We had the good fortune of connecting with Cristin Colvin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cristin, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The original purpose for beginning my business was just a starting point, and I’ve been lucky to allow Toxoplasma to metamorphose over the last five years. I’m a musician first and foremost, and creating Toxoplasma Arts in 2016 was a way for me to start thinking about my music as a businessperson. Upon hitting the brutal opera audition circuit around the country and also trying to book jazz gigs in Denver, I discovered I needed to consider scaling creatively in the future and focus on legitimizing myself as a business entity. It would also help to have a central identity for tax purposes and bookkeeping expenses (musicians get lots of 1099s and spend a lot of money on their craft). Little did I know that I would pivot enough times to make your head spin! While singing here and there, I was asked by a few local musicians to make their logos, while I was simultaneously working as a web admin and collateral designer for a university. Eventually I left my full-time office position to pursue my increasingly busy opera calendar as well as other artistic pursuits as an ASCAP publishing entity called Toxoplasma Records. At the time, I opened up Toxoplasma Arts to web design as well and have served folks across the country. As the sole owner, I’ve been able to be agile in seeking out clients that fit my availability as it comes and goes. I’m very lucky.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Artistically, I’ve always had a hard time categorizing myself into a nearly prescribed package. I’ve got my hands in a little bit of everything. As I mentioned before, I’m primarily a musician- a classically-trained opera singer and pianist. During any given month, I’m singing Baroque and Renaissance repertoire at churches, acting as a rehearsal accompanist for various groups, performing in contemporary operas in collaboration with the composers or with Breaking Glass Arts, or adding vocals and piano to recordings for composers and sync licensors. I’ve also sung in a country folk-rock band, played keys with a goth band, lead jazz combos, and sung for events that ranged from weddings needing Schubert, corporate parties needing Stevie Nicks, and fundraisers needing Cole Porter and opera arias. Of all my recent output, there are two projects of which I’m extremely proud. The first is a new chamber opera, “Locust,” by Wyoming composer Anne Guzzo. I was brought on in 2018 to premiere the soprano role of the Locust (yes, an insect…and a ghost insect at that) and to stage-direct the ensemble of 3 singers (a first for me). It was a truly group effort with Anne, Jeffrey Lockwood the librettist, Ashley Carlisle the costumer and set designer, and Thomas Blomster the music director and conductor. We’ve taken the show to Jackson, Wyoming, Laramie, and even Morocco! We were slated to perform in Marseille in June 2020, so we are awaiting word about other European performances in the fall of 2021, pending the course of COVID. The second project is Toxoplasma Records. This was a goal of mine for several years, and it’s finally a reality. Toxoplasma Records is an ASCAP publishing member for my alter ego and local symphonic metal band, Oryad. I handle all the social media, web design, distribution, and press for the group in addition to performing and recording. It is a small, but mighty project, and it’s inspiring to see listeners from all over the globe checking in to Spotify to stream Oryad singles. Working in web design and collateral design allows me to free up my mind a little bit and creatively problem-solve in other mediums, which fundamentally helps keep my mind agile and productive. I’m glad I can balance these two sides of myself and allow them to work in harmony! It’s not been an easy road to follow, without specializing in just one thing. Sometimes it’s hard to convince an audition panel of your expertise in their particular field, or else you’re not as fully immersed in the networking scene for a particular genre. But I can’t sit still and can’t box myself in! I receive more rejection than acceptance, and I’m sure most creatives would corroborate this experience. You just have to get up the next day and keep going– keep practicing, keep pitching your work, keep supporting others around you. It’s taken years, many years, for me to feel comfortable in my own “Artist Space,” but now I know what I can offer and feel so grateful to have clicked with collaborators who get it. I used to think that since I wasn’t just a singular full-time musician or artist in one medium, I was somehow a failure. But now, I step back, look at my life, and say, “that’s an artistic life!”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First, let’s pretend that we’re all vaccinated and COVID is behind us and we are able to go fully support all our favorite local businesses. I’m an introvert that prefers a lot of solitary activities, so this is what I would suggest. First and foremost….coffee! My two favorite coffee shops in town are Bardo on South Broadway for the cozy, dark vibe, worn-in couches, and strong brews (and Birdy magazine!), and Cafe Ciboulette on Alameda near the Aurora border. The owner at Ciboulette is one of the friendliest guys you’ll meet, and I love chatting him up when I stop in before going for a walk (location later on the list…) As for going out to eat, I live for breakfast food. Hit up Denver Biscuit Company for some awesome breakfast dishes all on one biscuit (or the giant cinnamon rolls if that’s your jam), and endless coffee. If you’re into a larger spread, I’m a fan of Bacon Social House in Littleton; their rooftop has a great view of the mountains. If you prefer non-breakfast food, I can suggest a few places. I’m a goth girl at heart, so I’ve got to put Linger up north on the list. The food is great, and it’s in the unique position of being in a former mortuary. If you want something classic and easy, you can’t go wrong with one of my clients, Sexy Pizza. They’re a truly community-oriented restaurant and your purchases give back. Plus, they’ve got some cool merch if you want to grab a t-shirt, too. As for activities, I’d recommend a walk at Fairmount Cemetery. It’s one of the oldest in the state, if I’m not mistaken, so there’s a lot of beautiful turn-of-the-20th-century stonework to observe along tree-lined boulevards. To go shopping, I’ve found a lot of cool steals at the Hampden Antique Mall and the Goldmine Vintage on Broadway, and I get basically all my books at Mutiny Information Cafe. And you can’t visit Colorado without a hike!! Any park or trail is going to be great to show a visitor, but Roxborough State Park is probably the most scenic and accessible park for out-of-towners. Other suggestions: If you’ve got some time, I’d recommend driving up to Georgetown to check out their little downtown, or taking a scenic drive along US 6 West into the mountains. The Clyfford Still Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art are also favorite places of mine to check out, if you dig contemporary visual art.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Krysti Joméi and Jonny DeStefano at Birdy Magazine have been some of my biggest champions on this journey. I was looking to get more web clients in early 2019, so I emailed them out of the blue asking about advertising in the magazine. I’d always been a fan, and it felt like I was asking the cool kids to join their table! We met up and agreed on an advertising plan. They were super supportive of my strange combination of offerings, and I started getting inquiries from both the Denver area and even New Mexico. That fall, before we knew the pandemic was going to change everything, they approached me about redesigning their website in an effort to start pushing content online. We joined forces and unveiled the redesign a few weeks into the lockdown, offering a digital copy of the magazine for free. I’m honored to be on the Birdy team now, supporting indie creatives from all over who are looking to share their work.
Tallis Loy, Ashley Hope Carlisle, Patrick McMullan, Katie Clayton Sakanai