By Sarah Harvey | Art By Book Williams, Jr. | Photos by Giles Clasen
This month the Denver Public Library will put on a free early morning concert for the folks in line waiting for the library to open. The idea is to brighten the day of anyone who happens to be waiting outside the library’s Central branch on Sept. 8—including people experiencing homelessness and poverty.
Earlier this year DPL made headlines when it became one of a handful of libraries in the country to hire a full-time social worker. This month’s concert is another example of the thoughtfulness behind DPL’s efforts to serve its customers. If it goes well, it could become a recurring event next year.
Simone Groene-Nieto, a librarian in the Central branch’s Community Technology Center, and members of the band Piper Cub spoke to the Denver VOICE about the plans for the inaugural concert. Piper Cub consists of Brandi Shigley, Daniel Morgan, and Austin Pulford.
How did the Library come up with the idea for the concert?
Simone Groene-Nieto: At a meeting of Engage library programmers we were talking about what we could do at Central for the folks who spend a lot of time here and a concert was suggested. A lot of programs for low-income customers focus on meeting needs—and while that is very important, it’s also important to lighten up and have a little joy every once and a while. This concert is our attempt at bringing some light-hearted fun into the everyday world.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Engage library programmers?
SGN: Engage is a cross-system team of library staff (mainly librarians and para-professionals) who coordinate programs for adults and families mainly at the branch libraries, though we do occasionally do programs at Central as well. Any program that happens at a branch is an Engage program—think knitting, crafts, gardening, film, food and wellness; think author visits, social events, book clubs, and tech classes. The sky’s the limit when it comes to what Engage programmers can dream up for their customers!
What was the planning process like? Was it difficult to secure permission for the concert?
SGN: Ha! Not at all. Planning happened entirely over email with [a] small team of interested people making sure that a band was selected, some PR was whipped [up], and that the facilities crew knows what kind of set-up to do. And that’s about it!
Why did DPL decide to hold the concert in the morning?
SGN: Depending on the day, there can be up to 50 people waiting outside the library doors on Broadway before we open at 10:00 in the morning. This is a diverse crowd—some are people experiencing homelessness, some are commuters, others are probably just anxious to pick up their holds. We figure, since there’s already a crowd assembled, why not put on an event for them?
How did you find the band?
SGN: Piper Cub is the newish folk-pop musical project of Brandi Shigley and her two co-conspirators, Daniel Morgan and Austin Pulford. Brandi [is] a big supporter of the library and is passionate about equality…Brandi has phenomenal energy and is just what you need to start your morning off right.
Brandi Shigley and I have collaborated on a number of projects over the years, both for the library and also independently. She is very much a woman-about-town (she knows everyone, is involved with everything). Brandi is the head of Fashion Denver and also Do What You Love, which are business seminars inspiring creative types to pursue their dreams in a sustainable way that brings in income. Brandi’s energy is highly infectious and she is also a huge fan of the library, so I was quite pleased to book her and her bandmates for the gig.
Piper Cub, why did you decide to take this gig? Have you given a performance like this before?
Piper Cub: Playing the Sunrise Concert fits into who we are as people and as a band. Being given the opportunity to play a unique concert like this was one we didn’t want to turn down, especially after learning all it would entail. For us, the unorthodoxy of the concert was intriguing. Additionally, it’s really a privilege to be able to use music to bring smile and people together.
Brandi, I heard that you spent your most recent birthday making and handing out sack lunches to people on the streets. Is homelessness a cause that resonates with you and the rest of the band? What other volunteering do the members of Piper Cub do?
Brandi Shigley: For my 40th birthday, I wanted to do something different than the usual bar / hangout birthday, so I invited my closest friends over and we made more than 90 lunches and fed the homeless. It opened up my eyes and taught me a lot. I realized that having compassion can create simple change and simple change can make a difference!
For us, homelessness is something that’s hard to ignore here in Denver. While we aren’t a band that focuses on it, we are a band that wants people (homeless or not) to have fun coming to our concerts. If we have the opportunity to use our music to put some smiles on peoples’ faces, then let’s do it!
Daniel and Austin both work at Davis Partnership Architects, which annually volunteers at Denver’s Project Homeless Connect. The event last year was an awesome and energizing experience to be part of here in Denver.
What plans does DPL have for future concerts?
SGN: Every summer, the downtown library has an indoor summer music series, and there are periodic concerts throughout the year (especially during the holidays). This is the first Sunrise Concert we’re doing, and if it goes well we might consider turning it into a fair-weather series—but no promises on that yet! ■
What: Sunrise Concert featuring Piper Cub
When: Tuesday Sept. 8 at 9:00 am
Where: Main entrance of the Central library on the Broadway side of the building.
ALL library programs are free and open to the public, and there’s something going on almost every day of the year at Central.
Check denverlibrary.org/events for more info.