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.
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.