Hop Grenade Blends Local Community with an Innovative Flair

Craft Beer, Fort Collins Music

The Hop Grenade taproom blends education, technology, music, and a one of a kind rotating line up of beers. The new craft beer establishment opened in Fort Collins because they wanted to elevate craft beer. They wanted to offer something for the community and take a robust rooted element like beer and present it in different ways.


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The Hop Grenade tap room and digital menu. Photo by Hop Grenade


Justin Crossley is one of the owners of The Brewing Network, host of The Session and the owner of the Hop Grenade. Crossley host a long-standing podcast for professional and homebrewers from around the globe in the back room of the tap house. They started the podcast in Justin’s garage in San Francisco. The network grew into the first site in the East Bay of San Francisco. Now they expanded the system to Fort Collins. The first podcast listenership were homebrewers. As they homebrewers graduated to craft beer professionals, the network transitioned too.

Justin talks about the shows:

“We interview professionals so that homebrewers can learn what they do. We mix in industry professionals to talk about beer scenes. We discuss flavoring, yeast, techniques and the whole brewing process.”

The community is a cornerstone of the organization of both the California location and now Colorado. Part of the reason they chose Fort Collins was because of the active community that surrounds the brewing industry and ally with the brewers. They have local food in the taproom and feature Friday Night Flights that collaborates with a local business. December the flight’s pair with Walrus Ice Cream. A limited amount of flights consisting of four, 4 oz. Beers paired with four handmade and specially curated ice creams, including Horse & Dragon‘s Sad Panda ice cream, specially made just for Hop Grenade.

The tech-savvy establishment displays a current daily lineup in real-time on a digital screen, online, and in the tap-room. The display tells how long until the keg is tapped.The digital system that powers the tap-room was custom-built. Every table gets the handheld device to sort through the current list of beers. All the TV’s and the website link together. They show how much beer remains in the tap. The keg red flashes red when the beer gets low so you can plan your beer drinking from anywhere.

Justin solved a problem in the restaurant industry. With this system, he says:

“It is greener, in the long run, I think it will have saved us money over time. The user experience is fantastic. You sit down; you get a screen. You can scroll through in real-time. I never have to tell you we are out of something you have your heart set on. We solved for ourselves this industry problem of outdated paper menus.”

They have a roving events calendar. They host local music on Saturday night. 

December 16 features live music from William & Thomas from The Ugly Architect.

The Hop Grenade Taproom is an original place to enjoy some local favorites and try something new. It has a modern tech flair with a warm, inviting atmosphere.



A 31 Year Celebration for Big Head Todd

Fort Collins Music, Touring Bands


Big Head Todd originated in the great state of Colorado. They got their feet wet in the Poudre in the early years. Big Head Todd will play a sold-out show sponsored by the Colorado Sound at the Aggie theatre on Dec.21 for their hometown crowd. The band went to Columbine High School together. Lead vocal and guitarist Todd Mohr spread his wings to Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Drummer/vocalist Brian Neven and Bass/vocal Rob Squires attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. The trio has toured extensively along the Front Range as Big Head Todd and the Monsters since 1987.

Todd talks about coming back to the Fort:

“The band grew up in Colorado and I went to school at CSU for a spell.  Fort Collins was one of the early adopters for our band and it feels terrific to come home!”

They have a new Album, New World Arisin’ that sticks to their roots but exemplifies a maturity and synchronicity only a band who grew up together can produce.

After so many years of playing music together there comes an evolution of sorts. Morh says, “This tour represents success for us as a band in many ways.  Firstly we have been together for over 31 years, and we still love what we do.  Secondly and more significantly, we still have fans that want to hear the music we are creating currently.  It’s one thing to survive but its quite another to be putting out great new material. I don’t know that our music has evolved, but I would hope that we’ve gotten better as a band.  I know I’ve gotten to be a better musician because I am really starting to enjoy learning!”

His favorite thing to do when visiting Fort Collins is to fish Poudre Canyon.

As for the music ecosystem in Colorado, Todd is grateful to be one of the significant successes. He says: “Colorado is a great place as a home for any band because there are so many music lovers and it seems concerts are a way of life.  There are also incredible venues – Red Rocks for one.”

For any band wanting to grow and thrive in the Front Range, Todd offers his expertise:


“My advice to young bands is to develop a great relationship with your audience.  Also I suggest focusing on songs and songwriting.  Probably one of the main things most new bands neglect.”

Big Head Todd and the Monsters paved the road for the Colorado Music Scene. To see them live on Dec. 21st visit the Aggie theatre for tickets.


PPeter sitting in the Magic Rat

The Magical New Venue in Fort Collins

Fort Collins Music


Music in Fort Collins is like a cornerstone in the foundation of the city. There are an ample amount of venues to play, from historical Mishawaka to the newly developed Downtown Artery. The town offers unique opportunities for a musician to play for an audience in almost any setting desired. A new venue, The Magic Rat, is set to open in December adjacent to the Elizabeth Hotel. It’s art deco furnishings blend with modern flare bringing feels of magic to anyone who enters the room. It is somewhat euphoric in nature and ambiance.

Sage Restaurant Group Co-Founder Peter Karpinski’s tells the story of the vision of the music space claiming, “The name derived from the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, in his famous song Jungleland the protagonist name is the Magic Rat.” The lyrics are quite romantic with a bit of a rebellious nature:

“The Rangers had a homecoming in Harlem late last night, and the Magic Rat drove his sleek machine over the Jersey state line barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain. The Rat pulls into town rolls up his pants together they take a stab at romance and disappear down Flamingo Lane.”

The famous photo of Bruce that was the catalyst for the design will be on display in the Magic Rat.

Golden velvet couches line the walls of the dimly lit warm room. All the furniture is handcrafted just for the room. The stage is open and in line with the seating, so it gives it an intimate feel.

Peter says, “Magic Rat Live Music offersswinging sounds on tap weekly, from big name artists, to local late-night jam sessions.”

The entrance is in the alley flourishes with the twinkling of lights and soon to be retail shops that are all local and small business owners. The alleyway will blossom with activity from live music, to gatherings. The Marquee gleams bright highlighting the Rat’s indoor-outdoor bar with garage doors that open when the weather is warm.

The newly designed Emporium Kitchen will have a menu within the space serving a small cuisine crafted exceptionally for the music bar. The Emporium Kitchen, Wine Market, Bowerbird Coffee, and Magic Rat all are adjacent to the Elizabeth hotel.

The Emporium is a gathering spot with handcrafted cocktails, an open kitchen and bistro, a coffee bar and a wine market. Its beauty is in its simplicity. When you want fine dining with some of the most celebrated Northern Colorado chefs, you can sit in European seating and enjoy that. If you’re going to choose an excellent wine to take on a picnic the Wine Market has a selection to suit any palate. You can get a grab and go cheese and charcuterie plate with freshly baked bread. The coffee shop features local roaster Peritus Coffee with a walkup outdoor window or an internal Bowerbird Coffee shop. The Emporium thrives on supporting local Fort Collins food, bakers, and goods. It is highlighting the best from the local food scene. The decoration in the Emporium is locally commissioned art.

It is an actual gathering place that welcomes the community to build and grow within the walls and spaces that are elegant in design and thoughtful in approach.  Enjoy the most exquisite local delicacies and stop in for a little magic and music.

Adam of Tallgrass plays at Avogadro's number in Fort Collins.

Morfbeats: Where Art Meets Sound

Fort Collins Music




Sometimes the greatest gifts can change our lives. A craft or tool handed down from a former generation can bring out our innate abilities and modify the course of our lives. Adam Morford, creator/artist behind Morfbeats artistic percussive sound sculptures, visited his grandfather one winter a few years ago when a welder his grandfather used most of his life to craft was handed down. Adam, a man of great family values and heritage, embraced the gift.

“When it all started I wanted to make an instrument, not a cowbell or something typical. I wanted to essentially put all the sounds that weren’t available to me, in one instrument. Just the sounds that I liked, reminiscent of sounds used in movies, the darker scarier sounds.” ~Adam Morford


Adam Morford of Morfbeats performs with his band Tallgrass. Photo by Argento Studios

Adam Morford of Morfbeats performs with his band Tallgrass. Photo by Argento Studios


He was sketching one night and had an epiphany. He realized he should embrace himself and make something faithful to his origin and not just design what the world wanted him to. He is the creator, and this is his great invention. It didn’t have to look like anything that existed in the world.  He allowed himself the freedom to be his own man and part from the preconceptions of the world. He made a bell the next day twice as large as anything he had ever made.  That was the moment the walls came down, and it just happened, the signature instrument, the Marvin. It was June 23, 2016, Morfbeats became a reality.


Since then he and his brother manufacture handcrafted original percussive instruments in Adam’s garage. They have a small stock and are trying to stay ahead of the need. Original Marvin’s are always made to order due to the size and scale of work it takes to produce.  Morfbeats has made eight original sized Marvin’s. These are 24×24.He has made over 100 micro Marvin’s and over 100 mini Marvin’s in that time. These are the more portable version for traveling musicians. Adam just released his newest design in the Morfbeats family, the Tongue Head.


Billy Martin, writer of Wandering, percussion at Medeski, Martin, & Wood was an early adopter. After Adam, conceived Marvin he was aching to collaborate and produce even more artistic rhythm creations. He reached out to Billy on a whim and Billy was immediately intrigued. They spent some creative sessions together, and a forever friendship was made. Billy is one of Adam’s heroes.

Adam read Wandering after receiving it as a gift for Christmas around the same time as he got the welder. It forever altered his mindset about creativity and his abilities. Everything in the book resonated with Adam. The book was so influential to him. It made him leave shore and push to find himself. He is able to create instruments that cannot be bought at a store or replicated by anyone. He realized there are no rules to instruments you can use anything that makes a good sound.


This summer Billy invited Adam to present at his Camp Rhythm Sound and Magic in upstate NY. This is a creative camp for the most well-known percussionist in the World. Billy asked Adam to join and tell his story about being a sound sculpture and the process on how to build sound. There is a performance element, workshops, and ensembles. They learn new things and create music together. Adam has not felt a sense of community in Colorado and rather connected from the percussive innovators. Morford was always so inspired by Billy’s artistry, and now Morford’s hero is inspired equally by the things he does. He realized at that point, maybe he is doing something pretty cool and pretty special.



“When you do things with the right intentions, anything can happen.” ~Adam Morford


As the instruments refined, he gained the confidence and the ability to see that they could change the world of sound. Morfbeats has been quite simple in approaching the market. Most of the word is spread in a grassroots style. He made an Instagram for his mom to see what he was making and be proud of him. This sparked interest from people seeking something new and unique in percussion.  Matt Maccon of Bon Iver followed him on Instagram. Adam admired the group and all they have produced. The two met and innovated new techniques in experimentation and sound.

Morford says there is no box these things are in, there is no limit to the capability of sound.  Morfbeats has created new avenues for Adam to express himself. To be his own unique self, he had to create something no one else had yet something he had craved for. Adam is making waves of sound in the industry just by creating percussive devices that he needs as a musician. People agree, and they want to have a one-of-a-kind sounding instrument that bends the norms of percussion. Percussionists are craving originality in music and a personally tailored instrument.

Morford went from being the kid on the street looking up to these drummers, to them buying his creations and becoming their peer.  Adam has revived the craft and re-envisioned it. In one year, he has met so many of his heroes. There are still hundreds more of people he would love to work with. He will continue to innovate and collaborate and change the way percussion sounds in modern day music.


Adam plays percussion in the band Tallgrass with his brother, and another half of Morfbeats, Austin Morford and bandmate Matt Skinner.


Adam playing with Tallgrass at Avos. Photo by Argento Studios.


Visit Morfbeats to see the collection or make a purchase.








Adam of Tallgrass plays at Avogadro's number in Fort Collins.

Monday Montage

Around town, Fort Collins Music, Monday Music



There is never a shortage of things to do in FoCo. Want to discover a new band or explore the creative nightlife this week? Here are the top picks that will inspire you and maybe make you dance a little.



Monday, September 25:


Where to go?

Surfside 7. One of Fort Collins top dive bars. Surfside has a  full menu of mouthwatering delicacies like falafel burgers, homemade corndogs, and even Poutine. Full bar and eclectic décor. Take a selfie in the bathroom to mark your visit. Must bring friends.


Who’s playing?



“This is the first visit for every band & MF’s 1st show ever. They include members from “wire faces, fierce bad rabbit and somerset catalog”!”


This is a blended band from some of Fort Collins favorite local bands of all time. If you do anything this week…this is it. $8 cover.



Tuesday, September 26:


Where to go?

Music District Fort Collins musicprenuer hub. For all people who love music. A gathering place for events, workshops, rehearsals, lessons, and coworking.


Who’s playing?

John Zorn, New York-based composer and saxophonist involved in a variety of genres: jazz, rock, classical, world, improvised, and soundtracks.

And Matt Smiley, bassist, composer, and educator who has performed in a variety of musical settings over the last fifteen years.


Together they will lead the audience in John Zorn’s musical game piece “Cobra.”


“ Musicians are welcome to bring their acoustic instruments, as we will be teaching the composition throughout the performance, and have people from the audience sit in at the end.”


This is simply for the enjoyment of creating music. All are welcome. This is a free event.


Wednesday, September 27:


Where to go?

Wolverine Farm and Publick House. A nonprofit event space, letterpress print shop, and bar/cafe in the River District of Fort Collins, CO. Local beverages, pastries, handmade gifts and local authors. They even have a serve yourself popcorn maker.




What to do?

Pecha Kucha 20X20 people share their stories, art, and ideas in a simple presentation format–20 images for 20 seconds each–and talk along with the pictures. Pechakucha is a national event in over 900 cities worldwide. This event is meant to inspire, and unite friends while cultivating an open sharing environment.

The speakers for this event are:
* Brandon Buttry
* Mike Bartelme
* Colin Garfield
* Jeff Baldwin
* Patrick Edmiston
* Shari Due
* Natalie Scarlett
* Jana Knapp Sanchez
* Alisha Jacobs and Debi Kennison
* Whitney Wells
* Kirk Scramstad and Maka Kala.’


See Facebook event for Full details on each speaker.



Thursday, September 28:


Where to go?

Avogadro’s Number An original staple on the local bar and pub scene in Fort Collins.


Who’s playing?

Nice Hat Mister. Local progressive bluegrass family band featuring young musician Eli Slocumb, 16 and full of talent. He is a rising star that has shared the stage with national and local talented bluegrass/newgrass players throughout his life. The band includes his father Ben, Rob Blackburn, Luke Albright, and Jan Peterson. $7 Cover



Friday, September 29:


Where to go?

New Belgium’s Fat Tire Friday. $3 Fat Tire and Fat Tire white. Fires when it’s cold and outdoor lawn games to keep you active.


Who’s playing:

Tallgrass, one of the most underrated and talented in bands in Fort Collins. They are producers, inventors, creators, and authors. They are soundscape dreamers and instrument builders who arc sound in a way that captivates your spirit. Not a bluegrass band.  Free.





Saturday, September 30:


Where to go?

Music District. They have been open a year. If you haven’t yet discovered your place in music in our community, this is your chance.


Surround Sound Bash:

“this walkable mixtape-inspired party with live performances, multimedia interactives, a music video marathon, pop-up art show, photo op, themed activities, Silver Seed food truck, and cash bar, and explore the entire Music District campus with an immersive scavenger hunt game. Featuring performances by Lois and the LanternGuerrilla Fanfare, Household Collective, DJ TwoScoopS, DJ Jimeni, Emma Marie, and The Rickshaw Live, interactives from Cloverlick Banjo Shop, Meep Records, Magic Cyclops, KRFC FM, Woodshed Music, multimedia projections from EvrGlo Media, Rhythm EFX, prizes from Vinyl Me, Please, and much more.”


All ages. Free. Party of the year.

Womxn in Music Rising Up In Fort Collins

Fort Collins Music, Social Causes

An incredibly strong and talented group of people formed a movement in the Fort Collins community on Sept.10, 2017. The first Womxn Up event happened at the Music District. This brunch and mild-meld opened the dialogue for the future of female-centered events in the community.



One of the small group topics at the Womxn Up Brunch. Photo by the Music District


The spelling ‘womxn’ is pronounced women and is used to promote intersectionality and show solidarity with LGBTQQIA, racial, ethnic, and other systmically maginalized communities.

Womxn Up brought together musicians, music business owners, tech-production creatives, and anyone interested in shaping womxn in music in Northern Colorado. They branched out into small groups to discuss their focused topics then convened as a large group.



Musician Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Mishawaka Owner Dani Grant and Cohere Bandwith Owner Angel Meakins Kwiatkowski present Music Entrepreneurship. Photo by the Music District


The themes discussed intertwined proving that this group, and the womxn in the industry, are often struggling with the same issues. The group presented solutions collectively and discussed ways to make changes. This is a process that will take a long time. The group aims to introduce new methods to deal with the challenges and start the conversation.

There is much work to be done to merge the ideas with actions. This group will help with the organization of that. There are some innovative and fun things that are emerging out of the first meeting.

Anyone interested in joining the group should email Kebrina Chirdon: <kebrina@themusicdistrict.org>.


Some of the members of the group pose for a funny photo. Photo by the Music District




Vinyl record being scratched

Open Beats in the Streets of Fort Collins

Around town, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes


Create Places, an artist-organized economic and workforce development nonprofit, is hosting Open Beats on September 17, 2017, from 11:00am-2:00 pm. The event is held at the Overland Park shade shelter in Fort Collins, CO. Local electronic artist Full Metal, Kind Dub and Two ScoopS will be on hand to guide the crowd through an ultimate digital music experience.


Two Scoops, Cody KindDub, Full Metal DJ and Corey KindDub at the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios.

All ages are invited to come and experience the creation of electronic music, learn to scratch like a DJ, and create live hip hop beats. All the equipment will be set up, and the artist will demonstrate techniques. Open Streets shows how important this type of music is in today’s industry. Fort Collins music scene has been invaluable in filling the void for the hip hop and DJ producers.

Diego Felix, AKA Full Metal DJ:


Full Metal DJ on the rooftop of the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios

Diego Felix, AKA Full Metal DJ, is a DJ, turntablist, and scratch expert.  He battles and competes routines against other DJ’s and is determined to win a championship this year. He started scratching when he wanted to get into music and hadn’t learned a “traditional” instrument. He got a turntable and some vinyl and learned the technique of scratching.

Diego’s mission is to use music to bring the community together. He started an open decks scratch session, Scratch Lab, at the Art Lab in Fort Collins. It is essentially an open mic for DJ’s open to all ages and abilities. It has brought together many turntablist, DJs, and electronic artist by creating this event.  Scratch Lab happens the second Monday of every month starting in October. Everyone who wants to touch a turntable and scratch a record gets an opportunity. Look to build friendships, connections partnership, and skills at the Lab.

Full Metal teaches private lessons at the Music District. He and Two Scoops just held a DJ 101 course of 6 weeks teaching the basics of mixing and scratching.

Full Metal DJ first instrument was the turntable. He talks about how he got started:

“Thinking about when I wanted to get into music, feeling like I couldn’t, that I was never going to learn an instrument, that’s where I found my motivation to bring scratching to the community.” ~Full Metal DJ

Cody Kind Dub Marsden :


Cody KindDub Marsden on the rooftop of the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios

Cody Marsden of Kind Dub is a guitarist, DJ, and a videographer. His mission is to be a mentor and an example to youth who want to pursue hip hop. He is increasing accessibility to hip hop education.

Cody wants to give kids access to a set of tools to create beats live and start them as early as they have an interest. He seeks to create an environment that is fun and sparks an interest in a child learning music. His band, Kind Dub, hosts an open hip hop session at Colorado room every other Thursday called Colorado Come Up. This event is an all age show for anyone interested in Hip hop. He wants to break down the barriers and preconceived notions of hip hop and demonstrate its versatility in modern music.

Kind Dub is an excellent example of a Musicprenuer. The group performs regularly, supports the community, and has a production company.

Cody shared his views on the digital era of music:

“Live instrumentation or digital instrumentation it doesn’t matter as long as you are having fun creating music and having a good time with it. At the end of the day, it is going to put a smile on your face.” ~Cody Kind Dub Marsden

Mike McTernan, AKA Two ScoopS:


Two Scoops on the rooftop of the Music District. Photo by Argento Studios

Mike McTernan, AKA Two ScoopS, is a producer and a DJ. He teaches the craft of digital production at the Music District and is involved in the digital music production scene in Northern Colorado. ScoopS values the importance of the technique and the fundamentals. He believes digital music is the foundation of most modern music. He focuses on the live access to digital music and blending genres and analog turntables multiple areas of digital music. He loves that the technology is evolving and combining analog instruments with digital.

Mike wants to give access to anyone interested in becoming a DJ. He wants it to be easy and accessible to the Fort Collins community. He has mastered his craft and wants to show the world that digital music production is the future of music creation.

Two Scoops expresses the beauty of his work:

“The beauty of electronically made music breaks boundaries if you are a band. A big deal is to pull from multiple genres. Different techniques incorporated into the craft of electronic music.” ~Two ScoopS

Two Scoops teaches private lessons at the Music District and is very involved in the electronic music scene across the Front Range. Two ScoopS host and curates a monthly electronic night at The Speakeasy at The Whiskey in Old Town, Fort Collins. It features bigger Colorado acts in an intimate setting. It happens every first Friday. The next show is on October 6th and will feature Chando, Golden Ghost, and 92 degrees.

The three extraordinary musicians will be on hand for demos, assistance and educating the community on their musical arts. There isn’t a more genuine, kind group of artist, that are willing to teach the youth, around. This is the first step to becoming a DJ in the Open Streets.


Create Places First Friday Creative Relief Fund

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes


On First Friday, 9/1/2017, Create Places of Fort Collins is launching a call for donations. Any musician or artist that donates portions of their sales to the relief efforts of Harvey Hurricane in Houston will be matched dollar for dollar for up to $1000. The donations can be in the form of ticket sales, merchandise sales, fundraiser shows or any profitable contribution. This initiative encourages local grassroots philanthropy from artist and creatives in Fort Collins.

Create Places is an artist-organized economic and workforce development nonprofit established in 2014, that aims increase arts-related employment in Northern Colorado. Andrew Schneider is the visionary behind Create Places. He advocates for other organizations within the community to participate in a drive to match donations.

Andrew says,

“this match is to support, encourage, and celebrate those grassroots efforts as our signal of a music community doing well and doing good.”

A statewide drive created by Colorado musicians and media was launched to raise ONE MILLION DOLLARS to aid the working musicians affected by the flooding in TX. September 15 is a Kick off meeting for anyone wanting to get involved.

To learn more about the musician match from Create Places email Andrew: andrew@createplaces.org



Blind Pilot in Residence at the Music District

Fort Collins Music, Touring Bands

Video: Pick it up Again Blind Pilot and Danielle Ate the Sandwich Colorado Stations CO – Colorado

A musician’s home is on the road traveling from town to town occupying every moment with the soundscapes of the highway. The vigor of the performance can overtake the space needed to create. The Music District offers a “home stop” on the road for touring musicians.  Blind Pilot nourished their artistic side with a stay at the District for a few days while traveling through Colorado.


Creative Collaboration: Artists in Residence – Blind Pilot deliver a workshop on creative collaboration and songwriting, including a live performance. Photo Credit Argento Studios

Two members of Blind Pilot, Israel Nebeker vocals and guitar and Ryan Dobrowski drummer and percussion, utilized the practice rooms for writing. They did a session of singing bowls and took some of the classes offered on the campus. They lived in the Airbnb apartment and rented bikes from the bike share.


Ryan Dobrowski drummer and percussions for Blind Pilot plays at the Music District. Photo Credit Argento Studios

They wrote songs, played new instruments, and lived like locals for just a moment while touring. They ended the week with a songwriting workshop, which was their community contribution for staying.

They collaborated with local artist Danielle Ate The Sandwich to write a song in sixty seconds. This can be found on the VuHaus website. Local media group, EvrGlo Media, filmed and edited the video.

Pick it up Again

Blind Pilot and Danielle Ate the Sandwich  Colorado Stations CO – Colorado


Israel Nebeker vocals and guitar plays with Ryan Dobrowski drummer and percussion both of Blind Pilot. Photo Credit Argento Studios

Israel Nebeker  said in the workshop:

“Art is this amazing vehicle and it captures so much more than what we put into it.”

This week he put a great deal into his art.

The two band members expressed how there is no place in the country like the Music District. Israel and Ryan were blown away with the experience and felt it was something every musician must have the opportunity to do.

Touring musicians come through the District Weekly. For a list of upcoming events, visit the calendar. Free to the public and all are encouraged to come.

Fort Collins is the Startup City Built on Rock-n-Roll

Fort Collins Music

Fort Collins, Colorado is a collaborative, non-competitive, startup music city without a big ego. Fort Collins is a city built for musicians by musicians. For over ten years, musicians laid the groundwork for the next golden era of “musicprenuers“ by constructing an ecosystem built on encouragement, support, and empowerment. This shifts the paradigm and disrupts the music industry systems of the past.

The foundation without ego

Ten years ago, some “small time” local bands needed a place to play in Fort Collins. The Venues wanted to attract big national touring acts, not book local bands. Fort Collins was not a town thriving on a local music scene, just yet. Greta Cornett, a member of one the few ska bands in Colorado, 12 cents for Marvin, was one of the Fort Collins musicians experiencing the ramifications of this. The musicians wanted more gigs, and they wanted them to be in their own backyard. Instead of moving away or playing on the street, they rallied together and converted a local bar, Road 34, into a performance venue.

Greta Cornett is the Co-Founder and President – Board Member of Fort Collins Music Association. Photo by Marc Leverette Photography

The community of musicians flocked to play at Road. When they were not playing, they were supporting each other. As much as they needed to be on stage, they craved good live music. It was evident the level of talent in this town and the need for venue support. Tight relationships formed. The ties that fated them were the kindred desires to unify the musicianship of FoCo. Musicians sought to build awareness of the burgeoning music scene in their hometown. The newfound friends talked about how to support music in this town every Sunday, unofficially over beers. As much as it looked like just a “Sunday-Funday” inadvertently, they started a music revolution.

That is how Fort Collins Music Association (FoCoMA), a nonprofit musicians association, originated.

FoCoMA wanted to celebrate the performers and their successes with a local “Grammy style” awards ceremony, The Peer Awards. Regional awards ceremonies were not aware of the talent in Fort Collins. Bands vote on the winners in the respective categories, discover another local band, go out, and support. The first Peer Awards bands were clueless on how to cast the vote. The lack of venue support and exposure in this town was showing and something had to change. That led to the next great innovation of the FoCoMA, which was a “local mini-fest,” to highlight the bands before the Peer Awards so the musicians could give an educated vote. It would also turn the community on to the emerging local music scene.

The original idea consisted of four venues with only a hand full of Fort Collins bands. The association introduced the idea to the City of Fort Collins, who rallied with abounding support. In its first year, FOCOMX, the Fort Collins Music Experiment, booked over 111 bands in 19 Fort Collins venues, well over what they thought. Over the next few years, FoCoMX evolved into a Front Range musician festival. Acts from Southern Wyoming to Denver all apply to play.

Greta Cornell talks about the progression of FoCoMx:

“We may have started the festival, but I feel like the musicians have the ownership of it, and the people who help, who care about it, and come out and support it. We all have an input on what a sustainable model for the festival should be. What do we want it to be? It is whatever we make it. That is why it is the Experiment.”

The Fort Collins Music Experiment is a two-day festival in Fort Collins with a diverse inclusive lineup mixing local favorites, youth, and newcomers. As they celebrated the ninth year of the festival this year, 1259 submitted applications with 258 bands on the playbill.

A booking committee listens to every single submission and makes the decisions. FoComx is all volunteer led. Even the venues close their doors for two days to the outside world and donate their space to the festival. All the ticket sales go to the artists who perform.

Eric Gilbert, Co-founder of Treefort Music Fest and Alysia Kraft discuss the logistics of a local music festival.

Eric Gilbert, Co-founder of Treefort Music Fest and Alysia Kraft discuss the logistics of a local music festival. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

There are Pro Development workshops during FoCoMx in addition to live music, which is to inform and educate the community about important issues affecting musicians. This year Eric the Co-founder of Treefort Music Fest, and current festival director and talent buyer emerging arts and music festival based in Boise, Idaho spoke on a panel with local musicians to discuss the synergy and dissonance betwixt the two festivals. As well as an affordable housing for the creative community talk evaluating the current housing needs for the creative artist.

Sitting on these panels are members of the FoCoMx board, musicians, professionals and employees from organizations that serve as relationship builders for the creative art scene in Fort Collins.

All of Greta’s hard work and persistence created a scene that is bursting at the seams with growth. The musicians are pliable, innovative, and integrated with musicpreneur credibility.

Supportive synergic relationships

The Music District is a hub of education, performance, and support for musicians and aficionados in Fort Collins. Erin Roberts is the Community Manager. She duals her time as the lead singer of soul rock band Porlolo and she is a lifetime trumpet player.

Erin Roberts of Porlolo and the Music District playing at FoCoMx 2017 on the main stage of Downtown Artery.

Erin Roberts of Porlolo and the Music District playing at FoCoMx 2017 on the main stage of Downtown Artery. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

As the community manager, she manages the internal operations of the District. She is akin to the air traffic controller of the music district in a broad way. Erin is new to living in Fort Collins but moved here because she believes in the vision of the musicianship in Fort Collins. The scene has outgrown the Status quo and is building up a strong foundation to propel. Erin is a key player in the strategic plan. She took a role at the Foundation knowing the strength of the roots in the local scene. Like the FoCo music scene, she is just as hungry to grow.

Erin Roberts discusses her decision to commit to a life in Fort Collins:

“I have been in bands for as long as I could remember. I have played the trumpet since the fourth grade. I needed this to be a place where I thought my music career would thrive. It felt like a scene that loved music and supported music.”

Erin Roberts is the lead singer of Porlolo and the Community Manager at the Music District

Erin Roberts is the lead singer of Porlolo and the Community Manager at the Music District. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

She did not come alone. The Bohemian Foundation also hired the drummer from her band Porlolo, Ben Desoto, as a talent buyer. Roberts knew the hire would enrich her vision of music in Fort Collins and enhance her role as community Manager of the Music District.

Erin suggests:

“It all worked together in a very symbiotic way.”

The most rewarding part of her position is overseeing the tenants and Co-workers of the Music District. Ten music-related businesses with devoted offices that are 80% music related are her responsibility to nurture. She gets to see “Music as a business” prosper and thrive in the community. Each one is interdependent of one another but a whole subset of community is being born within the walls of the space.

“It blows my mind that so many smart entrepreneurs and individuals that are making a great living off of music in this town. It is not just musicians but a whole industry that supports musicians integral to the industry. I think is important for a music scene. You cannot just have the musicians. Management, sound, lawyers, and everything else that connects to that. Knowing that element is here in Fort Collins it gives me great faith that this will be a great music city.”

The tenants have below market rate rent and add value to the workspace through a community contribution. This free programming event is a workshop to the public in the Music District. The whole idea is not that they come to the district, shut their doors, and work away in the office, but to have an open door and to give back to the community. Offer a bit of guidance, or expertise in their field and to interact with the community in multiple ways. This community gives back for the sake of enriching others lives with knowledge.

The philanthropic spirit of the future

Julie Sutter is the Programs Director of the Music District. Organically through her passion and philanthropic spirit, she has enriched the culture of music in Fort Collins. Sutter grew up in Colorado. She went away to College in Dallas, TX at Southern Methodist University where artist surrounded her and musicians that immersed her in an artistic culture as a journalist. Julie traveled around after college, compelled to come back to Colorado, she returned to be near to family.

Thirteen years ago Julie Sutter was working remotely for a software company. After a few years of being a digital nomad, she craved community. Julie sought out opportunities to get involved with music and creatives, two of her favorite things. Sutter volunteered for Bohemian Nights, a fun citywide festival built on community volunteers and touring musicians. The following year the Bohemian Foundation hired Julie as an official contract writer for Bohemian Nights.

Julie speaks of the relationship of the music ecosystem:

“I think the thread through all of this is, there is the artist and then there is the audience. The art can happen without the audience but at some point, it is so much more fun when you are both there and you can break down that barrier between the two.”

Julie Sutter is the Programs Director at the Music District

Julie Sutter is the Programs Director at the Music District. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

Julie is avant-garde in the Fort Collins music industry.  She is a long time music fan and her most notable work is empowering Fort Collins musicians with the non-profit organization, SpokesBUZZ. SpokesBUZZ was foundational in creating the Fort Collins music scene. SpokesBUZZ incubated local Fort Collins bands with education and training on how to be a band. They elevated local bands to national platforms and empowered them to be professional performing entities. They started the Colorado Music Party at South by Southwest and Band swap.

Sutter met Dani Grant, owner of Mishawaka Amphitheater and fellow music supporter while volunteering at Bohemian Nights. They connected on a deep level almost instantly. Dani formed SpokesBuzz and Julie accepted a role of Marketing Director where she remained for six years.

Julie speaks about her relationship with music:

“I was never classically trained in music, I was never immersed in art history, but it feels a spot in my heart and in my life that nothing else does. Nothing else works as quickly, nothing else works as easily. It is the ultimate healing experience and the ultimate joy. I always feel that when I am exposed to any sort of art. But music is really the short circuit for me that is a quick way.”


The Music District is less than one-year-old but it is constantly evolving. The main goal is to take the relationships that all the staff makes out in the world with artist, musicians, and music business and to bring it back through programs and community. These are both educational and inspiring programs with a component of savoir-faire from seasoned, well-established, musicpreneurs, performing artist, and industry leaders.

Programs and partnerships

Programming at the District is two-fold. It attracts industry experts to come into the space and use it as a platform for education, but it acts as amplification to the industry as a whole. Geographical location does not restrict a musician. They are out on the road touring most of the year. The District can be home for a creative project, it can be an inspiration polestar to create an album. It can be where a new band convenes once a week to practice. It can be the home to magic within your instrument. It is where you can find your place in music. It is whatever you want it to be. It is an open door for anyone, fans, globetrotters, community members, and professionals. A number of programs are evolving at the Music District.

The staff director, Jesse Elliott, who is a national touring artist, will help shape these ideas and nurture them with Julie. He does a big deal of outreach to research new concepts and they work as a unit to transpose these ideas to working programs, that will enrich the community of musicians that live here, and be a home for a touring musician while passing through.

Julie expresses the communication of music:

“I am not a musician myself but it is such a universal language we can all connect really quickly to one another.”

Artist in residence is a program that allows a touring musician passing through to stay in an Airbnb-style apartment on campus. The musician is to contribute a program open to the community. Joe Pug was one of the many touring musicians that took part in the program.

Joe Pug leading the workshop, “How to Steal like a Professional Songwriter

Joe Pug leading the workshop, “How to Steal like a Professional Songwriter” during his artist in residency stay at the Music District. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

Pug performed at the Downtown Artery in Fort Collins. While visiting the Fort he took advantage of the residency at the Music District and taught the “How to Steal like a Professional Songwriter” workshop.
It was an intimate experience where Pug seemed more of a peer than an icon. It broke down the audience to artist barriers by opening the door to discussions, and questions for musicians to hone their own songwriting craft.

Joe Pug smiles as he plans his delivery on how to steal like a professional in his artist in residency at the Music District.

Joe Pug smiles as he plans his delivery on how to steal like a professional in his artist in residency at the Music District. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

A newly formed partnership between Colorado Sound, Colorado State University and on site videographers, to produce national programming for the Colorado page on the national VuHaus page. Vu Haus released the first of many Colorado Music performances with local musician Brent Cowles playing at the Colorado Sound birthday party. This is a unique model of students, professionals, and the organization working together to create a nationally aired production.

VuHaus filming Brent Cowles at the Colorado Sound birthday celebration.

VuHaus filming Brent Cowles at the Colorado Sound birthday celebration. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

A video is an important part of marketing for a band. As an expansion of this idea, a series workshop for musicians that teach skills in creating video is in the process. It ends in a- 48-film fest for musicians and is free to attend: Music Video Creation Series II: Working Together. All you have to do is Rsvp free on the Music District website. The district programming aims to give a working musician access to tools or knowledge to become a sustainable professional.

Vu Haus Colorado filming Dragon Deer at the Colorado Sound birthday party in Fort Collins at the Aggie Theater.

Vu Haus Colorado filming Dragon Deer at the Colorado Sound birthday party in Fort Collins at the Aggie Theater.

Programs aim to educate and inform musicians and the community. As the district matures, they will continue to have programming that elevates the musicianship of the city.


Community building through organizations

Angel Meakins Kwiatkowski is a nationally recognized Co-working expert that creates Co hubs for people to work in shared spaces. Angel had musician friends in Fort Collins that had gotten their gear stolen. This is one of the most common occurrences in the music world. Often musicians do not have insured gear, so it is a loss of their livelihood if stolen. Out of a need for secure, safe rehearsal space and a realization that musicians are essentially freelancers, Angel, Julie Sutter, and Shane Zweygardt, Technical Manager of the Music District, all pulled their innovative spirit together to create a Coworking-style rehearsal space-Cohere Bandwidth.

Angel shares about the scene:

“The thing I have learned because I haven’t been in the music industry except through Cohere Bandwidth is that the people who are supporting the musicians in Fort Collins are musicians. They form the foundation of the fan base.”

Angel Meakins Kwiatkowski is a nationally recognized coworking expert who started CoHere Bandwidth - a shared workspace for musicians.

Angel Meakins Kwiatkowski is a nationally recognized coworking expert who started Cohere Bandwidth – a shared workspace for musicians. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

Mishawaka marketing manager and longtime Fort Collins musician, Tim Massa is the Community Cultivator. He plans and carries out events and is the main contact for bands using the space. Cohere is a shared rehearsal space that is back lined. All you have to do is book a room, bring your instruments, and plug in. Besides the rehearsal space, they have educational resources and networking opportunities. Twice a month there is an opportunity to meet individuals who are seeking new band members, want to form a new band or just want to mix and mingle. Local bands provide a live show after the meetup. They helped bands prepare for FOCOMX  with workshops and prep playlist.Cohere has an upcoming play date for musicians’ which happens monthly. The next workshop is Social Media for bands, RSVP here.

Tim discusses the ways he brings organizations together:

“We always try to make it a community building event. On our panels, we try to get representation from as many bands, FOCOMA, the Music District.”

Timo Massa is the Marketing Director of the Mishawaka Amphitheatre and formerely the Aggie and Hodi's Half Note.

Timo Massa is the Marketing Director of the Mishawaka Amphitheatre and formerly the Aggie and Hodi’s Half Note. Photo by Cynthia Wilson

Angel is bringing big town ideas to a small town of Fort Collins. She hopes it adds value to the community and the bands keep showing up. She bases all her decisions on market research and data collected. The latest research for the creative community is the issue of affordable housing. Creatives can take the survey and give input on the future of housing in Fort Collins. These efforts are directed through the City of Fort Collins, the Downtown Development Authority, Bohemian Foundation, and national nonprofit Artspace Projects are leading the Arts Market Study phase.

Overall, the efforts from all the organizations build a community so much that people are attending shows from genres out of their norm. There is a comrade around supporting friends, not taste. They are learning to work together as a stronger unit so they can act as a united force of music. There is a crossover of member sharing that happens.

Local involvement

In the summer, you can see live local and national music free almost every day of the week.

Noontime Notes Concert Series in Oak street plaza every Tuesday starting June 6 featuring local music.

The Lagoon Concerts are every Wednesday at the Lagoon on the Colorado State University Campus. The line-up is all local bands.

Thursday Night Live is every Thursday in Old Town Square featuring all Colorado lineup starting June 1.

Downtown Sessions every Friday featuring an all Colorado Lineup.

Sounds of summer every Saturday at Front Range Village.

Summer Sunday’s at Foothills mall every Sunday starting May 28.

For the grand finale, stay tuned to Bohemian Nights at New West Fest free three-day festival in August.

To learn more about the local artist or get involved check out organizations and sponsors that host weekly free music events. Fort Collins is a city built on rock-n-roll, aside from these events there is music in venues, festivals, and patios throughout the town.

There is inclusiveness and a startup mentality encompassed within “FoCo Music.” Musicians are bonding together to raise the bar on the industry. They are working to take a grassroots approach to music and build a new ecosystem that thrives and supports musicprenuership locally and globally.

Justin plays finger style acoustic

Justin Roth Launches a New Singer-Songwriter group at the Music District

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music

Justin Roth is bringing his songwriting group to the Music District in Fort Collins on Tuesday, April 11 at 7 pm. For over five years, this group has existed so that songwriters can bring in a fresh song each month to receive constructive criticism and encouragement. It began with its founding members – Justin, Michael Kirkpatrick of The Holler! and the Good Time Travelers and Mike Finders (of Finnders and Youngberg) and has grown with a rotating cast of about 30 other songwriters. Roth saw that moving the group to the Music District would be an opportunity to invite other writers and to be more interactive with the local community. It is appropriate to songwriters of all levels who aspire to work on their craft.

The technique of creating a song is distinctive for all. Creativity can come in waves, which some rely on for song production. Other methods are more strategic and disciplined by writing each day to allow ideas to flow regularly. The purpose of the group is to have a deadline and to be faithful, no matter how the tune was composed or the style of the writer.
This experience can become part of the writing process because getting feedback when a new song is still forming can help writers get a better sense of whether their message is getting communicated they way they intend. It is a chance to examine one’s own writing, as well as that of many others, by being open to honest feedback with the goal of honing one’s craft.

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Roth studied music business in addition to being a musician and educator.  He has invested time on the road touring and has the first-hand experience what it calls for to be successful. Roth can lead a writer through songwriting, instructions, skills/techniques, audio recording, and establishing a business method. Justin is a member of a broad engineering studio in Fort Collins,  Bridgeway Recording.  He owns a home studio, ToneBAR Studio.  He works holistically with an artist according to where they are in their performance and recording career.

Justin teaches online guitar lessons through  JAMPLAY.COM.  This is a live streaming method of teaching. There are dozens of teachers covering many styles, techniques, and tips. Justin’s class is every Thursday at 4 pm called “Expressive Acoustic Guitar” which directs how to spice up your guitar parts in songs.

Upcoming shows:

Sunday 4/9/2017 Justin Roth & Korby Lenker (from Nashville) at Avogadro’s Number

04/28/17 FoCoMX Festival – High Point Bar Time: 10:30pm. Address: 146 N College Ave.


Fort Collins Gypsy Swing Band Release Craft Beer

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music

The Happy Dapples is an eclectic group of musicians from Fort Collins that play Gypsy Swing. This Saturday they celebrated their craft beer release of  Hoppy Dopple with Equinox Brewing in Fort Collins.

The beer has been on tap at Equinox since November of 2016. Oskar Arevalo, singer and guitar player of the Dapples, had an interest in brewing the beer.  He was a chef at Fish restaurant in Fort Collins where he constructed food-beer pairing dinners. He wanted to merge his culinary and musical talents. He initiated a music-beer pairing for his band.  He selected the hops with the help from Equinox brewers and The Hoppy Dopple Lager was born. It was designed to be a low ABV, easy drinking beer, that you could enjoy more than one of.


The Happy Dapples bring an all-embracing mix of swing, jazz, and fusion. The music they perform is built for moving, tapping, and dancing. There are dueling guitars that vary in art form from classical finger style to a jazz swing that transforms the listener to a speakeasy in the 20’s with a distinctly modern flair.

The Happy Dapples are reinventing jazz in a modern way and have labeled it Gypsy Swing. Gypsy Swing has been alive for over eighty years. The birth of Jazz was almost ten years later. Gypsy Swing was popular in the 1930’s in France and the emersion of American Jazz took the genre in a new direction, Gypsy Jazz. This band impressively aims to revive the genre with the modern influences in play, they are birthing a new form of Gypsy Swing Jazz. They have strong music roots in old school jazz, Tom Waits, and metal. It is all derived in fun and the Dapples want you to enjoy listening to their music as music as they enjoy creating it.

Band members include Oskar Arevalo, Kimeon Young, Dillon Knowlton and Adam Nobody. The members of the Dapples have been playing music collectively over ten years, although the band is in their freshman stages. Oskar, Kimeon and Dillon performed with two guitars and a drum set then discovered the sound they were seeking needed a bassist. They added Adam and the sound they were seeking was born.

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Oskar and Kimeon met in the eighth grade in Fort Collins. They were long time rivals and competed over most things, even a girl. One day they realized that they were better friends than opponents. They started playing music together and fused together this new dynamic sound. Dillion and Adam are long time bandmates and have played together in previous obscure metal experimental bands.

Although there are no formal plans for an album, the band is constantly creating new music. They rehearse at Higher Ground Rehearsal Studio in Fort Collins and have found management support there. Band member Oskar Arevalo is a guitar teacher at the Music District in Fort Collins.

To hear this live session:


Happy Birthday to The Colorado Sound

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music


Benji McPhail, Program Director at The Colorado Sound

The Colorado Sound is the fastest growing non-commercial radio station in the nation. This week they turn one year old. To celebrate they are hosting a premiere party at Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins that features a lineup of Colorado bands including Dragondeer, Paper Bird, Rob Drabkin, and Brent Cowles.  The celebration will be recorded by a diverse team of videographers and broadcasted on a later date.

THE COLORADO SOUND 1ST BIRTHDAY PARTY with Dragondeer, Rob Drabkin, Brent Cowles, Paper Bird


Neil Best, GM of KUNC


Benji McPhail is the Program Director at The Colorado Sound. He started at KUNC as the Music Director in 2012. His strategic planning collaborated with eTown radio program, the University of Colorado, and the University of Denver, to record performances in audio and video for re-broadcast on KUNC. This expanded the reach of the station and grew the audience. Benji tripled the evening ratings. It was clear that people were craving a new AAA station.That is how The Colorado Sound was born.

KUNC now is a total news outlet, and The Colorado Sound is the music broadcast affiliate. In radio, the measure of success is to increase Arbitron ratings, and The Colorado Sound has mastered that rather quickly.



Benji’s office is decorated with new music cd’s and music memorabilia

Benji wants to do more than just play the hits to get ratings. McPhail is a musicophile with years of experience in programming spanning from KCUV Radio Music Director to programming director at KKPL Radio. His style of broadcasting is a blend of musicology and stellar music taste. His approach is to play the music that resonates with his listeners. He holds a monthly listening party where the audience can vote on the songs they want to hear in a rotation.

The Colorado Sound highlights Colorado music. The station is advocators and curators for the scene. There is no shortage of music coming from the state, and the Sound aims to be the leader in bringing the best of it to your ears.


Host Ron in his office at the Colorado Sound


Colorado’s music industry is the largest in the Rocky Mountain West. The state has 16,300 music based jobs the next highest employment totals in the region are Nevada’s 8500 and Utah’s 79001. Colorado’s music industry generates $1.8 billion in annual revenue, compared to $309 million in Idaho and $556 million in New Mexico. Nevada is again second in the region at $1.3 billion.

 Hosts include veterans in the radio industry: Benji, MargotRon, and Marc. The Colorado Sound has been a dream of Benji’s for a long time. He is a Colorado native. He spent some time in California radio, but his heart-strings were pulled back home. He felt he could showcase his Colorado music roots and help others gain an appreciation for the sound.


This station goes beyond what you hear on other stations and delivers quality music that excites your senses. The hosts are passionate about music. Each of them is a true innovator of the craft and is shaping the type of music being delivered to you over the airwaves. Overall, The Colorado Sound just plays really good music, all day long.

To support this movement in Colorado music you can become a Colorado Sound member.

Stay tuned because big things are on the horizon for the Colorado Sound.


Rae McAlister’s Illness Will Not Stop Her From Performing

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, photography

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Rae McAlister is a singer-songwriter in Fort Collins, CO.  She is currently in the studio with Paul Andrews at Bridge Studios laying down tracks for her debut album. She is no longer wasting time waiting for things to be perfect or when she has enough money or even when she is healthy enough. Rae realizes that tomorrow is not promised and life is short. She has set out to make the days matter and what that means to her is taking her creative career by the horns.

Just get out there and just do it ~Rae McAlister

Her music has an edge and raw emotion that entices you to hear more. She plays a hollow body guitar, and her soprano tones resonate the room in a very dynamic way. She hits high notes with power, intensity, and longevity. Her songs build to a strong climax. Her sound has an illusive sense of nocturne, a bit dreamy with an airy feel.

Rae has women musician mentors in the Fort Collins community, like Mer Sal of the Symbols, and Nancy Just who help her hone her craft and motivate her. She is really focused on being a heartfelt musician. Rae values music as a business and thinks you don’t have to be a superstar to be a successful musician.  She took The Online Musician teaching course, to expand her musical business service offerings.

Listen to the full interview here:

Every day that Rae plays music is a miracle. Music has always been a part of Rae McAlister. She was born and raised in a musical family. Her musical makeup consists of jazz, folk, and classical training. The thing about Rae is, she has the diagnosis of Myotonia Congenita, Thompson’s disease, and Ehler’s-Danlos. Several years ago her body was immobile leaving her in a wheelchair. Music was an impossible dream.

Rae’s muscles started detaching, seizing and pulling joints out of place, and she could not walk or perform her daily, routine task. She had to quit working or care-taking her family. She was bedridden, and her life took an unexpected turn. The diagnosis was a blessing because it finally meant doctors could start treating her illness. It was at that time she decided to embrace her creativity and devote her life to her passions.

Also, McAlister has an art business Rae’s-Transfiguration-Furnishings for her furniture, visual arts, and photography.She recently applied to be a visual artist for pianos about town. When she was struggling with her mobility Rae would make it a point to get dressed and go into Old Town Fort Collins to sit and play the piano. She contributes the very thing to healing. She noticed others doing the same thing in the community. Older people would flock to town just to play their favorite songs on the piano. It may be their one outing or the one social interaction of the day. As an homage to this, she would like to contribute her inspired design to the program.

Rae has never let her diagnosis get in the way of her creativity. If anything, she uses it to fuel her passion and achieve what some may say is UN-achievable. She cannot push her physical boundaries every day, but she always dreams and creates. Her positive nature shines through her pain. For that, the world can indulge in her art and her music.


Chad Fisher: Fort Collins Bluegrass Musician and Teacher

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music


Chad Fisher is a Fort Collins Bluegrass Musician and a Teacher. He got his start from listening to music, and it pulled on his heartstrings so much that he devoted his life to becoming an artist. His home was remarkable, but no one was a musician. That did not stop him from pursuing his passion.

Chad sitting in his home studio

Chad fell in love with the Mandolin after a good friend left one at his house and a co-worker gave him a couple lessons on the side. After a failed business attempt his passion for music took over. He casually created a Bluegrass Band of friends and his wife Olivia’s family to perform at his wedding. That band stayed together and called themselves Lonesome Traveler and in the act of kindness and support asked him to join their band and musical journey.

Chad developed the “Strings Program” at Laurel Elementary. He created a mandolin program and afterschool program call bluegrass club which fostered the growth of young musicians. Fisher believes firmly in not only teaching children how to play an instrument but also supporting them throughout their journey. He has moved into a full-time role in his home studio and passed the torch of his school program to his fellow band mate Lydia Demi-Smith.


Chad’s dog sits by his side through every lesson he teaches

Chad Fisher’s home studio has children from age four and up. He teaches mandolin, violin, and guitar. In addition to weekly lessons, he has a group jam session. These happen once a month. They begin with a lesson and then break out into smaller group jams. This helps the students learn how to use the repertoire they spend hours memorizing and actually applying it to musicianship with a group.


Chad loves that he gets to share his love of music with the youth in Fort Collins

There will be jam sessions in February at the Music District and in March at the Downtown Artery.

Chad will be performing with the Lineage Band for a Bill Monroe tribute. He will also be playing at Jerry Garcia and David Grisman tribute show with Lineage and Switchman Sleeping. Linage Band has a unique model of acting as mentors to their students and peers. They have discovered their greatest joys come from expanding their circle of musicians and sharing the knowledge, they each have learned along the way.

For Lessons: please visit Chad Fisher .

For Performance: visit Linage Band.

For Monthly Student Jams: visit Lineage


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The Ugly Architect Live from the Merchant Room

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, photography

The Ugly Architect is debuting a new sound in Fort Collins. If you read this blog on a regular basis, this is part two of the Ugly Architect interview.  As they get to know each other better, they are developing a sound unparalleled to any other. They are connecting and collaborating as they establish strong music relationships.

The concept of the Ugly Architect is not a new one:

“I started this project in 2015. It has kind of had a rotating cast of people.” ~William Knudsen

Yet the arrangement of the members is what is newsworthy.

To get a glimpse of the music they are creating, they performed in the Merchant Room for a live recording of this podcast.

Fort Collins is home to a thriving music ecosystem. Music is quickly becoming an anchor in the community. There is no one Fort Collins sound, however. The city has a diverse artist base that is fluid. It seems to have an evolutionary spirit.

The Architects are perfecting their new sound. They are building the frameworks within the Fort Collins Creative Community.

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Wolf van Elfmand is Pioneering the Fort Collins Indie Folk Scene

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music

Wolf van Elfmand is pioneering the Fort Collins Indie Folk scene. It all started when Wolf arrived in Fort Collins to attend graduate school at Colorado State University in Music Therapy. He stepped into the Wild Boar coffee shop to a poetry reading with his guitar and a desire to perform. He stepped out with a showcase that has been a platform for songwriters in Fort Collins for over 6 years.

With a host of friends, that platform was born, and it was the Black Mountain Ramble.  It found a home in the basement of the Wild Boar Coffee Shop. Many of Fort Collins bands performed for their very first time at this event like Free Range Pickens and Rich with Friends. Wolf even met his future bandmate Luke one night at the ramble. They went on to perform under the name Von Stomper. Von Stomper constructed a unique sound and attracted a huge following.


The Black Mountain Ramble grew larger with every new gig that was booked. Eventually, a regular crowd and performers were itching to get their chance to play. The Ramble outgrew the Boar. In its transition, it was renamed the Olde Town Folkways and relocated to Wolverine Farm and Publick House.

Wolf has matured in his career. He is releasing his fourth solo EP which he recorded with Dango Rose of Elephant Revival and a host of other respected musicians in Colorado. He is performing under his original moniker, Wolf Van Elfmand, handed down from his grandfather.


He has a private Music Therapy practice Cottonwood Music Therapy.  He continues to grow the Old Towne Folkways in Fort Collins. His heart for Folk Music has opened up doors for other performers and allowed for a true Folk Scene to emerge in Fort Collins.  He has set the stage for Folk to flourish in Fort Collins and up and down the Front Range.

Follow him on Sound Cloud and Facebook to be alerted when his 4th solo project drops.


Wolf’s Fourth Solo project; Real Wolf. To Be Released.

Fort Collins Band The Ugly Architect Adds New Members

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music

 William Knudsen is the lead singer and creator of the Fort Collins Band the Ugly Architect. He is shifting the design from a solo act and adding new members.  The Ugly Architect configuration is to add and subtract members that are accessible in the proximity of the surroundings. with William being the only consistent member of the band. William took this idea on the road for a US tour. In each city, he played with the local musicians and designed new structures within the frameworks of his songs. Each song he writes has an intricate sketch like a blueprint, and need a variety of musicians to make it complete. That tour ended, but William was not ready to stop creating this masterpiece.


William Knudsen plays an intimate acoustic session at The Merchant Room. Photo by Argento Studios.

He found himself at a crux after the tour and knew the Ugly Architect was just the groundwork he wanted to build.   He seeks to keep the momentum of the summer going all year long.

What happens to the Ugly Architect next? A remodel of sorts, yet all the fixtures of this version have become permanent:

  • Bob Shipton – Bass
  • Thomas Wentz- Violin
  • Preston Charlesworth Rice- Percussion
  • William Knudsen – Singer-Songwriter/Guitar

The Ugly Architect Photo by Argento Studios

William is creating a bounty of songs and original versions of the band. Roving musicians will still join the group from time to time. The Architects will carry on the spontaneity that is the core of the band. They have just expanded beyond a solo act. Now Ugly Architect is a full band. There are a newness and an explosion of energy going on between them. They are set to record a full LP by mid-year.

Upcoming shows:

Old Town Folkways at Wolverine Farm

Ghost Ship Benefit Show

Also, pop-ups as the mood strike them.

Special thanks to the Merchant Room for hosting the video and photo shoot.

Music’s role in the public good: Colorado Music Strategy

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes

“Music as a business” is a unique concept. Our culture often romanticizes the view of the struggling artist. A creative may struggle their entire life, chasing their passions, never quite making ends meet. A successful musician is a bit of a fallacy in our society. A movement is born to provide proactive solutions and change the industry standards.


That movement is The Colorado Music Strategy. The Bohemian Foundation and The Colorado Creative Industries are spearheading the plan. Fundamentally, this is an economic plan that infuses over $200,000 through music as a business development. Creatively, this empowers the music industry with resources such as funding opportunities, networking with national industry partners, music licensing, music for film and TV, and thought sharing opportunities with like-minded businesses and industry leaders.


The Bohemian Foundation contributed $75,000 to the strategy. Colorado Creative Industry matched that grant with equal funds. Also, there is a separate award called the Music Event Fund that is available for live performances throughout the Front Range. Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Shawn King of Devotchka as the official Music Ambassador who will link other communities who are seeking the Colorado Sound in film, commercials, and other lucrative opportunities.

The Music District’s Jesse Elliott, who is a lifetime accomplished musician and Bohemian’s Bryce Merrill, lifetime musician and an arts research and cultural policy scholar, dreamed up this partnership after years of devoting their lives to the cause and worked aggressively to make it come to fruition. This concept is rooted in education for the musician but encompasses a mentorship-like role to help music as a business be profitable.



Music District is a separate entity created by Bohemian Foundation with a different mission that aligns with the strategy; The Music District will be the defacto home to the strategy. The Music District will be the “practical laboratory,”

Jesse Elliott, Director, states:

“ The strategy has even more physical and geographical locations, but it will be the central heart.”

 According to The Colorado Creative Industries:

“Colorado’s music industry currently, contributes 16,300 music-based jobs to the state’s economy and generates $1.8 billion in annual revenue. The state’s music economy has outperformed the nation as a whole, and job growth in live music has grown by 70 percent in the past five years. Colorado is a global destination for music festivals, and our musicians play to fans just about everywhere in the world.”


This plan can disrupt at the local level to strengthen musicians, at the state level to boost the economy, and the national level to build bridges to the Colorado Sound. The Strategy acts as a model for other states seeking ways to boost their economy.

Although the interest seems quite economical on the outside, the root of the strategy is:

What is music’s role in the public good?

 National Strategies exist around Music Cities; this envelopes states, cities, and foundations that focus on industry and community. 

Who else is doing this? Austin, Seattle, Tennessee, Australia and Canada to name a few.

The Colorado Strategy does have foundational components that mirror some of these models. What makes Co Music strategy unique?  Its ability to connect philanthropy, government, nonprofit and for profit, parties all at the same table.

The Colorado Strategy has a very broad approach that is:

What does music do that is for the vast good of humanity?


The Music Ecosystem Colorado is building captures the idea of a “music city”, amplified.

The transformative nature of the strategy is thinking beyond just disrupting the music model but rather a holistic approach to building an “ecosystem” that:

  • Supports the creative with resources
  • Lifts the creative up through mentorship
  • Enriches Economic development
  • Embodies social good
  • Creates social change 
  • Induces a better quality of life


A few things are at the heart of it as Elliott says,

“ To make it possible for musicians to make a living, to make it possible for small businesses related to music,  for non-profits related to music, all to make a living. On the other end of it, to then make it possible for those things to do a bigger and greater public good because they can make a living. A lot of the conversation is, What can entities government or industry do for musicians and music business? Then the follow-up is, what can musicians and music business do for the larger public good?”

 The strategy takes a deep look at how communities are symbiotic with the end goals that maybe don’t have anything to do with music. The outcomes support people who work in Colorado to be able to sustain a living as middle-class workers, in addition to reaching anyone connected to the music industry.



Merrill explains his goal as:

“The big picture for me is general health and well-being and sustainability of the state. Music for me is my little path. I have been playing music for 26 years, married to a musician, I am always hesitant to let music be too precious. It is critical, it is vital, this is absolutely about music, but it is in servicing a bigger picture.”


Fort Collins comes in as one of the best places to live for Tech, Families, Cycling, and Craft Beer. Although the strategy will live here, the reach will be statewide, national and international. Changing the personas of an artist and helping educate people how creatives enrich society can put Fort Collins on a mutual interest list one day.

Teaching youth that creative careers are an option. Allowing the community to see just how much they have touched my music every day and the power of its reach goes beyond just something on the radio.

This plan will give music a sector of the community that is lucrative, enriching for the soul and has a cyclical effect for the nation. Music is an art. Music is a feeling. Now Music can be a business. Music can be a career. Music can change the world and the communities people live, play and work in.




If you want to learn more about what other states are doing, the American for the Arts has a state-by-state guide.






infographic on the impact of creative communities

The Economic Impact of Colorado Creative Industries

Everything Can Be Art, Fort Collins Music, Social Causes


Colorado Governor Hickenlooper passed the HB11-1031 bill in 2011. This bill focuses on the conception of more Creative Districts in Colorado. A Creative District is an enterprise that adds economic value to a community through creative entrepreneurship. The Office of Economic Development’s initiative states:

“We have one of the only programs in place to develop affordable housing and work space, including commercial space, for artists and arts organizations in rural communities. We’re also providing access to grant funding and mentorship opportunities, and ensuring that more art finds its way into public spaces.”

This bill will attract other creatives to the community,  and provide a richer culture investing in the arts.

In 2014, a loan was created to supported this 2011 bill, 


What this means is, the state of Colorado is willing to fund creative business growth throughout the state. They value that so many visionaries live here.  The program also offers support for marketing, social media, access to mentors, and education. Additional sources of financing are available if the  creative projects exceed the original state grant.

This economic shift is lucrative and beneficial for people that work in Design, Literary and Publishing, Film and Media, Performing Arts, Visual Arts and Crafts and Heritage. There is also a significant crossover into other fields such as Crafts and artisan enterprises, tourism, information technology, and outdoor recreation. The pay scale for a creative is above average for the state median wage.

Fort Collins went through the application process that started in April of 2016 and became  Full Creative District Status in Oct. 2016. The City has formed a Creative District and is one of 13 across the state. The Bohemian Foundation built a campus for musicians called the Music District. Fort Collins is putting plans in place now also to reap the benefits and become a stronger, creative community that values art and artist from all mediums. The Bohemian Foundation became a public partner and is supporting the Colorado Music Strategy,  a strategic plan to garner music as a medium for economic growth in Northern Colorado.

There are coordination and collaboration between the state, the city, and the non-profit sector. Any city with the district status will be booming with artist and resources to support their work. Already the state has seen positive economic growth because of the Creative Districts.