Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken of Big Gigantic, which will return to Red Rocks Amphitheatre in September, have been making waves in Colorado for more than a decade, and their philanthropic efforts have been intertwined with their explosive, electronic music since the early days. They've donated to groups like Cradles for Crayons and Conscious Alliance. To take things a step further, they established A Big Gigantic Difference Foundation at the end of 2016. This year, they wanted to focus on their local community in Colorado and make a steady, lasting impact. They reached out to the music-education nonprofit Youth on Record and cooked up plans to pay for a new computer lab.
Youth on Record, located in the heart of Denver, provides for-credit courses, out-of-school programming and economic resources for under-resourced youth looking to learn about the music industry. The nonprofit's facility has a production lab and recording studio already, but staff have noticed a decline in the quality of technology on site. Laptops have either been lost, slowed down considerably or aren't powerful enough to run the production programs students are learning on. A computer lab paid for by Big Gigantic will change this.
“On our tour last year, we raised money in each city we were playing in and donated locally to a bunch of nonprofits,” Salken says. “This year we were figuring out a different way to do that. We wanted to focus more on Colorado and make it more about music, since a lot of music and art programs are being stripped from schools here. There are like none left. Growing up, both of us did music in high school and middle school; that was a really big part of our lives. We probably wouldn’t be where we’re at without that. I can’t even imagine going to school without that kind of opportunity.”
The money raised on tour in 2017 will fund the computer lab, including five stationary iMac desktops with Ableton and Adobe Creative Cloud, five Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 controllers, three custom desks, five chairs and one year’s salary for a lab instructor. Lalli and Salken think having one stationary place where these resources are accessible for students is crucial for their creative progress.
“I got to go [to Youth on Record] and work with the kids,” Lalli says. “They seem very passionate and super-curious. I think just having access [to the equipment] every day would help make [each student's] project greater. It’s important, because they’ll have a place to go consistently to work on stuff. They can be the next generation of people doing what we’re doing.”
The YOR recording studio is already available; the addition of the computer lab will allow students to bring a project to fruition on site, instantaneously.
“I think nowadays with technology, you can do so much with a computer,” Salken says. “When we were kids, that wasn’t going on. People were making computer music, but it wasn’t as accessible…. These kids can apply this technology. They can not only be a drummer, but a guitarist and a bassist and a keyboardist. They can do everything. They can record in [YOR’s recording studio] and then put it on the computer and mess with it. They can literally make a song right there, and I can’t even imagine having that in middle school.”
The musicians hope that alongside this technology, the computer lab will provide space to explore music as a creative outlet. With music programs receiving less attention in schools, the lab gives students a chance to explore their curiosity for music and beyond.
“With art and music not being much in schools these days, music is just a creative outlet for people,” Lalli says. “You go throughout your day, especially as a kid, and everything is on a schedule. You have all your classes, then come home to parents and do homework, etc.... [At Youth on Record, kids] can get an hour where they’re encouraged to be totally creative and do whatever they want.”