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Arts & Life

Stephen Brackett, Colorado's New Music Ambassador, Focusing On Youth Support, Music Ecosystem

Brer Rabbit
Courtesy CCI
Stephen Brackett of Flobots at the National Conference for Media Reform in Denver, Colorado.

The day Stephen Brackett was to be announced as Colorado’s new Music Ambassador back in March, the state’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and the event was postponed.

On Thursday, the Flobots emcee was finally, formally, named to the role, but he wasn’t waiting on formalities.

“The announcement was canceled, but me doing the work was not,” said Brackett during a virtual news conference.

Over the past seven months, Brackett has been working on two initiatives as part of his new role. The ambassador position, previously filled by DeVotchKa drummer Shawn King, is a two-year appointment designed to advocate for the state’s musicians, as well as the music scene.

During Brackett’s tenure, he has begun work on the Musicians In Communities program, which will create new curriculums to train Colorado musicians to present workshops in classrooms, libraries, hospitals and youth treatment centers — both in-person and virtually.

“Because music is one of the places where young people always are, it’s always been an incredible medium to build relationships with them,” he said.

Another initiative includes assessing artists’ needs — not only with things like business and professional development, but also in areas of trauma support and artistic resources.

“We’re all aware that the old model of the music industry is interrupted,” Brackett said. “But what we’re finding, as always, is that the creative industries - musicians, artists - they’re kind of the canaries for any economic ecosystem. And when you see the artists struggling, well that also means that so many other people on the fringes … are also struggling.”

Part of that effort will include looking for immediate and direct ways to check in with artists to find out what they really need, he said. It’s something Brackett is already working on something similar at the nonprofit music program he co-founded, Youth on Record.

Rather than a focus group to find out what people’s dream list of wants is, Brackett says he wants to find out what they really need.

“It is one thing to talk about how music is just great,” he said. “It’s another thing to actually give you the data and the numbers and what it costs us not to leverage music for our community, and then what we’re able to gain when we do so.”

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