The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the music industry, and music education, hard. But for Swallow Hill Music, 2021 is a year for rebuilding and for growth. Swallow Hill Music, 71 E. Yale Ave., got its …
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To learn more about Swallow Hill Music, purchase tickets to any of the organization’s live-stream concerts or register for a class through its online music school, visit https://swallowhillmusic.org/.
The musicians Tyler Breuer and Thomas Jennings featured in this article are both involved with Denver-local bands. Here are the bands they are involved with:
-- Don Chicharrón, Peruvian cumbia (https://www.facebook.com/DonChicharronDenver/)
-- Ned Garthe Explosion, rock (https://www.facebook.com/NedGartheExplosion/)
-- Hang Rounders, honky-tonk (http://www.hangrounders.com/band.html)
-- Mama Magnolia, indie soul (http://www.mamamagnolia.com/)
-- Solo Project, a jazz trio; and Gold Leader, instrumental funk (https://www.thomasplaysguitar.com/projects)
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the music industry, and music education, hard.
But for Swallow Hill Music, 2021 is a year for rebuilding and for growth.
Swallow Hill Music, 71 E. Yale Ave., got its start in 1979. It hosts a variety of programs, including a music school, live music concerts and community outreach such as music therapy, enrichment and early childhood education.
“Both on the stage, and in the classroom,” said the nonprofit music organization’s CEO Paul Lhevine, “we bring the joy of music.”
However, in late March of last year, Swallow Hill put all of its in-person programming on pause and started looking into implementing varied virtual programming.
The efforts were successful. Since May, the organization has live-streamed roughly 200 concerts that featured musicians from 29 U.S. states including Colorado — plus New Brunswick, Australia, Ireland and British Columbia, Lhevine said. These concerts attracted more than 125,000 virtual audience members, with the proceeds from ticket sales benefiting both the performance’s musicians and Swallow Hill.
Additionally, Swallow Hill Music’s Little Swallows TV has launched. Available for free, this is an early childhood music video series geared toward children age 3-6 that incorporates social emotional learning themes and activities.
In July, the first session of Swallow Hill’s online music school took place.
“It’s exciting to be putting musicians back to work as instructors,” Lhevine said.
And because online music schools break the barrier to access, Lhevine added, Swallow Hill is attracting students from across the country. Though it’s still not quite the numbers that Swallow Hill had before the pandemic, about 500 students have taken or are currently taking classes through Swallow Hill’s online music school.
“Online music education is very empowering,” said Tyler Breuer, Swallow Hill Music’s school director. “The adaptability of the instructors has made this work really well.”
But Breuer had no doubt that Swallow Hill instructors would be able to adapt to the shift to online teaching, he said.
Many of Swallow Hill’s instructors are gigging professional musicians, so “they’ve already been making a living in the most creative sense,” Breuer said.
Swallow Hill’s online music school offers quite the variety of experiences for all skill levels of music learners — group classes, private lessons, workshops and more, including classes specifically for kids and teens. This is not to mention that instructors are available for all sorts of instruments, from accordion to ukulele and everything in between — even songwriting, digital audio production and music theory.
One benefit to the online music school is that Swallow Hill can do a more comprehensive job of getting certain classes that the students request, and/or better curate the programming, Breuer said.
“It all starts with our students who made this transition online with us,” Breuer said. “We definitely want teachers and students connecting.”
Swallow Hill has also created a brand-new program called Progressions, which is a four-month immersive guitar course. This class required an application — a first for Swallow Hill — and is meant for intermediate students looking to become more advanced musicians.
It is being taught by Thomas Jennings, a seasoned guitarist who is involved with a couple of Denver-based bands, and who has nearly a decade of teaching experience.
“Getting better at music takes time,” Jennings said. “But the joy of exploration never goes away.”
The Progressions pilot runs Feb. 2-May 30, and if it is successful, it will likely be offered again in the fall, Jennings said. Additionally, Swallow Hill may extend it to other instruments at some point, he said.
As an instructor, Jennings enjoys seeing people spending time with their instruments and is especially looking forward to Progressions, he said. His hope for the class is that the students “leave feeling empowered and confident with music and the guitar,” Jennings said.
Swallow Hill realizes the value of music and music education, Breuer said. It is expected that the online music school and the virtual concerts will become a part of Swallow Hill, perhaps alongside the in-person activities once those resume.
“Swallow Hill, for many, is a community,” Breuer said. “Swallow Hill as a whole will always be here. It’s a piece of Denver.”
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