Q&A with the modern-music program’s leaders on what’s new, community connection and favorite Denver venues.
October 18, 2018
The Denver music scene is better than ever. And as the partnership between Metropolitan State University of Denver and the Detroit Institute of Music Education enters its third year, we caught up with Sarah Clayman, managing director, and Kevin Nixon, president of DIME, for more info on the state of studying the modern-music industry at MSU Denver.
What would you like faculty members and staff who aren’t as familiar with the program to know about DIME?
DIME: The MSU Denver at DIME programs, in Detroit and Denver, are designed for young musicians and entrepreneurs who want long-term careers in the modern-music industry. The curriculum is centered on challenging the class system in music; the program is structured for students to get academically and musically qualified in the modern commercial industry. We look forward to building relationships on and off campus to celebrate music across all genres and origin periods.
The vast majority of MSU Denver at DIME instructors, in both Detroit and Denver, have professional experience in the modern-music industry. That balances with their academic teaching experience, so they understand the deep passion that’s needed for a career in music, gaining the cultural enrichment and the use of the creative brain. Young people need help navigating their first few years on any college program, learning new skills, time management and more. Our partnership helps us advise students at each step of the way.
Could you tell us about the student population at DIME and how the University can best support their success?
DIME: Over 60 percent of MSU Denver at DIME students are first-generation college students; most come to DIME in the absence of finding an integral college program that suits them. Our partnership has tapped into these particular students’ life goals, and with support from parents and families, they tend to feel they have found a home at DIME in a cohort model that supports their learning journey, where help is always at hand.
Also, the partnership is still new, with DIME Detroit now in its third year and DIME Denver its second year, so the current cohort numbers enable us to give students one-to-one advice and support. We are privileged to work with MSU Denver departments and chairs across disciplines – for example, many nonmusician faculty members have an understanding of the relationship between music and math, public speaking, music-business events and more.
What makes the cohort model successful within DIME?
DIME: It’s definitely a culture of team spirit. If you want to be successful in any industry, you need a team of people working with you; in our experience, it’s a rarity that anyone is successful entirely on their own.
The cohort model encourages peer-to-peer support, learning and teaching. It creates community so students do not feel isolated and can share problems. The students at MSU Denver at DIME, whether in Detroit or Denver, are creating the next generation of the music industry, forging relationships that will be with them throughout their lives and careers.
We open students’ eyes up to the realities of the music industry and the skills needed to be successful. Talent and good musicianship are not enough; this helps students find the discipline to work hard in all classes. One hundred percent of the students at MSU Denver at DIME Detroit passed math in the last three semesters – that’s a very impressive statistic of which we are most proud.
What are some examples of how you’re connecting students to careers in the field?
DIME: DIME’s off-campus facilities are built specifically to feel like the music industry – that happens from the moment you walk in the building. Because of our background as music-industry professionals, we have strong relationships that allow us to invite leaders of many fields to present master classes and open up further opportunities to students that would be otherwise unavailable.
For example, through our relationship with Universal Music, we had Alessia Cara, Grammy 2018 winner, visit four colleges in the United States, and MSU Denver at DIME Detroit was one of them. Nate Watts, musical director and bass player for Stevie Wonder’s band, was at DIME Denver just last week when Stevie played the first Grandoozy Festival. Nate, who is from Detroit, is a long-term friend of ours and took time out to visit our facilities. He also donated a Hartke Amp and Sire Bass guitar to the students.
What are some of the other Denver-based community connections or partnerships DIME is building?
DIME: We have already made strong connections in the music and arts communities here in Denver, including working closely with the Downtown Denver Partnership and their activities to solidify us as a music city. Also, nonprofit education organization Youth on Record and School of Rock have both held events in the MSU Denver at DIME building.
Many bands and musicians have played gigs and shows in our old Tivoli pop-up space, and now also at our permanent home at 800 Kalamath in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe. We work with Madison House and Seven Management to connect with Denver music professionals and have found some great instructors. The MSU Denver at DIME Denver students have been invited to and play events in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, downtown at the ice rink and at many venues on Broadway and Colfax. We have a relationship with Chuck Morris at AEG and connections at Live Nation and recording studios like Third and James and Rocky Mountain Studios. What Denver has to offer the music scene is endless, and we can’t wait to explore it further.
What are some of your favorite Denver venues? What about favorite local musicians?
DIME: There are so many – Red Rocks, of course, Bluebird Theater and Kev’s personal favorite of Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox. As for local bands, there are too many – however, standout ones right now are Gestalt and Dragondeer.
When can members of the campus community come check out your space?
DIME: Anyone can come anytime! But the best time to visit MSU Denver at DIME Denver is during one of the Art District’s First Fridays; Nov. 2 is the next one. For those interested, we are offering short courses beginning Oct. 23. Plus, we are planning Open House events in October, November and December – watch out for more info on those.