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Meet Eapen Leubner of Denver Art Song Project in Denver and the Front Range

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eapen Leubner.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Eapen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
In 2014, I moved to Denver from Brooklyn. I was connected up with a variety of performing companies in the area including Boulder Opera, Central City Opera, Opera Colorado and more. As a classical singer, I saw that there seemed to be a gap in the market for professional art song performance.

In an effort to truly make Denver my home, I collaborated with Mallory Bernstein and Michael Bevers to create an art song album called, “A Single Step… Songs of Beethoven and Donaudy.” I slapped on the moniker “Denver Art Song Project” as a placeholder of sorts. We paired the creation of this album with some live performances to introduce audiences to us. While we promoted the album, we realized that by playing around with our style of performance, we were really connecting with these new audiences.

Let me digress for a moment, it is more than likely you may not know what an art song is. We introduce every show by giving a brief explanation. A lot of people say, “It’s like opera but…”. My ninth grade English teacher would fail me for that kind of definition. An art song is a poem set to music. But the most important thing is that, initially, these were meant to be performed in the home as pianos became readily available. It was a way to bring people together to perform for one another, talk about art and science and culture and maybe share a meal and a drink.

Denver Art Song Project has doubled down on that model. Our salon performances include a post-show reception where the audience can talk to the artists. Our performances include video and visual art components, an engaging narration and projected translations. Each show is designed to introduce a brand new art song listener to the genre and still be engaging for long-time fans.

We also create online performances on our YouTube Channel and Facebook page where we share the work of Colorado’s best professional musicians.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Since the art song genre is far less known than opera or oratorio, we have found that building an audience can be a real challenge. At first, our performances were sparsely attended and we used that as an opportunity to refine the way we perform and how we tell stories.

We have always found it challenging to find financial supporters outside of our very generous friends and small fan base.

As the founder, it’s amazing how people respond to this evolution. We’ve always found a way to make it work. We are all professional artists and at the end of the day, there is a thrill knowing that we have paid our them for their work.

As our performances and videos have evolved, we have seen tremendous support from the press in sharing our performances and online video projects.

Our album sales are still small but there are still people out there who love a good, old-fashioned CD.

By giving our audience a variety of ways to engage with us, we have found success and built a small but passionate fan base.

What else should our readers know?
We specialize in professional art song performance that is “high-brow accessible.” We love sharing a huge variety of art song with new audiences. We want to make sure that, no matter how new you are to the genre, you can walk out knowing something new about the songs, the artists and have an enriching artistic experience.

Denver Art Song Project is working to migrate from a sponsored artist of Fractured Atlas to a stand-alone non-profit. We are building out a five-year plan and we are figuring out how to create a sustainable business model. It sounds a little boring now that I see that on the page, but we know this small genre is the perfect fit for the internet, the short-attention-span world we live in.

Imagine, you spend 3-5 minutes listening to a song and hearing a short story. Art songs should be the “Driveway Moments” of the classical world. (Apologies to my good friends at Public Radio!).

It’s because of our expertise in the genre, our unbridled enthusiasm and our belief in art song as the classical genre of the future, that we believe we can turn all of our audience members into art song friends.

What were you like growing up?
Since I was ten, growing up in Rochester, New York, I’ve been a musician. I sang in a children’s choir and in fifth grade when kids teased me, I could respond, “Well, I got paid.” It silenced the critics!

One of things that has impacted my work with Denver Art Song Project more than anything else is my love for technology. When I was younger and had time, I loved video games and youtube videos. As a performer, I’ve found great happiness in sharing clips of my performances. Due to licensing and rights challenges, that can sometimes be hard to do with orchestra and opera performances. DASP and our approach to making videos has been transformative. I can make as much as I want and distribute it with the blessing of both public domain and living composers who love to see their music presented in a professional way via digital channels.

As a vocal artist, you have to have a “can-do”spirit and I like to think that I bring a positive, joyful attitude to most of my work. While that is part of who I am, I always think of an anonymous quote I heard, “The secret to being interesting is to be interested.” By embracing that, I’ve found that the art song genre has opened the door to friendships and discussions that I may not have found if I had focused on only being an opera singer. I do that too, but it’s nice to have more dimensions to my life.

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Image Credit:
Reception photos courtesy of Trevor Gass. Don Quixote in Music photos courtesy of Dace Carlin.

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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