The new center at the CFU campus is in a stately blond-brick building that once was the fire station for Lowry Air Force Base. Though Scharf acknowledges that it could stand to be a bit bigger, it's a perfect toehold from which to tap into a new community.

Scharf and his fellow Swallow Hill execs also looked locally to find the satellite school's new director: Andres Cladera, a native of Uruguay who lives in Lowry's Montclair neighborhood.

Cladera has held posts as executive director of the Microscopic Opera Company and the Renaissance City Choirs, both based in Pittsburgh. He earned a master's degree in orchestral conducting from Carnegie Mellon University and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in both piano and vocal performance from the College of Charleston, in South Carolina. His is a professional and academic résumé with roots in the world of classical music, a seemingly different world from that of the democratic, accessible and downright folky mission that has long served as Swallow Hill's bedrock.

But both Scharf and Cladera insist that the classical realm isn't such a far cry from the realm of folk music.

"What's really important to me is that music is music. Classical, folk music — there's a common ground there," Cladera says. "I come from a Latin background. To me, folk music in Uruguay is drumming, it's tango, it's merengue, it's a little bit of salsa. A lot of folk music that is part of life isn't necessarily in my training, but it's part of who I am. It's how I connect to Swallow Hill music."

Cladera adds that he'll look to incorporate different traditions into the instruction at the satellite school. For now, the programming includes early-childhood development courses; guitar, ukulele and violin lessons for older kids; and banjo, guitar, fiddle and ukulele classes for adults.

"I'm hoping to reach the African-American community, the Latino community," Cladera says. "I want to bring in those traditions and that music to Swallow Hill as well."

Lessons in those diverse sounds could very well be on the radar for the four kids banging the djembe in Brian Nelson's first class as a Swallow Hill teacher. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Nelson recently moved to Colorado after a stint teaching in New Mexico. His curriculum of participatory drum sessions, call-and-response folk songs and body movement felt like a perfect foundation for exploring all folk traditions.

"It's a lot of movement and songs and drumming," Nelson says. "I try to get a lot of input from the kids, and I just try to vary it up so we can keep the flow going. I want to challenge them, but I just want them to have a really good time."

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1 comments
Helen Hand
Helen Hand

The Swallow Hill Music staff and teachers are awesome! We're happy to have them here at CFU.

 
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