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Mission ready: Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts

This nonprofit has worked to empower youth through music education at venues across the metro area for more than two decades. Now, it’s found a forever home, thanks to a partnership with MSU Denver’s Department of Music.

June 15, 2021

By Joseph Rios

The Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts and Metropolitan State University of Denver have been singing from the same sheet of music for more than a decade.

Faculty members from the University’s Department of Music regularly teach at the nonprofit that works to empower youth to express themselves through jazz music, and Conservatory Artistic Director Paul Romaine directed ensembles and taught drum set at MSU Denver from 2014 to 2018. The Conservatory also regularly held evening band practices at the Auraria Campus Arts Building while it bounced around from room to room in search of a permanent home.

But at the beginning of the year, the CCJA found a forever home when it and MSU Denver made their partnership official. Since February, the CCJA has been holding classes, performances and meetings at MSU Denver’s Kalamath Building (800 Kalamath St.), the space that also hosts MSU Denver jazz practices and performances.


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“There has always been a lot of crossover and close relationships between us and them,” said Peter Schimpf, MSU Denver Department of Music chair.

The move is exciting for the CCJA and MSU Denver’s Jazz Department, said Chris Romaine, who with her husband, Paul, founded the Conservatory in 1999. The University and the nonprofit share a vision for the larger Colorado music community and are already developing concepts such as joint concerts, workshops and programming. The partnership also helps the CCJA serve an even more diverse population while it works to improve equity and inclusion in music education.

“(Moving to the building) is a complete game-changer for us, and it’s a dream come true,” Chris Romaine said. “The potential is very inspiring to us.”

Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts student Alex Horton, 13, plays Blue Bossa by Kenny Dorham at a summer camp held at MSU Denver’s Kalamath Building. Photo by Alyson McClaran
Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts student Alex Horton, 13, plays Blue Bossa by Kenny Dorham at a summer camp held at MSU Denver’s Kalamath Building. Photo by Alyson McClaran

A pipeline to and from MSU Denver

MSU Denver’s Kalamath Building is designed for jazz. It has soundproof rooms for recording, jazz libraries, instruments and other shared resources.

The University’s hope is that young CCJA students will have a good experience and recognize that that experience can continue in programs at MSU Denver since the nonprofit and the University share the same facility and resources, Schimpf said.


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But the partnership presents additional opportunities to grow the music community beyond being a pipeline for students, he said.

“We can share guest artists; we can share camps – we can just share a lot of different resources between the two programs, which benefits everybody,” Schimpf said.

Having MSU Denver’s faculty available to CCJA students is a great resource, Paul Romaine said. And the building seems like it was built for the nonprofit's mission.

“We are the jazz community,” he said. “We like to rep that, and we’re excited that this building has an opportunity to strengthen and build not only the musicians in the community but the people that surround and support the musicians.”

Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts students play A Sound for Sore Ears by Jimmy Heath at a summer camp held at MSU Denver’s Kalamath Building. Photo by Alyson McClaran
Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts students play A Sound for Sore Ears by Jimmy Heath at a summer camp held at MSU Denver’s Kalamath Building. Photo by Alyson McClaran

Youth movement

The CCJA’s summer programs taking place at MSU Denver’s Kalamath Building include a jazz boot camp for instrumentalists and vocalists ages 10-18, topic-based courses, jazz ensembles, jazz camps and jazz workshops.

Such programs offered by the nonprofit have groomed scores of young jazz artists such as Liam Gallagher, who recently graduated from the Denver School of Arts, serves as a student rep for the CCJA’s board of directors and is interning with the nonprofit this summer before going to the University of North Texas in the fall. Gallagher, who began participating in the CCJA’s programs in fall 2018, said his experience with the organization was unique.


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Through the CCJA, he worked with professional jazz musicians and performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and recently at a stage inside the Kalamath Building. The building has been beneficial to CCJA students, he said, because now they have a centralized location.

“The quality of the space is really fantastic,” he said. “All the kids that are going to CCJA are in constant contact with (MSU Denver’s) faculty and influence, which can be helpful to students and to MSU Denver in the future.”


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