playing and teaching Music in Denver
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 00:10
Denver has never been more than a moderately sized and cultured city in most regards. That quality, however, is exactly what makes it ideal for musicians like CU Denver professor Sean McGowan. McGowan’s website describes him as a “fingerstyle jazz guitarist.” He has received a lot of positive recognition in the jazz community, being awarded Guitar magazine’s Best New Release of the Year Award for his 2002 album, River Coffee, and having his 2011 recording Sphere: The Music of Thelonius included in Guitar magazine’s Essential Albums of 2011 list. He was just featured on the cover of the summer 2012 issue of the magazine Fingerstyles 360.
McGowan, despite the fact that he plays festivals all over the world, has chosen Denver as his home. “Despite what most people think,” McGowan said, “Denver has a thriving jazz scene. Everybody’s surprised when they visit town… Dazzle has jazz seven nights a week, and there are a lot of clubs between Denver and Boulder that have live music.”
McGowan also points out that Denver’s smaller size makes it a better environment for young musicians. “[Music] students are gigging because they actually can in Denver. You wouldn’t be able to do that in Boston because it’s such a saturated scene. One of the really great things for our students is that they can actually get a band together and get out working their first year of school,” McGowan said.
As a teacher, McGowan values what he calls “a holistic approach to playing,” which he describes as “integrating ‘musical’ concepts such as harmony, technique, melodic interpretation, rhythm all of the things that are traditionally associated with musical pedagogy with the physical side of things such as injury prevention strategies and overall wellness.
“Not only are [students] learning how to play the guitar, but they’re learning to avoid certain overuse injuries… [I] work on cultivating an optimistic attitude towards being an artist in a society that doesn’t necessarily support the arts.” McGowan also emphasizes the business aspect of music to provide students with the skills they need to build a career.
Overall, McGowan says music is about connection. McGowan said, “[My philosophy] is to create what I feel is meaningful and rewarding music that touches people in a way that enhances their lives…No one does it for the money. We’re engaged with music on a deeper level because something happened to us when we were very young that moved to us to say ‘this is what I want to do with my life. There are going to be a lot of sacrifices, but I don’t have a choice.’”
McGowan will be performing at Dazzle on Oct. 25th, as part of a quartet with UCD faculty members Peter Stulsman (piano) and Greg Garrison (bass).