What Swallow Hill Music Is Looking For in its New CEO

Tom Scharf spent seven years at the head of Swallow Hill.
Tom Scharf spent seven years at the head of Swallow Hill.
Courtesy of Swallow Hill

Earlier this month. Swallow Hill Music announced that CEO and Executive Director Tom Scharf was resigning after seven years of running the Denver-based nonprofit organization that runs music education programs and organizes many concerts in the area. Scharf last day is September 30, and the organization is hoping to have someone else lined up before the end of the year.

See also: Swallow Hill CEO and Executive Director Tom Scharf Resigns

Gwen Burak, who currently serves as the organization's director of marketing and is acting CEO until the position is filled, says that Swallow Hill's Board of Directors has already had several meetings to discuss the search for a new CEO, and they're in the process of a choosing a search firm.

"One of the things that they're working on in conjunction with choosing a search firm is really getting a good list of attributes of what we're looking for in the next CEO," Burak says. "Hopefully by the end of the month choose a search firm that can help us look for those candidates, not only here in Colorado but also on a more national scale. We're looking at firms that have had experience placing arts and culture executive directors and CEOs across the country."

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Burak says that they're hoping the search for candidates can begin in October and hopefully have someone chosen by the end of the calendar year, but they're also trying to be realistic about that it might take a little longer than that.

Since Swallow Hill is a $5 million organization as well as a community organization Burak says they're looking for someone who can manage and do the operational oversight of an organization that size as well as a person has to be open and willing and listening.

"So you really have to be able to listen to people whether it be the volunteers who make things happen or donors or the neighborhood in Lowry or the neighborhood in the Botanic Gardens, that kind of thing," Burak says. "It really has to be a person who can balance the sort of balance the operational needs of a $5 million organization and the listening needs of a small community organization."

As Swallow Hill is looking toward its future, its 30th Anniversary celebration is in the very near future. On Saturday, October 11, the organization will feature Josh Ritter and Brett Dennen. And before they take the stage Swallow Hill's Music School will host a series of workshops, sing-a-longs, and student and faculty performances, starting at 6 p.m.

While Swallow Hill is searching for a new leader, Burak says they're sad to see Scharf go and that he's been a good leader. His tenure saw the expansion of the organization to include a second school in Lowry, a broader musical mission and a greatly increased role as a concert promoter, and Swallow Hill took over booking concerts at Botanic Gardens and the Arvada Center.

"I think with Tom's good work the hope is that for the future we can really work hard on making music accessible to more people in Denver and the Front Range," Burak says. "I feel like that's going to be a big priority for us, not only geographically but financially growing our scholarship programs and then culturally growing our offerings to be more expansive for all the different cultures of people that live in Denver. And so I think that's really where Tom has set us to a spot where we have the flexibility and ability to really think big like that, and I feel like that's where we're kind of going in the next 35 years."

Burak says that in the future that Swallow Hill will be able to do more for more people, like making the organization accessible to people geographically, because not everyone in the city can get to the nonprofit's headquarters at Yale Avenue and Broadway. Burak adds that they're also going to work hard on making scholarship funds to make then financially accessible for people.

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