With the help of a friend, RAMP gives Fort Collins youth musicians a voice

Vince Burkardt speaking with a microphone.

RAMP founder Vince Burkardt speaks at Everyday Joe’s July 11 before the Local Showcase No. 5. The event featured four local youth acts.

The Rising Artist Mentorship Program, or RAMP, helps young Fort Collins musicians play shows, get on the radio and record professional quality songs, but it might not have happened if not for an inexperienced Pennsylvania man’s move to Fort Collins.

Vincent Burkardt, 49, had never been a radio host before moving to Fort Collins a little more than four years ago but, when he was asked to take over “The Kids Show” on KRFC, he decided to take the job. After renaming the show several times and expanding the scope of the program slowly over several years, his once a week radio show has turned into something much bigger.

“We’re looking at using music to celebrate music, to celebrate community and to bring people together and, to be in the middle of some of that stuff, it’s kind of like living the dream,” said Burkardt.

As the founder and executive director of RAMP, Burkardt has started setting up shows in Northern Colorado that feature only youth music acts. So far, he has not had any problems finding acts to play.

“The level of musicianship I’ve seen the past four years in Fort Collins is rather astonishing,” Burkardt said.

There are a large number of talented musicians in the region and Burkardt said that connecting these musicians to each other is another benefit of RAMP.

“It seemed to be helping out for a few weeks because we played a show and it was cool getting to meet local youth bands,” said Keaton Nalezny, local musician and former RAMP act.

While Nalezny’s band Savage Cabbage has decided to work outside the program, more acts are playing local showcases every year. The radio show, however, still remains the heart of the program.

The hour-long show, which airs on Mondays at 7 p.m. and is now called the “International Emerging Artist Showcase,” gives local kids the opportunity to get interviewed and play songs on-air. The program, though, has become much broader in scale recently.

Twice a month, during the first half of the show, Burkardt and a local act get interviewed by a radio host in Melbourne, Australia as part of a program called Music Matters. The program is a two-way collaboration, as the Australian station holds a youth music competition, called International Quest, where the winning acts get to play on the show.

Burkardt also sets up interviews for youth acts on other local radio stations, though. One of those stations is Colorado State University’s student-run radio station KCSU. Eric Bell has been one of the DJs to host interviews for RAMP acts during the past two years and said he has been impressed with Burkardt’s enthusiasm.

“He always puts in an effort and he really has a passion about what he’s doing,” said Eric Bell, a DJ for KCSU.

Bell met Burkardt in high school while playing in a local band and, when he saw he had opportunity to work with him and RAMP, he jumped at the chance to be part of the program.

Always trying to find new ways to promote RAMP, Burkardt is in the process of creating a CD, called “Rise Volume 1,” that will include several RAMP acts. No matter how well the CD is received, how many people listen to his show or how many people come to the local showcases, though, Burkardt said it is the feedback that keeps pushing him forward.

“Talking to the musicians, talking to the parents, talking to the local music teachers and mentors that are in town, lets me know that I’m definitely on the right path with this,” said Burkardt.

Two people perform onstage.

Local act The Jam Jars, Phoebe Troup and Everitt Merritt, perform at Everyday Joe’s July 11.

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