Mile High Makeout: Giving Back, with Beth Patterson

Categories: Columns

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A famous quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VI says, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” This sums up a pretty popular – and largely ignorant - attitude that folks have about the legal field. Those folks obviously haven’t made out with Beth Patterson, one of the most caring and compassionate attorneys you could ever know.

With local clients including Born in the Flood, Swayback, Gregory Alan Isakov, Angie Stevens, Bela Karoli, Chris Eagleton and many more, Beth is one of the best friends a musician could have. She was instrumental in getting the Fray their deal, and was also involved in the Photo Atlas deal between Morning After Records and Island.
“I always look at record deals as starting with a divorce, and then negotiating the settlement,” she chuckles.

As I’ve said before, it takes a village to raise a music scene. It’s not just about the musicians. What’s happening in Denver right now couldn’t happen without club owners, talent buyers, promoters, managers, labels, publicists, journalists (*blush*) and, yes, lawyers.

Beth’s passion for music goes back to 1970s New York, when Television, the Ramones and Talking Heads were rocking CBGB. Inspired by the madness of that time, Beth started writing about music for hot scene publications like Soho Weekly News and Punk Magazine.

Her first office job in the music industry was as a paralegal at Polydor. At the time, she thought she wanted to manage bands, but when a mentor reminded her how much babysitting was involved, she decided to get into entertainment law instead. After law school, Beth was an entertainment litigator with a private firm, before moving on to negotiate contracts for RCA and Elektra in New York.

A victim of megalithic entertainment company consolidations, Beth found herself out of a job at the turn of the century. While pondering her next move, a couple of airplanes flew into a couple of buildings, and the attorney and her husband, who babysat jazz artists for a living, decided it was time for a change. They were soon headed to Boulder and a major turning point.

A longtime follower of Buddhism, Beth had had her eye on Naropa University for a long time and soon enrolled in the school’s psychology program. But she didn’t leave music completely behind.

“As soon as I got to Boulder,” she recalls, “I started working with bands. Rose Hill Drive was one of the first and Dotsero. Their bass player was leaving the band and they wanted an amicable divorce.”

While working on her master’s in transpersonal counseling psychology at Naropa, Beth focused on helping people deal with grief and loss. She now runs a private practice focused on guiding people through major life changes, and has worked for years as a grief and bereavement counselor for hospice patients and their families.

“I was inspired by being a Buddhist and seeing how death was not talked about,” she explains. “ In the mid-'70s, my aunt died of cancer and she wasn’t even told she was dying. It was devastating for everyone. But grief can be a very healing and transformative experience. You can really grow.”

Beth also quickly started to see the overlaps between her legal skills and counseling.
“I got a call from a friend about a prominent Denver band who really needed group therapy,” she recalls. “They were either going to break up or make it. It was about creating a safe place to air their grievances. They’re doing very well now.”

A deeply considerate and empathetic person, Beth brings the same concern for people to her work with local musicians. While she won’t cross the line between therapy and law with clients, she spends a lot of time helping musicians maintain their confidence and stay focused on their goals, while also providing them with the legal assistance many need so desperately. Beth knows that money is a musician’s largest concern, so she works with local folks to protect their interests and find alternative sources of income, like licensing, even when they might not be able to pay for her services, which could cost hundreds of dollars per hour in New York.

“They pay me when they can,” Beth says patiently. “I don’t even charge a lot of the time. I really feel like I’m giving back in a lot of ways.”

The most striking thing about Beth is the absolute calm and confidence that she exudes, even while working in two very stressful occupations. She credits this to Buddhism, and specifically to a practice called mindfulness meditation, for which Beth is a certified instructor.

“It’s about being aware of what you’re feeling, being in the present moment, and not letting your thoughts take over,” Beth explains. “You sit and notice your thoughts and let them go.” Some of her musician clients have become interested in mindfulness meditation. God knows they have to find serenity somewhere.

While it’s clear that Beth is motivated by intense concern for others, she also finds daily strength and inspiration in music. If you’re looking for her, try one of her clients’ shows. You’ll often find her in front of the stage, rocking out with the rest of us – usually with a beatific grin on her face.
-- Eryc Eyl

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