A BRIEF HISTORY OF SWALLOW HILL MUSIC
Founded in 1979, Swallow Hill Music began as an outgrowth of the Denver Folklore Center, a music store in Denver’s Swallow Hill neighborhood that offered music lessons and performances to the community in the 1960s and 1970s. When the Folklore Center closed temporarily in the late 1970s, a group of committed volunteers formed Swallow Hill Music as a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to build community by connecting people to diverse music traditions on the stage and in the classroom.” Our first Board of Directors was comprised of Geoff Withers, Roz Brown, Emmie Hewitt, Bill McCreary, Tom McMillan, Elissa Meyer and Larry Shirkey. Our first board president Geoff Withers said, “… the object is to make the Swallow Hill Music Hall and School a place that people talk about and enjoy, a “that’s where it is’ place.”
During the 1980s, Swallow Hill Music started out with 143 members. We shared space with the Denver Folklore Center on South Broadway and produced concerts at various locations around Denver. In 1987, Seth Weisberg became Swallow Hill Music’s first Executive Director and we found our first permanent home on Pearl Street for our 10th Anniversary.
The 1990s saw incredible growth in our programming. By 1995, Swallow Hill Music had once again outgrown our home, and a capital campaign was launched to find a new location. In 1997, the location for our current home at 71 East Yale Avenue was found, and the new facility was opened to celebrate Swallow Hill Music’s 20th anniversary in 1999.
In 2002, the music school was named after former School Director Julie Davis. Music festivals and more educational programming took our organization to the next level. In 2004, Swallow Hill Music received the Scientific & Cultural Facilities Districts’ Tier II status, a big achievement for Colorado non-profits. In 2008, we began Denver Ukefest, our annual festival celebrating all things ukulele.
The last four years have seen tremendous growth for Swallow Hill Music. In 2010, we partnered with the Denver Botanic Gardens to produce its Summer Concert Series. This partnership has launched others within the Front Range, and we now produce concerts with the Arvada Center, Clyfford Still Museum, the Jewish Community Center, and more. Swallow Hill Music also continued to see incredible growth in our school programming, and it became clear that 18 classrooms were not enough. In March 2014, Swallow Hill Music’s first satellite location was founded in the Lowry community. Swallow Hill Music @ Lowry began with three classrooms and currently offers group classes, private lessons and summer camps for kids. In March 2015, Swallow Hill Music opened a second satellite location in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver.
Over the years, Swallow Hill Music has grown to become one of the largest organizations of its kind. We’d like to thank all of the former and current staff members and teachers, volunteers (including board members!), donors, members, students and concert attendees for making our mission possible. Without each and every person, we would not be here today.