July 2005 CJA Network Newsletter Feature Interview I

Vocalist/Trumpet/Band Leader for the Denver Mile High Orchestra

Denver Bierman

When and why did you start developing a love for Jazz music?

Denver: I started to love jazz and specifically Big Band music in 7th grade....I was a trumpet player in my Junior High Jazz band, and got to play a solo in our first concert....after that, I was hooked!!

Did you study Jazz music formally? I know you received a scholarship to attend Belmont University. Are there professors at Belmont that are into Jazz?

Denver: I was a trumpet major at Belmont University in the school of music. I did the best I could at jazz and improvisation. I played lead trumpet in the Belmont University Jazz Ensemble for 3 years. Dr. Jeff Kirk was the instructor of that group, and he also was the head of the Commercial Music Program at Belmont University. He has been nominated for Grammy Awards for his own jazz albums, and is an amazing teacher of jazz!

Who are some of the Big Bands you have listened to that you really admire?

Denver: I love Frank Sinatra, Harry James, Harry Connick Jr, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, and Glen Miller was pretty amazing, too!

There is an very substantial increased amount of interest in Christians listening to Jazz music. I found some very insightful words on your web site where you were introducing one of your Christian Jazz CD’s…"Christian music is presently starving for something, new, fresh, and exciting. Please expand on this.

Denver: Our band has all these components in our Big Band sound! I love all styles of Christian Music. There are so many incredible artists writing and singing incredible songs. But much of what is out there today stylistically sounds very similar. We have people coming up to us all the time saying, "I've never liked big band jazz before, but I sure like you!". We've worked very hard to make our sound very unique, upbeat, and high energy. I'm very thankful that this music resonates with our listeners in a fresh and exciting way!

We have found that there are multitudes of people who share your feelings about the present state of much of the CCM being produced today. People are burnt out on hearing the same thing over and over and find Jazz to contain refreshing elements that incorporate a variety of stylistic elements. You know a little, “Tower Of Power Funk”, Latin Jazz, Swing, whatever. What are your thoughts about this?

Denver: The public will let you know what they want. I do hear comments like this all over the country all the time. My personality gets too bored with the same thing over and over...that's why our DMHO Big Band albums have a lot of variety on it. We also have so many people now that did not grow up with with Funk, Latin, or Swing music being prominent in commercial music, and they find our music and very new, and exciting sound.

I noticed that your band is booked solid in churches all over… please share with our readers how churches are receiving the Big Band jazz that you play at churches. Do you find that when you play in churches that you come up against a mentality about jazz, that it’s not “spiritual” music?

Denver: The response we receive at churches all over the country is incredible! Many times I feel we don't deserve the overwhelming response we have! I don't ever come up against a mentality that jazz isn't spiritual music...I think that if our band had been around 15 to 20 years ago, we may have heard that. But Christian music has changed so rapidly in recent years, that I feel most folks are excited to see a style of music that has mainly been only for secular music finally being sung and performed within the church!

Share with our readers a typical concert at a church and what you try to focus on when planning your music for a concert?

Denver: Our concerts at churches are very high energy, full of fun, entertainment, and excellent music to the best of our ability. But our main focus is always on giving a very clear message of the gospel of Christ, and presenting the tremendous impact that God has had on our lives as musicians, and more importantly as people in need of God's power and grace. I usually speak for a few minutes towards the end of our concerts, and I'm always in awe of how God is moving and working in people's hearts and lives.

Denver, I think it’s exciting to find other Christians who either have a Big Band or are participating in one! I recently came across an excellent Big Band from Australia,“OnFire Big Band", and a very hot Big Band out of Chicago playing Latin Jazz, “Angel Melendez and the 911 Mambo Orchestra” (both who recently joined the CJA Network!) In fact the Big band from Australia mentioned that they had been on the CJA Network site to locate Big Band charts…do you write the charts for the DMHO and are they available for purchase?

Denver: Yes! I write most of the songs we record, and I write all of the arrangements and orchestrations for the band and our recordings. All of our arrangements that we have copyrights for (songs that I compose, and songs that are public domain) are available for sale on our website, (which is www.denvermho.com)

Do you play at your concerts most of your own original material or do you cover other charts and arrangements as well?

Denver: Well, it takes me so long to write the arrangements, and also because we have more than 70 original songs and arrangements, we do our own stuff almost all the time.

Does most of the music you play in churches contain vocals?

Denver: Yes. All of our songs contain vocals. I've played with the idea of maybe doing some all instrumental Big Band arrangements at some point.....I'm sure we will someday.

Do you find a spiritual connection in playing and writing music?

Denver: Of Course! Especially since the music I am writing is about my Lord and Savior. It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to write, record, and perform music for my God...one that I don't deserve, but one that I cherish!

What is one of your favorite church hymns and why?

Denver: I love the hymn "The Solid Rock". We have a very upbeat and fun arrangement of the song. But more than that, I love the message. Our Lord never changes, and is a sure foundation. Anything else in this world is sinking sand. I love it!

 Share with us a verse or passage from the Bible that has helped shape
and influence your outlook on playing music.

Denver: Psalm 33:3 says to play skillfully and shout with joy unto the Lord. I love that there is a command to play skillfully and LOUD for the Lord. To the best of our ability, (I know that we have the really loud part down!!) we try to do this as a band every time that we have the opportunity to share our music and message of our Lord and Savior!

 More information on Denver & The Mile High Orchestra can be found here: