Last Monday, as the sun dipped behind the mountains, Denver International Airport buzzed with electric energy. A kaleidoscope of individuals, all drawn by the allure of the Urban Alternative radio station conference (UAC23), converged on the scene. From Chicago to Houston, they arrived, ready to connect and learn. Inside the Buell Public Media Center in Denver, curiosity pulsed in the air. Guided tours unveiled the inner workings of the Rocky Mountain Public Media (RMPM) facilities and Urban Alt 104.7 THE DROP, transforming technical operations into a melodic dance of knowledge-sharing.

As the clock struck 5:00 PM, a transformation occurred. The open cocktail hour sparked connections, conversations, and friendships, the room resonated with laughter and the promise of things to come. A tapestry of visuals and music wove together, enveloping attendees in an otherworldly experience.  After an evening of inspiration, they loaded the bus and made the journey to Fort Collins.

The second day dawned with The Music District in Fort Collins as the stage. RMPM CEO Amanda Mountain and THE DROP/KUVO Jazz GM Nikki Swarn took the spotlight, orchestrating a discussion that encapsulated the essence of turning listeners into devoted members. From there, WNSB/Hot 91 Norfolk GM Maynard Scales and KTSU/The Vibe Houston GM Ernest Walker led a resonating roundtable, dissecting the delicate balance between underwriting, sponsorship, and the soul of radio stations.

Artistry took the reins during the afternoon, as Brittany Davis took the stage for a private performance. Her performance and dialogue with Julian Greene, Content Director at Carbon Sound Minneapolis, transported the audience into her world, where each note was a brushstroke on the canvas of emotion.

Dusk descended, and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam played host to an intimate dinner with special guest Brittany Davis. Conversations flowed freely as artists and station members exchanged stories and visions. With twilight came the eagerly anticipated Groundwaves session. Murs, west coast Hip Hop legend, mentored young Colorado rap artists, creating an electric atmosphere where music became a bridge between generations.

On the final day, UAC23 attendees gathered to break bread and experience the thrill of anticipation. Ellena Osis of Beggars Group unveiled forthcoming albums, an acoustic cascade that painted a vivid sonic landscape. C. Mitzi Sinnott of The Artists Thrive then took the stage, guiding participants through an interactive workshop. After another private lunch performance, this time by Emily King, the afternoon crescendo arrived in the form of local music incubators. Element Everest-Blanks of HYFIN Milwaukee ignited discussions with Murs and our hosts from The Music District that celebrated community impact models, demonstrating how radio transcends its frequency to forge real-world connections.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, the grand finale awaited. The historic Armory Theater in Ft. Collins transformed into a sanctuary of sound, hosting the NPR Live Sessions live stream from the Urban Alternative Showcase. The room pulsed with the rhythms of live music, uniting attendees and broadcasting the magic to a global audience.

UAC2023 was not just an event; it was a symphony of innovation, camaraderie, and sonic exploration. With the future of public radio’s attention on young and multi-ethnic audiences hanging in the balance, the only question we have left is, when are we doing this again?

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