Concerts

Expect the Unexpected at Kent Denver School's Annual Concert

Kent Denver School's junior high and high school music students present three nights of live music as part of their annual holiday concert.
Kent Denver School's junior high and high school music students present three nights of live music as part of their annual holiday concert. Carol MacKay Photography
Holiday festivities are back at the Kent Denver School as students prepare three nights of live music for the annual holiday concerts from the school's prestigious music program.

Attendees can expect the unexpected, says Justin Adams, the school's commercial music producer. “I don’t think it’s remarkable that a school holds an annual holiday concert," he says, "but I think what is remarkable is the level and type of concert we put on feels a lot like what you would pay to see — it has a real show quality to it.”

The holiday performances are open to the public and will include classical music, Christmas staples, jazz, R&B, funk, salsa and world music. Those are just some of the genres that will collide during the three-day event at the school’s 500-seat Anschutz Family Theatre.

“It’s wonderful to be back doing concerts for humans — that feels so good. It’s invaluable for us as humans, students and teachers,” says Zakk Wooten, a longtime professional musician, sound engineer and music teacher at Kent Denver.
click to enlarge Soular Wave focuses on the music of the modern world, especially pop, soul and R&B. - CAROL MACKAY PHOTOGRAPHY
Soular Wave focuses on the music of the modern world, especially pop, soul and R&B.
Carol MacKay Photography
“Not only are these kids excited, but grades six to twelve get to share the music together," adds Wooten. "We have this philosophy, ‘Ubuntu,’ which is a South African word that means ‘I am because we are,’ that we’ve been teaching within our music curriculum. We believe in supporting our artists in finding their own voice, helping one another find their own voices and sharing those creative voices with our community both at Kent and beyond.”

The Vocal Arts ensemble kicks off the event Wednesday, December 1, singing several American pieces with two-, three- and four-part vocal harmonies. The evening’s performance will also showcase chamber ensembles playing classical, modern and student-written compositions. Thursday, December 2, will include a wide array of popular music — from modern folk to R&B, rock, soul and everything in between — by middle and high school ensembles.

The final night of concerts — Friday, December 3 — includes performances by Kent Denver’s most seasoned music students. “You can expect the energy as an audience member to be quite different,” says Wooten. “We’re going to lower the front part of the stage so people on the floor can dance and participate.”

Last on Friday's lineup is Soular Wave, a ten-piece band with a set list of pop, soul, jazz and R&B. The band, which was invited to play the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival two years ago but had to cancel because of the pandemic, has some exciting prospects on the horizon.

“Soular Wave is going to collaborate with the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts and play the First Friday art walk in the spring. We’re also exploring other festivals like City Park Jazz, which produces ten free jazz concerts each summer and brings in around 8,000 to 12,000 people,” says Adams. “We’ve been lucky to have those opportunities. But I also feel they deserve it — they’ve worked that hard, and they sound that good.”
click to enlarge Kent Denver School’s music program is spearheaded by (left to right) Producer of Commercial Music Justin Adams, choir director Kali Paguirigan and music teacher Zakk Wooten. - LISA MORTELL
Kent Denver School’s music program is spearheaded by (left to right) Producer of Commercial Music Justin Adams, choir director Kali Paguirigan and music teacher Zakk Wooten.
Lisa Mortell
Kent Denver School’s Commercial Music Program has been touted by Downbeat magazine, the “bible” of soul and jazz. The magazine has awarded the program more than ten of its DownBeat awards since 2006, and in 2016 named one of the school's former student bands, Quincy Ave. Rhythm Band, as Best High School Band in the pop/rock/blues category. That group has now performed locally, nationally and internationally, with gigs in Havana, Cuba, and sets at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy.

Kent Denver’s music program is spearheaded by Adams, Wooten and choir director Kali Paguirigan. The music department offers students a recording studio, expansive rehearsal and performance spaces and state-of-the-art streaming capabilities.

“We’re lucky here because we get to explore how culture has influenced our music, about what Black music is, what it means to be a school full of privileged folks on campus like this, and getting the opportunity to play music of the masters — of American music from the likes of James Brown and Stevie Wonder to jazz greats, and all the way up to what music is trending in pop culture,” says Adams. “We discuss, ‘What does it mean to have a career in music? What does it mean to make money doing music? And what does it mean if we decide not to monetize that?’”

The concerts are free, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Masks will be required indoors for all guests, regardless of vaccination status. To see the most up-to-date COVID requirements, visit the school’s website on the day of the show.

Kent Denver School’s holiday concerts will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 1, through Friday, December 3, in the Anschutz Family Theatre at the school, 4000 East Quincy Avenue, Cherry Hills Village. For more information, visit the Kent Denver website.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.