Mona Magno congregates a stronger artistic community
The term “Denver local” appears as a waning one with the city’s booming population. A nest of bunnies couldn’t keep up with the number of outsiders moving in every month. But Mona Magno may be one of the truest Denverites around. With her band Monalicious, her organization Free Music For Free People, Mona is one of Denver’s finest roots in the artistic community.
Born in Denver, Mona has been in the metro area her entire life. Introduced to music early, her mom bought her a guitar and lessons at 8. After plucking away for years, Mona really came into herself musically when she discovered her voice at 13. Playing in her high school talent show at St. Catherine’s of Siena with a group of friends (including Jordan Trani a.k.a Juice Box of Paradise), she remembers first opening her mouth to sing and being startled. Suddenly, possibilities rang out with her voice and everything became clear. “I fell in love with myself,” she stated. And certainly not in an egotistical way. Mona has a powerful do-it-yourself mentality and has been grinding ever since.
After continuing to develop her songwriting for the next few years, she became connected with Elias Garcia (now with Los Mocochetes) at a New Year’s Eve party, forming the band Cortical Fugal Network. Their band began to establish themselves in the Santa Fe Art District, partnering up with several art galleries. Eventually, this connected her to the Denver Art Society.
Mona had been planning an in-state tour at only 17, forming her own band, Mona and The Universe, in 2013. “The whole roadmap became clear,” she said, “I was captivated by the process of planning.” From the songwriting to the merch and posters, she was absorbed with creating her own artistic identity. But as she worked away, she realized she was limited and thought, “if I was representing a larger group of people, then I could do more.” That same year, from her dream to the now multifaceted organization, Free Music For Free People (FM4FP) was born.
With expanding branches of Free People TV, event planning, and most recently Free People Records, FM4FP is a fulcrum of Denver’s artistic community. The media organization helps facilitate up-and-coming artists in creative development, marketing and promotion, and, chiefly, a community to integrate with.
Free People Records released their first compilation album in 2019 and was released physically with a deck of cards—each card featuring an emerging musician of the project. Starting this year, a new concept album is underway. The project will feature a different group of local artists unified for a one-track band with a documentary covering the process of drawing inspiration and creating. The project seeks to highlight different artists’ backgrounds, cultures, struggles, and their manifestation into the artwork.
One of FM4FP’s most unique programs is the “Live From The Multi-Verse” showcase hosted at Mercury Café. After a three year hiatus, Mona renewed the showcase and created an internship opportunity to show people how she puts on the event. It’s an “immersive, musical, theatrical experience,” she explains. Freshly inspired by Meow Wolf, people enter an interdimensional, interactive art show that has a story. Local poet James Scott described it as “an intergalactic garage sale.” It’s a smorgasbord of creatives in a space to match it.
Outside of her own organization, Mona also runs FEMpowered, a program of Youth on Record that features young female musicians of Denver between ages 14-21. After being one of the program’s first features, she was asked to get involved once they realized who she was. In 2018, she was asked to run it—the job has been “such a dream,” she says.
Just as Mona has seen rapid growth, she’s watched her city see the same: “As a native, I’ve seen a lot of growth. Some of it’s been exciting, some of it uncomfortable.” For 12 years, Gypsy House Café was a second home for many in Capitol Hill. FM4FP put on numerous events there. “It was madness and the most beautiful thing ever,” she said, but after the building was sold, the cafe was shut down. Mona and many were disheartened by the news as “an urban community lost a safe place to be.” The café was finally able to reopen on South Broadway, but it was forced far from the community it helped establish.
Of course, Denver’s exploding population has also been positive. Ultimately, it’s reciprocal—new people offer different perspectives and Denver offers them new opportunities. “We get to see that we are similar, and that the differences are worth celebrating,” Mona says, “I’m excited to be a part of it but also advocate for the original essence of Denver.”
Just blocks from where she was born, Mona has made a real community. The space has been so nurturing to her development, coming into her music and her own person. And now artists around Denver that she deeply admires support her vision without question. They want to be a part of it—they believe in her. Practical and confident, she knows she has what it takes to run the show solo, but she cares about people as much as the music.
FM4FP is about giving everyone the chance to bring their skills and passions to the community. “Each one of us has an inner fire that is fueled by things that inspire us,” the fire to want to create, to love, to truly engage with the world. Mona is dedicated to “creating experiences where people can stoke that fire.” Whether it was the community, a space to share their work, or inspiration, Mona magnetizes people and curates possibilities for them by being together.
“The world is super depressing sometimes,” she says. It’s easy to feel defeated, but that’s why she’s built FM4FP, “a platform for different worldviews to be heard.” For all those who do feel lost and uncertain, Mona encourages taking out a piece of paper, and simply writing what it is someone wants and why. In a world of comforts it’s easy to lose a sense of mortality, which while seemingly frightening is also invigorating. So Mona says to find what it is that fuels one’s fire and inspires one to take action: “in the end all we have is our impact, so be intentional.”
For more information go to: www.fm4fp.com