Apr 2, 2023 - News

Spotlight: John Kite sets the soundtrack at Denver's Brown Palace

Photo illustration of John Kite in the center of a Polaroid photo under a blue spotlight.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Courtesy of the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa

For the past 37 years, John Kite has dazzled on the grand piano at Denver's iconic Brown Palace.

What he's saying: "I love doing what I do at the Brown Palace so much," the resident pianist tells Axios Denver. "My mission is โ€” through music โ€” to bring people into that building, because everyone deserves to be in a space that awesome."

  • The job is "his calling," he says, holding back tears. "My calling is to that building, is to the history, the tradition, the magnificence of that piece of Denver history."

We recently chatted with the local legend to get to know him better:

๐ŸŽน What type of piano he plays: A Yamaha C5 he found in a local music store. It came from a Denver family who put it up for sale after one of their children who used to play it died.

  • Kite couldn't afford to buy it initially. But after the family realized they could hear him play it at the Brown Palace, they agreed to sell it for a lower price. Retelling the tale makes him "weepy" every time.

๐Ÿจ Best room to perform in at the hotel: "I often will say that I'm so lucky I get to play in two completely different venues and get one paycheck." Playing in the beautiful atrium is a privilege, one he "never, ever takes for granted." Meanwhile, down the hall at the Ship Tavern, the scene is a little rowdier and "it's just so much fun."

  • Both spots are his "favorite," he says.

๐ŸŽต Favorite songs to play: "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy, "Solace" by Scott Joplin, and any Broadway tune. "I love musical theater," he notes.

๐ŸŽท Top spots for live music: Nocturne, which he says resembles New York jazz clubs in the '30s and '40s. "I love the vibe, I love the art deco, I love the staff, their food is great โ€”ย and I just love the fact [the musicians] are up on that stage โ€ฆ where they should be. They should be elevated."

๐ŸŸ๏ธ Last concert: Bruce Springsteen at Ball Arena on March 2. "That was pretty amazing for me."

๐ŸŽŸ๏ธ Next concert: None yet; he tends to snag tickets spontaneously. "I usually will wait until something comes in and just try to get a couple of tickets and hope for the best."


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.

More Denver stories