Composer Collective


David Thomas Bailey organizes Composer Collective to bring art music to the masses

:: Colorado Composer Collective ::
:: Featuring Greg Garrison ::
:: Walnut Room :: December 3 ::

By Brian F. Johnson

Almost since the inception of music, high-art music — what many of us refer to as classical — came with two pre-requisites: a tuxedo and money. The concerts, almost exclusively black-tie affairs, were seldom affordable to the common man.

But one such common man, a musician from Denver, is trying to change that. Post-jazz guitarist David Thomas Bailey has recently started the Colorado Composer Collective, whose mission is to put high art music in environs that most of us would never have dreamed. “More Pabst, less red wine,” is Bailey’s motto for the project. “Let’s treat this like it is, music made by creative people, same as any band, no better no worse, ethically. The Colorado Symphony shouldn’t get to own it in their tuxedos and financial corruption,” Bailey  said in a recent interview with The Marquee.

The concept isn’t exactly new territory for Bailey, who earned a music degree at the University of Colorado at Denver and a Masters of Music in jazz  studies from the University of Northern Colorado. Bailey, who plays in the bands FaceMan, Man vs. Village, and Micro Marauder, started a project last year called the Locus Project, for which he writes music for specific locations — like the Museum of Contemporary Art or the Highlands Bridge, both in Denver.

Bailey, who also teaches music at Swallow Hill and at the Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada, said he’s been driven to explore putting this type of music in different environments because of a common theme he has seen repeat itself over and over in the music world. “I knew a lot of people who were writing really creative music in college and it seemed like after college people got jobs and stopped really producing anything creatively. I thought was that kind of B.S. The same is true for orchestra musicians from college. They were doing really awesome things and if they didn’t get that symphony job, they just started doing other things. I thought that we needed to have some creative outlet for this community,” Bailey said.

For their upcoming performance, the Colorado Composer Collective will be configured as a double quartet with four string and four brass players, and Greg Garrison, the bassist of Leftover Salmon and Punch Brothers will be the featured performer, and the five composers involved in the project have all written music to highlight Garrison.

“Everyone wrote pieces specifically to match Greg. Everyone knows a bit of his story, and so Dean Hirschfield wrote a piece that’s a little bluegrassy, but still in a symphonic way. Scott McCormick of Boulder Acoustic Society wrote a beautiful hymn of four block chords moving along, a really beautiful piece. Carmen Sandim, who teaches at Naropa and Metro, wrote some bossa nova elements into her piece, but it also has an Americana feel to it,” Bailey explained. Wil Swindler, who teaches at CSU and is the assistant ensemble director at the school, and Bailey, of course, also wrote pieces for the collective. Giga Romero put together the string quartet, while Kerry Web put together the brass quartet.

In a separate interview with The Marquee, Garrison said he’s very honored to be part of this, and “to find that musicians hold me in that high regard and that they’re willing to throw me into the mix for a project like this.”

Garrison said that, particularly due to his time in Punch Brothers, he’s not foreign to the idea of putting classical music in a rock club. He explained that during his time with Punch Brothers, his awareness and appreciation for classical music has grown. “There was as much time with that band hanging out and drinking beer and scotch and listening to Brahms, as there was drinking beer and scotch and listening to Bill Monroe. I don’t want to call it high brow over low brow, but art music versus popular music, and they serve different audiences and it also serves different parts of a person. Almost like emotion verses intellect. Most musicians are emotional and intellectual,” he said.

It’s ironic that it took musicians who play rock and roll as their night jobs to bring classical music to these environs. It’s not like this is part of some government arts program where the stodgy try to act less hoity-toity for a night. It’s a night where the guys who are used to letting their hair down, get to play new classical music to people in an environment that they are already comfortable in. And Bailey truly believes that it’s that approach that will make it work. “Just come and enjoy. It’s not meant to be respected as an act of culture,” he said.

“We need a forum for new music,” he continued. “Places like community orchestras and cities and colleges all have symphonies, and they all play the same repertoire. There’s really no place to hear new music. Well, there may be some, but we need more and we need more proactive concerts like this,” Bailey said.


:: Colorado Composer Collective ::

:: Featuring Greg Garrison ::

:: Walnut Room :: December 3 ::


Recommended if you Like:

• Greg Garrison

• FaceMan

• Boulder Acoustic Society


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  1. I’m not sure why a classically trained musician who plays jazz would be so upset with the classical music establishment? I’m not sure what the “financial corruption” is referring to. Seems like the CSO issue was one where the musicians stood their ground despite countless attempts by some rather aggressive and wealthy board members. They suffered through these “Too Big to Fail” individuals and have secured themselves as one of the regional treasures playing the highest quality large symphonic works in the state of Colorado. There’s a reason an orchestra of the quality of the CSO is called a MAJOR symphony orchestra. I would hope that the institutions you’ve studied at have represented the devotion that goes into such refinement and the competitiveness that goes into winning such a position, not just a few “More Pabst, less red wine,” moments as you refer to them. I didn’t even know UCD had a music program, is it online? No one would argue that a group as large as a symphony orchestra couldn’t fit into the bar or venue your ensemble will be playing in so why even bring up the CSO? Haven’t they been through enough manipulation? Do you really think the same crowd will attend your concert?

    As far as Will Swindler, he is an OUTSTANDING composer and performer however this article is incorrect regarding his position as Colorado State University. He is NOT the director of the jazz program as you stated, the great Peter Sommer is. Will is an assistant ensemble director which probably is a non-tenure track position. I’ve put the link below so you can know the difference before stating 1/2 truths.

    Regarding your concert, I’m sure it will be great with a player as great as Will Swindler I just think all those difficult whole notes have loosened up a few screws. Shame on you for vilifying the same music which has historically been quoted by some of the greatest Jazz musicians of all time. Good luck with all the PABST!

    “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” Gandhi

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