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Legendary Black musician Charles Burrell honored through curriculum at Aurora school: "Be like Charlie"

Elevating Black Voices: Charles Burrell Visual & Performing Arts school celebrates musical legend
Elevating Black Voices: Charles Burrell Visual & Performing Arts school celebrates musical legend 02:05

On any given weekday, inside an Aurora classroom, you can find students producing their own masterpieces: from singing a cappella duets to scratching over beats, even creating music podcasts talking about their current favorite artists.

Each project encompasses the spirit of Denver musical legend Charles Burrell, as part of a school in his namesake.

"He broke the barrier," Burrell Arts Campus Principal Kurtis Quig described Burrell simply. "There are so many artists of color that didn't see themselves in that genre at all. He was able to have people follow him."

Burrell was the first Black member of an American symphony.

"He's 103 (years old), and he is feisty," laughed Quig. "He's got this passion for kids, this passion for the arts."

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Burrell Arts Campus

And, to this day, the community feels his impact. The Burrell Arts Campus is a magnet school, part of a larger campus through Aurora Central. 

Through a pathway system, high schoolers pave their path for the future with arts-integrated education.

"I run live shows," senior Vincent Lucero said proudly. "I can go and DJ. I sit there and chill. I listen, and then I come up with an idea to do something to the beat to make it sound better. It makes me want to come to school every day. I'm actually trying to get into CU Denver for their music program now."

One of Lucero's projects for the semester entailed creating his own beats.

"The beats were fire. Is that what they say?" asked CBS News Colorado's Mekialaya White.

"Yes! The beats were fire, lit," said Lucero.

Diego Armendariz is a freshman, just beginning his education through the Burrell School. 

"Music is always a big opportunity for me. I can learn different ways how to use my voice and uplift other people's voices and we can come together to do something big. I hope to be a part of this school's history. I want to do big things here and hopeful I can graduate as valedictorian," said Armendariz.

Staff members say helping students discover their potential makes their hearts sing.

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"It's fantastic and really fascinating to see the different styles of music they're working on. They come to me with an idea, and I am just a facilitator," teacher Joe Dellapenna said.

"Education is your biggest facet, and we want to facilitate that. We're trying to tell kids the world is open you have everything at your disposal, and we want to expose you so you can be like Charlie," added Quig.

Families in Aurora and all across the Denver metro area can apply to attend the Burrell Arts Campus. Learn more here

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