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OUR MISSION & VISION

Our purpose is to create experiences of connectedness, learning, and joy through the language of acoustic music.

We envision Salt Lake City as a hub for world class acoustic music. We accomplish this by building a healthy community-oriented ecosystem that’s accessible for all.

OUR OBJECTIVES

EDUCATION

A strong and connected music scene starts with education. From elementary school students through adult beginners, from professionals to audience members — we are working to deepen our communities’ ties to music through continuing education on every level.

MENTORSHIP

The best way to learn music is to play with more experienced players than yourself. We strive to create these opportunities both on and off the bandstand. By pairing aspiring musicians with veteran players we can create the highly impactful and deeply motivating musical experiences that start careers.

OPPORTUNITY

We are creating opportunities to connect, learn, and progress that are accessible for all. We believe everyone should have opportunities to participate regardless of their experience, background, sexual-orientation, identity, religion, or color of their skin.

COMMUNITY

Not everyone needs to aspire to be a professional musician. We aim to build a strong community through the connective and joyful power of music. We invite people to come as they are and find community in music.

VISIBILITY

Through strong community engagement, excellent production and management, and a commitment to professionalism, we aim to put Utah on the map for having a top-tier music scene.

OUR PROGRAMS

We bring together community engagement, music education, artist development, and global reach through accessible acoustic music programs.

Sound Waves

HHW SWING ORCHESTRA

TRASHMOON COLLECTIVE

SWING COLLECTIVE

WESTMOON RECORDS

Sound Waves

HOT HOUSE WEST
SWING ORCHESTRA

TRASHMOON
COLLECTIVE

SWING
COLLECTIVE

WESTMOON
RECORDS

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OUR IMPACT

103

MUSICIANS EMPLOYED IN 2023

On both the student and professional level,

we paid 103 musicians in 2023.

150

COMMUNITY EVENTS

Across our programs we hosted 150 public performances, workshops, jams, dances, and video shoots.

500

VOLUNTEER HOURS

 From administration to events and everything in between, we’ve made extraordinary connections with the community through volunteer engagement.

MUCH LIKE THE FREEZE FRAME MOMENT OF MANY 80'S COMEDIES, I BET YOU'RE WONDERING HOW WE GOT HERE?

  • The legend begins with our Executive Director, Nathan Royal, a budding young guitarist working out “Stairway to Heaven” in his Alaskan childhood home. For years, he explored the instrument alone until the day he discovered the local bluegrass scene. Suddenly he found himself in a circle of friends in the woods, picking tunes and sharing laughs. Thus began Nathan’s lifelong love of acoustic music and its connective power.

     

    Hot House West was first formed as a student ensemble at the University of Utah, a humble collection of young musicians with a shared passion for the music of Django Reinhardt. This passion was permanently instilled in them from a singular moment—seeing Frank Vignola, a virtuoso of Reinhardt’s acoustic guitar style, perform in Salt Lake City as part of the former JazzSLC series. The series’ founder, Gordon Hanks, saw two young guitar students excited to see a master of their instrument perform before them. Hanks ushered these two students to the front row so they could absorb the music as fully as possible. In one instant, jazz offered the same love for acoustic guitar and friendship as the string bands of Alaska. This moment is what led those two guitarists, our very own Nathan Royal and James Martak, to form Hot House West the very next day.

     

    In its start, the ensemble was just a band trying to navigate the ins and outs of the music industry: two newly graduated musicians on a path of discovery. Nathan and James traveled the world in pursuit of more knowledge. They studied in France and Belgium, the birthplace of Django’s signature style, and attended acoustic music festivals all across the United States and Europe. As they cut their teeth, the pair inevitably found themselves time and again circled in the woods, acoustic guitars in their hands, learning together.

     

    Ever ambitious, they brought this knowledge home and grew the band. Personnel changed, arrangements evolved, gigs ramped up, contracts were written and revised, tours were scheduled, records were pressed, and after a decade of dedicated work, Hot House West was a successful local band.

     

    Then the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country, and Hot House West was in limbo. As gigs were put on pause, the band was left to reflect on their journey. A singular gesture of kindness spawned a decades-long career. The impact of one decision was immeasurable. The question now was how could the band give back? How could Hot House West have more impact?

     

    As the band thought about the ways in which they could have an impact of their own, a new voice joined the discussion. David Baker moved to Utah to start teaching at Utah Valley University and quickly joined the ranks of Hot House West as their new bassist. One summer day, Nathan and David went for a hike in the Wasatch and dreamed big:

    What if we made the band bigger? Imagine how many more people we could interact with! We could build in mentorship opportunities and really establish a healthy culture around growth. Oh, and what if we really put attention on engaging the audience and helping them have fun? I think we could really start to build a scene that’s not only supporting acoustic music, but excited about it. That community love and support is what led us here in the first place! How do we capture the stoke of being here, on a mountaintop together, dreaming about how we can accomplish massive goals, and share it with our community? How do we revitalize the scene in the spirit of swing music and string bands? How do we make Salt Lake City the best place on planet Earth to experience acoustic music? 

     

    The questions flowed and the answer was obvious: Hot House West needed to become a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. 

     

    In order to really impact the community, it needed to be owned by the community. We started the Swing Orchestra the very same day. As we threw open the doors of collaboration there was an almost instantaneous spark — a newfound energy in the scene. People were hungry to connect, to play, to laugh, to dance, to groove, to practice, to perform, to give and to share. We rapidly discovered an increasing number of perspectives and opportunities. 

     

    While the connective power of the Swing Orchestra was clear, it wasn’t enough. We needed to bring the energy we were finding there to every corner of the valley. We needed to embrace the acoustic string band experience of being circled in the woods and connecting through song. 

    With the help of our friend Melissa Chilinski (one of our new found collaborators) we kicked off the Trash Moon Collective and the Swing Collective programs. Both of these programs are focused directly on community development and engagement. 

     

    We are in the business of creating impactful experiences because we had a few and it spawned this whole journey. Where people take those? It’s up to them, but we believe in the power of moments. That’s why we create experiences of connectedness, learning and joy. May the stoke never die.

ADMINISTRATION

Guitar Strings
Nathan Royal with Guitar

NATHAN ROYAL

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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NICK MCMENAMIN

David Baker with Bass

DR. DAVID BAKER

DIRECTOR OF
PROGRAMS

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James Martak with Guitar

JAMES MARTAK

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

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Melissa Chilinski and Mountains

MELISSA CHILINSKI

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

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Hayley Kirkland Headshot

HAYLEY KIRKLAND

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION

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Damaris Kaiser Headshot

DAMARIS KAISER

BOOKING & EVENTS MANAGER

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Vincent Georgescu Headshot

VINCENT GEORGESCU

VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR

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ADMIN.png

NATHAN ROYAL

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

HAYLEY KIRKLAND

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION

JAMES MARTAK

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

DR. DAVID BAKER

DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS

MELISSA CHILINSKI

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

DAMARIS KAISER

BOOKING & EVENTS MANAGER

VINCENT GEORGESCU

VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR

BOARD MEMBERS 

Erica Marken Headshot

ERICA MARKEN

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NICK MCMENAMIN

David Baker Headshot

DR. DAVID BAKER

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Gordan Hanks Headshot

GORDAN HANKS

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Meg Peters with Guitar

MEG PETERS

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Erica Marken Headshot

ERICA MARKEN

Meg Peters with Guitar

MEG PETERS

Gordan Hanks Headshot

GORDAN HANKS

David Baker Headshot

DR. DAVID BAKER

Nathan Royal with Guitar

NATHAN ROYAL

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Hayley Kirkland Headshot

HAYLEY KIRKLAND

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION

James Martak with Guitar

JAMES MARTAK

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

David Baker with Bass

DR. DAVID BAKER

DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS

Melissa Chilinski and Mountains

MELISSA CHILINSKI

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Damaris Kaiser Headshot

DAMARIS KAISER

BOOKING & EVENTS MANAGER

Vincent Georgescu Headshot

VINCENT GEORGESCU

VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR

ERICA MARKEN

DR. DAVID BAKER

MEG PETERS

GORDAN HANKS

OUR SPONSORS

OUR PARTNERS