Rock stars like OneRepublic, the Fray, and the Lumineers aren’t used to waiting in line for much of anything. But when Denver’s new $2.2 million Youth Media Studio opens this month, those hometown musicians will have to get in line to use the cutting-edge recording space—behind 900 Denver Public School students.

The 5,000-square-foot studio—an idea developed by Youth On Record (YOR, formerly—provides a creative outlet and for-credit classes for kids in Denver’s La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood, where only 12 percent of residents have a high school degree, compared to 52 percent citywide. A 2006 Harris Interactive Poll (the most recent available) showed that schools with music programs graduated 90.2 percent of students, compared to 72.9 percent at schools without them. So YOR focuses on underserved neighborhoods in hopes of improving those numbers.

The studio is an extension of the YOR program, which began in 2008 when members of local rock and hip-hop group the Flobots recruited local DJs, rappers, and artists to impart their skills to students in public schools and youth residential treatment centers around Denver. “It’s going to be a huge breath of fresh air for the neighborhood,” says Adrian Molina, a local poet, rapper, and YOR partner artist.
The project is also part of the Denver Housing Authority’s Mariposa redevelopment, which aims to revitalize the low-income neighborhood. The studio will house everything from 27 Apple MacBook Pros for music production to a $10,000 Yamaha mixing board and high-end Allen Baca studio mics. Chart-toppers like the Fray have even talked about recording here when they’re in town—but only when the center isn’t being used by students like West Career Academy senior Alex Gilbert*. Gilbert started working with YOR in 2012, following a string of failed classes and two arrests. “I had a drug problem that went away very quickly after being involved with this group,” Gilbert says. “There wasn’t anything else like this in my life. I wouldn’t have continued high school if this program hadn’t been available.” Now, he’s on track to graduate in the spring.


90.2%: Graduation rate at Schools with music programs

*Not his real name.