the heavenly singing emanating from above. This phenomenon also fits surprisingly well with the school’s mascot – the East High Angels.

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In 2005, the Denver-born band, The Fray, filmed their first music video inside the halls of East High for their first hit song, “Over My Head (Cable Car).” Today, the East High School Music Program regularly sends students to participate in the Denver Jazz Club Youth All-Stars, a group of students from around the city who regularly tour in Sacramento and New Orleans, as well as overseas for jazz festivals in Italy and Switzerland.  

East High School has long been a garden for young talent and has repeatedly been recognized as one of America’s top high schools. Today it is Denver’s largest public high school.

The Denver East High School Music Program was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, with the Jazz Masters & Beyond class of 2017.

Denver East High was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame, with Jazz Masters class of 2017.

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Earth, Wind & Fire

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Earth, Wind & Fire

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Certain songs will always remind you of particular moments in your life; like your first time you fell in love, or of a certain time and place, or a special event in your life.

It’s a feeling that truly masterful musicians can create for us. But there is one funky group that seems to do this quite often. We are specifically talking about Colorado’s Earth, Wind & Fire – the local band gone global. It is the grounding that all these players have in jazz that has made Earth, Wind & Fire so enduring and expressive. Every time people hear these songs, they only love them more. Members Philp Bailey, Larry Dunn, and Andrew Woolfolk all attended East High School.

Every time people hear these songs, they only love them more.

Larry Dunn was working clubs seven nights a week by the time he was 15, and he signed with Earth, Wind & Fire at the tender age of 17. Larry was already playing rock and jazz gigs and had a regular gig with local blues artist Sam Mayfield.

Andrew Woolfolk is a natural-born saxophone player who infuses every song with exquisite and adventurous playing. Philip Bailey’s four-octave range makes Earth, Wind & Fire’s songs unique, beautiful, and timeless.

Earth, Wind & Fire has taken us on an extraordinary musical journey for more than 40 years. They have used elements of jazz to create pop songs that have become a part of our lives, truly living up to the term “Jazz Masters.” Congratulations, Larry, Philip, and Andrew, for your induction into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.

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Earth, Wind, & Fire has taken us on an extraordinary musical journey for more than 40 years.

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Miles & Frisell

Inducted: November 28, 2017

Miles & Frisell

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By the time Bill Frisell graduated from Denver’s East High School, he was already an incredible guitarist and had begun working with some of the greats.

Bill has held the number-one guitarist spot in the annual Downbeat Critics Poll for nine out of ten years. He has been named Guitarist of the Year 18 times, and he’s won numerous Grammys for his work recording with Petra Haden, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wolleson. Bill continues to collaborate with a wide range of artists and musicians, from Paul Simon to Vinicius Cantuaria. But his most lasting connection and collaboration has been with Denver’s own Ron Miles.

Ron Miles has played in many genres and styles of music with artists from all over the world… Yet there is something uniquely Colorado about the way he approaches all music equally.

Ron Miles has played in many genres and styles of music with artists from all over the world. Yet there is something uniquely Colorado about the way he approaches all music equally. As much as Ron and Bill are both renowned for jazz playing, they both frequently cross musical boundaries into styles like folk, country music and Americana. It is fitting that these two were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame together in 2017.

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It is fitting that Ron Miles and Bill Frisell were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame together in 2017.

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