News / People

MBA grad Weingarden brings business degree to music biz

MBA grad David Weingarden applied his business degree to the music business in Denver. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Even after nearly two decades in the concert business, David Weingarden knew he still had more to learn. So the director of concerts at Denver’s roots and acoustic music outpost Swallow Hill enrolled in the executive MBA program at the Daniels College of Business. The 18-month series of classes for professionals with 10 or more years of experience helped fill the gaps in his knowledge and experience.

“I knew how to work a budget, but not really how it worked from a 30,000-foot view,” says Weingarden, 38, who graduated from the program in August 2011. “That really tipped the scales. In the business I’m in, I would really like to get a little more know-how and really understand how all these components work.

“Once I got in the program, it was amazing how much I didn’t know, how much I know now and how much I’ve used going through the program,” he continues. “I’ll use a lot of that going forward.  Many of the papers I had to do for class, I did on Swallow Hill Music. I was able to synthesize the course load into what I’m doing right now, which is terrific.”

Weingarden now uses terms like “brand equity” when he describes the growing scope of the 33-year-old Swallow Hill Music organization. Reaching beyond its home in a former church near South Broadway and East Yale Avenue, the nonprofit is now behind the summer concert series at the Denver Botanic Gardens, which in two years under Weingarden’s watch has welcomed names like Chris Isaak, B.B King, Natalie Cole and k.d. Lang to the 2,500-seat outdoor venue. Swallow Hill Music also puts on summer picnic concerts at Four Mile Historic Park in Glendale, and its annual RootsFest show has drawn legends such as David Crosby and Graham Nash and younger artists like Neko Case. The organization also co-produces three Old South Pearl Street Festivals every summer, which draw over 6,000 people each.

“We’re really getting out there into the community, where I think before we were a very insulated organization that just stayed over on Yale Street and didn’t necessarily expand outside of our borders,” Weingarden says. “We’re doing much more outreach now.”

A music-biz veteran who toured with ’90s bands like the Verve Pipe (“The Freshman”) and Tonic, worked at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall and managed male vocal ensemble Chanticleer, Weingarden moved to Denver in 2007, when his wife got a job with then-Mayor John Hickenlooper. After some networking on the local scene, he landed the director of concerts gig at Swallow Hill Music, which he thought could use a breath of fresh air.

“What I saw with the artists they were bringing in, it was sort of the same artists over and over again,” he says. “There were a lot of artists that had been in there for a long time and you had a bunch of young artists, and there was this big swath in the middle that needed to be dealt with. So I came in and broadened the scope. Since I’ve been there we’ve had some significant artists come in for underplays like Brandi Carlile, G. Love and Andrew McMahon from Jack’s Mannequin. We’re bridging the gap between the young and the old, and it’s expanded our reach.”

Weingarden knows that any edge he can give Swallow Hill Music in a music town like Denver is important. The competitive landscape here as a promoter, he says, is intense.

“But it’s intense for a reason — because people love to go see music in Colorado. It’s a pastime.”

His favorite part of working in the music business, he says, are the stories he hears.

“It’s sort of an insider’s view that you get,” he says. “Not only artist stories, but crew stories — these people are a nomadic tribe that are driving around our United States and elsewhere. It’s a very interesting lifestyle. When they get to your venue, they’re definitely chatty and they’ll tell you some pretty interesting things.”

Look for Swallow Hill on Facebook.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *