Right above The Black Box nightclub, at 314 East 13th Avenue, there is a tiny room, barely accessible through a hobbit-sized doorway. Many venue owners would have used the space for storage or blocked the room off entirely. But venue owner Nicole Cacciavillano, who once worked as a public-school teacher, had bigger plans.
"Because of my teacher background, teaching is in my blood, so when we got this space, we had this room upstairs that we would never use for anything else," she explains. "It made sense to turn it into a studio."
Long before finding a career in underground electronic music, Cacciavillano taught at-risk youth and helped them find work. Her passion for underground music and running a venue eventually won out over her love for teaching, but her passion for reaching kids and spreading information never went away. She saw the run-down space as a perfect site to offer education.
The Black Box team renovated it, redoing the bathroom, fixing holes in the ceiling and eventually outfitting the area with bass traps, diffusers and soundproof padding to make the room an ideal space for producing and teaching workshops in underground bass music.
"Big picture, we are gonna utilize the whole venue for teaching," Cacciavillano says. "It will be Black Box Studio and Career Exploration. These days in the music industry, there aren't a lot of places where you can take a class that leads to a career."
Upstairs, in the studio itself, is where music-focused classes will be held. The plan is to host four to five small classes at a time in eight-week sessions. The studio is outfitted with a professional computer and production software, and local DJs and producers will be the teachers. Downstairs, students will learn to hone their DJ skills and test out their tunes on a state-of-the-art sound system.
The studio will also offer master classes with DJs who are here on tour, VJ lessons for those who want to learn how to blend visuals with music, and even art lessons.
"Kids can take these classes, learn how to make a tune, and then they get to perform," Cacciavillano explains. "We can put on a special event for the kids, and they get to have a performance after the lessons. Hopefully, it will spark some interest and they'll continue to better themselves."
Cacciavillano is offering scholarships through a partnership with the Denver Music and Arts Grant program. Each class will have one free slot that allows for a scholarship student to attend.
The studio will also be open to those who know how to produce but need a professional space to work on their craft.
"Once we get the schedule up, we will also offer open studio time that will be a part of our schedule," she says. "The benefit of our space is that Sundays and Mondays, when the venue is dark, we can still be doing something. We want to establish that sense of community, have people up there being creative and expressing themselves. We want open studio time as well as space for people who want to take lessons. One thing we did when we purchased all the equipment up there was made sure it wasn't stuff the normal producer would have in their house.
"We want this to be a space for everybody," Cacciavillano adds.
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