Editor's note: No doubt the Mile High music scene is rich these days, thanks to its fans, bookers, promoters, musicians, sound engineers, techs and the like. And we're grateful for all the people who make it what it is. Each month we'll introduce you to five people doing the most for music in this city. Here are five (listed in no particular order).
Levitt Pavilion is among the greatest venues to arrive in Denver in the past decade. Chris Zacher, the brains behind the nonprofit outdoor music venue that hosts dozens of free concerts each year, has been hustling nonstop to make the project happen. He's wrangled with politicians and shmoozed with donors. With a laid-back front and a tireless work ethic, he demonstrates what's possible when Denver's music community dreams big.
Singer-songwriter Coles Whalen, who made a career as a touring musician crooning in Borders Bookstores nationwide before the chain collapsed, writes educational music for children all while baring her soul as a lyricist and performer. This year she shared her experience with stalking with Westword and used her struggles to spark urgent conversations about sexual assault, harassment and abuse in the music community — all before the #MeToo movement dominated social-media conversations and headlines nationwide. Most recently, her story inspired promoters at the Walnut Room to organize a meet-up: Better Policies and Safer Gigs for Women, which will launch in 2018.
Kate Warner is a multi-talented player in Denver music. Whether she's working as a sound engineer, performing as the electronic experimental act Mirror Fears, booking shows or helping bands navigate the ins and outs of RocketSpace, the affordable rehearsal venue on Larimer Street, Warner boosts and inspires her fellow Denver musicians and has gained respect from a wide swath of the community – both above- and underground.
Up-and-coming artists deserve champions in those vulnerable years when they're taking to the mic for the first time, testing out a new song or building a network of fellow musicians. Anthony Ruptak, who is a terrific and prolific songwriter and singer (not to mention social-justice activist) has been a kind and inspirational force for musicians making their way up the rungs of the Denver scene — particularly as the host of a weekly open-mic night at Syntax Physic Opera. Because he's seasoned as a performer and continues to produce raw material, he's a perfect mentor for emerging artists.
Westword MasterMind Molina Speaks is a skilled MC, a poet, a podcast host and an educator. Whatever he's up to — and the projects he involves himself with are seemingly endless — he brings a gentle, critical and original voice to the city's music community. He mentors youth who are working on building their bands' brands or music-industry chops at Youth on Record. He performs an array of benefit shows and community events and can often be seen jumping on stage as a guest MC with a variety of other acts. In the past year, he has performed with Pink Hawks and Roots, Rice and Beans and is working on a new media project we're longing to see.