A Community in Tune

How Boulder’s HB Woodsongs Facilitates Musical Discovery

Article by Lisa Van Horne

Photography by Poppy & Co. by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

“You belong here.”

This is the proclamation that Sondra Blanchard, owner of Boulder’s HB Woodsongs, says is on the proverbial sign above the front door of this storied local music shop. It’s this sense of community, acceptance and musical exploration that has made HB Woodsongs such an integral part of Boulder’s history over the past five decades.

“I strongly believe that music is a point of connection and community building,” says Sondra. “It flows that music stores are a hub for that community. Having a music store elevates a town in so many ways.”

HB Woodsongs began as Folk Arts Music in 1971. Its name was changed to its current iteration in 1985 to a moniker inspired by a local, musically inclined mountaineering legend to match the shop’s increasingly folk-oriented identity. While the store has changed location and ownership throughout its history, its deep community roots and core philosophy have remained consistent.

“Our mission is to nurture the human spirit through music, one person at a time,” says Sondra. “We are a community hub for all levels of musicians along the Front Range.”

For Sondra, her journey to owning HB Woodsongs is a deeply personal one. A theatre-maker by trade, Sondra moved to Boulder in 2005 and started a poster delivery service while pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree. While delivering music posters to HB Woodsongs, she met Shawn Cupolo, a much-loved staple of the Boulder music scene, who was working at the shop. The pair fell in love and became entwined with HB Woodsongs’ history. While Shawn worked at the store and pursued his musical talents with his band, Sondra dedicated her time to both the shop and founding Lafayette’s Public Works Theatre Company, working as its artistic director. When the opportunity arose to purchase HB Woodsongs in 2017, Sondra notes that she and Shawn eagerly jumped on it.

Having navigated the store through the turbulence of the pandemic, Shawn suddenly passed away from cancer in 2021. He left behind a legacy of deep community relationships, which Sondra and the HB Woodsongs team is committed to continuing.

“My hope is to continue the legacy of being the Cheers of the local music community,” says Sondra, “the place where we know your name and are committed to providing musical expertise in an attentive, respectful and friendly manner.”

Today, HB Woodsongs offers a wide variety of musical instruments and services to the Boulder community. This includes new and consignment folk, band and orchestra instruments, as well as rentals, strings, print music, accessories and some electric guitars and pianos. Its services include restrings of folk instruments as well as lessons with an eclectic, vastly talented team of musical aficionados.

Customers of all ages pass through the doors of HB Woodsongs, and the store has a special connection to the youth of the community. Putting instruments into the hands of excited children is one of Sondra’s favorite things about the shop, whether it’s through lessons, the business’s strong relationships with the Boulder Valley School District or its “petting zoo” events in which children get to try out different instruments. Sondra notes that introducing children to musical pursuits is highly beneficial even if it doesn’t become a lifelong passion.

“I think of it in terms of literacy,” says Sondra. “Even if students don’t continue with music, they will have learned the basics of the language, how to work as an ensemble to perform a piece of music, the power of practice, the skills related to performance and the rewards. New neural pathways will have been formed.”

Moving forward, Sondra looks to host performance events through HB Woodsongs and further integrate her theatre background into the business. Another focus is giving back to the community that has continued to support and rally around the shop through recent years. As Sondra notes, Boulder is a community that places a real value on music. And she is very grateful.

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