Championed by Oberlin Conservatory and Juilliard School-educated Founder CEO Linda Weise, the Colorado Springs Conservatory attracts and retains the nation’s finest arts educators. We have a deep and abiding respect for our faculty mentors and guest artists/lecturers who share with our students a gift for teaching and a deep passion for the arts.
Our teaching method is student-centric, offering a balance of peer-coaching, teacher mentoring, and performance, and Program Mentor Ian Gregory, embodies all of the elements of what we seek out in our world-class instructors and mentors.
Ian recently took some time out of his schedule as a guitar and recording arts mentor and local recording artist to share a bit about his musical upbringing, favorite elements of mentoring the younger generation, and his vision for the future of the music and art scene in Colorado Springs.
Ian, where are you from?
I was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up mostly in northwest Ohio. I moved to Colorado Springs with my family in 2007, right as I was entering high school. We didn’t know about the Conservatory then, but I sure wish we had!
When/Where/How did you learn guitar and recording arts?
I definitely grew up in a very musical household. My mom is a professional violinist who played in the Toledo Symphony for a number of years and taught lessons as well. She currently works in the music department at Colorado College. My dad worked in advertising but also wrote songs and is a creative person of many facets. I always considered him my music professor growing up because he introduced me to so much of the music that has inspired me throughout my life. In the early 90s, he had a friend in advertising who was also a music producer and had a home studio where they would record together. When I was 12, my dad put together our first home studio, realizing a long-time dream. This was right around the time I started playing guitar so I immediately began recording myself, realizing how bad I sounded, and working hard to get better! I wrote music all throughout high school with my brother Justin, who plays piano and sings but I don’t think I realized that I wanted to have a career in music until much later. I went to CSU in Fort Collins for 2 years and studied history, with the intent of being a high school teacher, before taking a year and a half off to make an album with Justin, but more on that story later…
How long have you been a mentor at Colorado Springs Conservatory?
I’ve been a mentor since February of 2020, so great time to start! Despite the challenges of COVID, however, I’ve really loved my time here!
What is the most rewarding part(s) of mentoring the younger generation in guitar and recording arts?
It’s honestly just a really inspiring and positive place to be. It’s amazing to see kids write and record songs for the first time and oftentimes it’s the most original music you’ve ever heard. It’s cool to see moments where all of the sudden something clicks and then they come back a week later with a song that completely blows your mind! I honestly feel like I learn just as much from them as they learn from me.
Why do you believe music and performance education are important?
Music is a way to engage with the world on a number of different levels. First, there is the obvious fact that every study shows music is beneficial for brain development. It forms important connections between different parts of the brain that have positive lifelong effects whether or not you pursue a career in music.
There is also the social element. When you play in an ensemble, everyone is connecting through the music and cooperating to create something beautiful, which is a good analogy for how society is supposed to work. I know personally some of my strongest friendships were built through the process of making music.
Finally, music is such a large part of one’s identity, and finding music that you really feel a connection with can give you a whole different perspective on the world.
Art in general means so much more than the thing itself. Art is about all of the big questions. It is about why we all get up in the morning and do what we do. Art throughout history has always played the role of reorienting and refocusing individuals and societies around shared values and meaning. Whatever you believe to be the answers to those questions, it’s clear we need to have those conversations in today’s world now more than ever.
What are some of your career highlights?
My brother Justin and I released our first album at the end of 2014. It’s called Escherscapes by Cotown Records and is available on all streaming platforms. We had four songs featured in a film that screened in hundreds of theaters worldwide and had the opportunity to intern with the film composer that was the music supervisor for the film.
Nevertheless, it felt like we hit a bit of a dead end after that and had a difficult time getting our music out there. I decided to finish my bachelor’s degree and worked in restaurants for several years to save money for studio gear.
In 2017 or so, we started getting heavily involved in the local music scene and over the next few years we produced music for close to 20 local artists and were a part of several bands. One of my favorite memories was producing an EP (Mudhouse EP) with Denver rapper Dylan Montayne and performing with him at Meow Wolf in Sante Fe among other places. I also played in a band with CSC mentor Juan Vargas called Juanah and produced our first EP (Limited Hours EP). It was through these experiences that I met many of the Conservatory Mentors, including David Musante, Jeff Grady, and Christina Wells. I also had the opportunity to produce an EP with Christina (CC and the Silhouettes – Love/Labor EP).
Over the past couple years I’ve done audio work for Simple Gift Series on PBS and other clients including the U.S. Olympic Committee, Pikes Peak Community College, and Bourbon Street Productions. I work frequently with Anthem Music Enterprises and am a part of the house band for the Urban Classic Series at downtown venue Epiphany. Justin and I are also working on some new music of our own that I’m excited to share soon!
Tell us a bit about 1116 studios!
1116 Studios started in January of 2019 and was just the next logical step for us (my brother Justin and I.) We were producing in a bedroom and recording drums in the living room and we realized that we were going to need a real studio if we were going to keep doing this, so we rented a space in the Ivywild area and haven’t looked back. The name comes from the fact that we both share the same birthday, two years apart (November 16). We are a full service recording studio and are open for business!
What are some of your favorite places and things to do in Colorado Springs? What are your favorite hobbies outside of music and why are they important in your life?
I enjoy hanging out with friends at places like Coati, Hillside Gardens, and Phantom Canyon. I love camping and snowboarding. I also am a huge fan of movies. To me, watching a movie feels like the equivalent of listening to a full album rather than just a single. In today’s day and age, it feels rare to do anything for an hour and a half without looking at a phone but a great movie is always a rewarding experience and a journey worth going on!
What is your vision for the future of music and the arts in the Springs?!
I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in the local scene over the past few years. There are a lot of talented young people too, and while many of them have their sights set on bigger cities, I hope that they will keep investing in the scene here as well. We may be a small scene but there are great people here that are working hard and creating unique stuff. I know that I would have a difficult time leaving because of so many of the friendships I’ve built here and I want to see things continue to grow and be a part of that growth!