On-air with DIME Denver


Posted Tue, May 9, 2017

“If you want to be a musician that makes money…focus on the music that people listen to. — James Ashbury [Photo: Montana Martin]

DENVER, Auraria Campus – You can’t teach rock ‘n’ roll. But at DIME, they’re showing Metro State University of Denver’s students how to turn it into a career.

Rooted in modern and commercial music theories, DIME Denver offers an alternative to MSU Denver’s traditional music program degrees (Classical, World and Jazz).

“DIME Denver focuses on stuff you hear on the radio,” says James Ashbury, pop-up shop manager and head of student recruitment at DIME Denver. “If you want to be a musician that makes money, it’s gonna be a lot easier for you if you focus on the music that people listen to.”

Ashbury himself is a graduate from the European equivalent to DIME, The British and Irish Modern Music (BIMM), both of which were founded by Kevin Nixon and Sarah Clayman. After creating “the place” to study music in Europe, Nixon and Clayman moved their mission of getting people involved and interested in music over to America by founding the Detroit Institute of Music Education.

Growing Pains

Although DIME Detriot has had its time to establish their presence in the community these last few years, DIME Denver is still a young program of only six months. With their focus currently in community building, the DIME Denver team frequently attends local shows to network and establish their relevance in the scene.

“We want to become a part of the community,” says Ashbury. “We’ve got a following just from creating something organically.”

At DIME, it’s about learning how to apply your musical “chops” on a practical level. Ashbury speaks to the instantaneous, and sometimes random nature of the music industry. He’s seen people get signed in their first semester with the program, which is why it’s designed to prepare students to take on any opportunity that comes their way, right away. It scares Ashbury thinking of his students coming out of the university not knowing what to do next.

“We don’t want that to happen at DIME,” says Ashbury. “We teach you about the music business from day one.”

But success within the program isn’t measured by how many tickets their students are selling for their shows. It’s all about how much their students are doing with their skills, and getting them to a point where everything they’re doing is based around music.


“Where a lot of musicians go wrong is that they just do their band. You can do your band, but at the same time, you can teach, you can write, you can work at a shop,” Ashbury says.

They need their students know that they don’t have to work in a restaurant to make money, and play in their band on the side.

“It just doesn’t have to be like that.”

But they’re not looking for just bands and performers. Matt Shurban, who works at DIME as the website manager and digital design lead, has a deep connection to music. With Shurban’s passion for music and a background in graphic design, he’s made the album artwork for many musicians, including some for Ashbury’s band, Wildflowers. But Shurban is not a musician.

More Than Passion

And unfortunately, the process to be accepted into any of DIME’s programs includes an interview and audition, just as the case for any of MSU Denver’s music degrees. According to DIME’s website, “The assessment consists of demonstrations of performance, musicianship, composition/improvisation, and accurate understanding of musical terminology and notation.”

“There’s so many people that are really passionate about music, but don’t want to do music,” says Ashbury. “Even our music industry studies course you have to be musical. It’s not fair, really.”

But it’s important to keep in mind that this is just the beginning for the program. From graphic designers, media consultants and video teams, DIME Denver plans to be a one-stop hub for all things music in the local scene.

“We’ve got a load of ideas. We’ve just got to get this started first!”

If you’re interested in studying with DIME Denver, auditions are held every Friday in the basement of the Tivoli from 10-6 p.m. Email jamesashbury@dime-denver.com, or call (303)-623-1600 to schedule an appointment and learn more about the programs they offer.

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