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One of Kelly Waltrip’s favorite memories is from when the Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) performed at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall in June 2016.

“It was spectacular,” Waltrip said, executive director of DYAO, “and the best I have ever heard them play.”

What is DYAO? Waltrip calls the DYAO group a “conservatory orchestra.”

“We provide high-quality music educational experiences for children all over the Front Range,” she said, “about 250 kids ages 7 to 23.”

Waltrip said about one-third of the students go on to study music very seriously; about one-third study something else and music, and still get music scholarships; and one-third don’t choose to study music.

She added that 50% of the orchestra members go on to study in STEM fields and that some alumni can be found playing in the Colorado Symphony.

DYAO recently learned it was one of 49 recipients of a 2021-2022 Denver Music Advancement Fund grant, under the Denver Music Strategy via Denver Arts & Venues.

DYAO was awarded a $7,500 grant. The timing couldn’t have been better, Waltrip said, because the orchestra was preparing for its Feb. 20 DYAO Spectacular performance at Boettcher Hall in a collaboration with the Japanese Arts Network.

The show included performers from two drummer groups and, in particular, a special performance that was based on the U.S. government placing Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II.

“What we really appreciate about this grant program is that it allows organizations like DYAO to stretch and take some artist risks,” Waltrip said, “and encourages collaboration with groups you might not see together.”

The 2021-2022 Denver Music Advancement Fund grants totaled $457,000 — both figures are record highs — with many grants ranging between $5,000 and $10,000.

According to a news release, the funds were granted in a variety of categories which included music performances, networking opportunities for musicians, educational opportunities for children, community workshops, podcasts, videos, magazines and more.

Denver Arts & Venues launched this grant program in 2018 as part of the Denver Music Strategy. The idea is to honor diversity, helping youth, older adults, Black, Indigenous, Latinox/e, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, People of Color or of the global majority, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities and others.

The fund “supports initiatives that build a more equitable and connected city, drive economic vibrancy and create positive social change through music-centered programs,” states a news release.

The 18 people who select the grant recipients are music industry pros, said Lisa Gedgaudas, program manager for cultural affairs at Denver Arts & Venues.

A sampling of some of the grantees includes:

The American Indian Academy of Denver was awarded a $10,000 grant. This is a new charter school that will use the money to buy music equipment and to build an audio production program for its students.

Shining in the Shadows Inc. also received a $10,000 grant. This organization provides resources, education and a digital platform for incarcerated musicians.

Urban Peak got a $10,000 grant to go toward teenagers in transition from homelessness. Its Urban Peak Music Studio provides a drop-in music studio for creation and recording.

Rocky Mountain Public Media will use its $10,000 grant for its radio station called The Drop. The group is looking to hold a block party at Levitt Pavilion that represents queer, trans, Black, indigenous and People of Color “to increase racial equity in the media industry and on the stage and airwaves.”

The Denver Music Achievement Fund grant program is a continuing partnership with TakeNote Colorado, a “statewide initiative offering equitable access to musical instruments and instruction to K-12 students in Colorado.”

“Music programming remains a necessary and integral part of Denver’s cultural ecosystem,” Gedgaudas said in a news release. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Take Note Colorado and align our efforts here in Denver. Through these grants, we can continue to support diverse and accessible music programs.”