Music is one of the world's great unifiers. It brings people together from all walks of life to listen to songs and artists that resonate individually and collectively. Artists connect with their fans and communities when they see how their music makes people move and feel. Both the experience of both playing and attending live music performances were halted dramatically when the global pandemic hit in March 2020. Shortly after, Stephen Brackett was appointed as the Colorado Music Ambassador, tasked with not only being the spokesperson for the music industry in Colorado, but also bringing music to communities in times of need. And, given the state of the world, there is unfortunately a lot of need.
As we enter the third year of the pandemic, Brackett continues to hear concerns from musicians about whether it is safe or not to gather for concerts. While last summer provided a period when concerts felt safe as vaccination rates increased and infection rates dropped, musicians are once again feeling despair as we continue to live with so much uncertainty, including the precarity of large, indoor venues. Musicians are left without an outlet to reach their community, and fans are left desperate for spaces to process their pain and suffering with the help of music and connecting with others. As a result, Brackett’s north star is figuring out how to bring music to people during times of tumult and isolation.
As the Colorado Music Ambassador, Brackett has found innovative ways to bring music to communities in a safe way. When it was deemed unsafe to gather in crowded concert venues, Brackett looked for open spaces for people to hear live music while socially distanced and offered “quarantine shows” to private housing complexes and retirement homes. These intimate performances were held in communal courtyards enabling residents to listen from their homes and balconies. These shows not only created opportunities for musicians to perform during a pandemic, but also increased accessibility to people who might not otherwise attend concerts, pandemic or not.
The isolation and uncertainty has certainly taken a toll on youth, especially on their mental health. Toward the end of 2020, seven students in Northeastern Colorado died by suicide in a span of a couple months. The community was left searching for ways to bring people together to grieve, destigmatize asking for help, and celebrate the lives lost. The superintendent of the Brush School District called Brackett to help bring a music component to the Sources of Strength teen suicide prevention program. The collaboration resulted in a music showcase that helped elevate the conversation of teen suicide prevention and provided the opportunity for the community to process the collective pain and loss it experienced. Brackett hopes to replicate this showcase across the Eastern Plains and other parts of the state.
Before Brackett’s music ambassadorship term ends, he plans to tackle another challenge facing the music community: women safety. Brackett has heard from women concert-goers and musicians about how they feel unsafe or were assaulted while attending or performing at concerts. Brackett plans to engage local venues in issuing pledges to acknowledge predatory behaviors at concerts and find ways to make them safer.
Brackett uses his platform to advocate and uplift people through music, and he has embraced the challenge and urgency to support the music community and help those who are suffering and in need of connection. “It has been an honor to collaborate with other leaders as we address our pain and visualize unity,” he said. Serving as Colorado Music Ambassador during the pandemic has given Brackett a clear direction and he is thankful for the clarity this moment has brought to him.
Outside of his ambassadorship, Brackett is the emcee of the band Flobots and is the Co-Founder and Director of Innovation and Incubation of Youth on Record, a nonprofit organization that connects underserved youth with local, professional artists to help achieve their academic and artistic goals. Brackett was also featured as one of Westword’s Nine People to Watch in Denver’s Culture Scene in 2021. Colorado, the music community, and music lovers, are fortunate to be supported by Brackett during times when we need music the most.