OPERATION: Denver on the DL

Posted on April 12, 2011

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Dear Denver,

Thank you for clicking on the link that brought you here, and thanks for loving music the way you do and expressing that love in the ways you do.

Since you’re here, I want to invite you to a CCC concert this Saturday in downtown Denver, but I also want to invite you to participate in something much bigger than a single concert. I want to invite you to join me in something I’m calling OPERATION: Denver on the DL.

If you’re a musician/performing artist/human being, you know a little something about wanting people to listen to you.  Being able to share what we create as artists with an audience that gives a crap is a privilege and an honor. But sometimes as artists, if we’re not careful, we can become so consumed with trying to get attention for our work that we forget to offer other artists that precious gift that we’ve been asking for in our attempts to be heard. I call that gift the Dignity of Listening (DL).

The Dignity of Listening is a beautiful thing. It brings people together, it honors people who have something to say, and it provides us with the opportunity to find music that we enjoy. But when we get stingy with that Dignity, giving it out far less often than we ask for it and only giving it out to music and artists that look/walk/talk/sound like we do, you know what happens? We lose. Emotionally, spiritually, artistically and financially, we all lose.

Full disclosure: I’m a classical musician. A professional children’s choir director, to be more specific. I’m a middle class white boy who’s also a Christian and is about to turn 30 in July. My CD collection/iPod playlists look mostly like what you’d expect them to look like based on my profession/age/gender/ethnicity. But here in 2011, I’ve made it my personal mission to get to know and support local Colorado hip-hop artists and their music because people who pour their heart and soul into their music the way I do, no matter the genre and no matter the content deserve to have people to share it with. They (you?) deserve the Dignity of Listening, and I am slowly but surely learning how to share it with them (you).

Getting into local hip-hop has been an incredible learning experience. I’ve heard beats at beat battles by producers like Davey Boy, Graffiti and B Fields that rocked my world. I’ve found a Denver rap group called The Diamond Boiz who give away all of their music for free, and whose main front man Dyalekt has a performance energy on stage that is so positive and exciting that I wish I could bring the CCC kids to a bar to watch him some time. I bought an awesome album called “Son of the Crack Era”  by a cat named Mr. Midas who raps about growing up in Long Beach with a mom who was a drug addict and a drug dealer and how his grandma and his God helped him live to tell about it. Outside of hip-hop, I’ve also discovered the poetry of Denver poets like Suzi Q. and Amy Everheart, who can inspire you, convict you and rip your heart out with their art, and whose colleagues can do the same.

To say that my artistic and personal life is richer for having listened to these people and so many more would be an understatement. Because you see, that’s the mysterious paradox of giving the Dignity of Listening:  the more you invest as a giver- even when you give to art and artists that couldn’t be more different than you and your art- the more you get back. Even when you least expect it.

So now let me ask you something, Denver reader (especially #cohiphop artists/DJs/fans): ever been to a…gulp….children’s choir concert? Whether or not you have, I’d like to ask you to consider coming to “Spring with the Children’s Chorale” this Saturday at 2:00pm at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, Colorado, were the nearly 400 kids of the Colorado Children’s Chorale will be performing their Spring Concert for well over 1,000 people. At this concert, you’ll hear classical music, musical theater, pop, and even some movie music. You’ll see the kids stand still and sing, and you’ll see them dance all over the stage while singing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray. I’ll be conducting the Prep Choir (2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade kids), and at the end of the concert, all 400-ish kids will be on the stage at the same time to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, and they’ll be singing an arrangement that I wrote specifically for this concert. I’d be honored if you’d come check it out.

Make no mistake: I’m under no illusions that any of you owe me anything. On the contrary, I’m in debt to you for all you’ve taught and shared with me. I just want to encourage my city to join me in OPERATION: Denver on the DL by giving the Dignity of Listening to people/places/music that you would not normally think of giving it. Obviously, I’d love it if you’d start this weekend with my work- the Colorado Children’s Chorale, but do what you want/what you can. Whether or not you ever return the Dignity of Listening back to me and the kids I work with, I’ll still come see your shows, buy your mixtapes/merch and listen intently to what you’re trying to say with your music. I’m a better musician and a better Christian because of what I’ve learned from you all, and I’m not turning back to the way I was. Just know that a handful of times each year, I’ll humbly come before you and ask that you consider taking a chance on these incredible kids and the wonderful music they share in your community because I believe that just as your music has enhanced my musical life, ours can enhance yours if you’ll let it.

Click here to buy tickets online, or buy them at the Boettcher Concert Hall box office on the day of the concert. And if you come, please tell me so I can try and talk to you after the show and properly show you my appreciation for extending the Dignity of Listening to me and 400 of our city’s incredible kids.

In Music,

Travis Branam

Assistant Conductor, Colorado Children’s Chorale

aka @musicapologist

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Posted in: Music