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Back in the '90s, there was an In Living Colour sketch about a Jamaican family of workaholics who each held down at least a dozen jobs. Priding themselves on their insatiable work ethic, they'd chide the notably less ambitious for their laziness. "You only have one job," they'd sneer incredulously. "You lazy goat!"
I think of that skit every time I see Jake Schroeder, maybe the hardest-working man in our scene, and certainly one of the most charitable. Devoting his time to innumerable worthy causes on top of holding down several jobs, he has a halo that's blinding. If you want to know the truth, the guy actually kind of gives me a complex. When we run into each other, my inner dialogue starts going bananas, like Chatty Cathy hyped up on speedballs: If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean, there, sport. I feel like I should grab a broom or something.
Ask Jake, though, and he'll insist that he's nobody special, that he's simply trying to make up for years of being an insufferable prick. As he tells it, in the nascent days of Opie Gone Bad, he was a booze-addled, card-carrying, self-centered douchebag. But that was obviously another lifetime ago, because that description doesn't come close to matching the guy I've known for the past five years.
Near as I can tell, Jake's biggest vice these days is a stanky old cigar and a strong cup of java. Besides the fact that imbibing reportedly renders him persona non grata, it's easy to see why he stays on the wagon: The guy's busier than a one-eyed cat watching two mouse holes. In addition to running Jake's Joe, his coffee business, he's the deputy director of Denver's Police Athletic League, the host of 99.5/The Mountain's Homegrown show, and he also lends his pipes to the Avalanche, singing the national anthem at every home game. And in his, uh, free time, he volunteers with the Shjon Podein Children's Foundation (Team 25) and the Avs' Jr. Sled Team events, and pitches in just about any time there's a benefit in town.
Jake clearly has a heart for the kids, as well as a sincere commitment to the musicians in this town — and he uses his local-centric radio show to marry those two passions. Each year, the Mountain assembles a compilation exclusively featuring local music, culled partially from in-studio performances recorded on Jake's Monday-night show. And from the inception, the station set aside all the proceeds from each disc for a charity. Initially, the funds were to be designated for a "fairly political environmental charity," Jake recalls. "It was a little partisan, and I didn't really want to get involved with that. So I just said, 'Why don't we do it for a music program in a local school?' They all need money. There's no funding, so they don't really specialize in it too much anymore. And all of us who are musicians in this city — nearly all of us have had music-program experiences in public schools. It just was the right thing to do right away. Everybody bought into it — certainly all the musicians, which was great."
So the Mountain forged ahead with its homegrown version of VH-1's Save the Music program. And last week, as it issued volume six, it donated the money it had amassed — more than $10K — to Lincoln High School's music program, at the recommendation of Hizzoner John Hickenlooper and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet. "It was really cool, man," says Jake. "It was one of my favorite things that I've ever been involved with."
Notice that Jake says "involved with" here; he's not about to take any of the credit himself. Deflecting kudos, he credits the station — particularly program director Beau Raines, who replaced former PD Dan Michaels, the guy who originally backed the project. "He didn't even flinch," Jake says of Raines. "He said, 'We're going to keep doing this.'" Like his predecessor, Raines is "huge about doing stuff locally in the music community," Jake notes. "It's a terribly competitive cutthroat market, and he's really taking a chance by giving as much support as he does to local music, and I'm just lucky to work with him."
Jake's equally effusive in his praise of the musicians, who, he stresses, are the ones who truly did the heavy lifting here. "Universally," he says, "every band I've ever touched, having anything to do with this show, has been like, 'Oh, what else can we do?' They don't even flinch." And they're not about to stop now. Jake says he and the Mountain have every intention of continuing to support the scene and gathering more funds to donate to another school.
There's still plenty of work to be done.