Helena’s got some great musical resources if you’d like to play or learn to play an instrument. We have a great local symphony and TWO large concert bands. Other smaller groups playing numerous styles of music abound around town and keep forming and re-forming in a kaleidoscope of configurations and styles. Helena is truly a vibrant small arts town.
As far as learning music goes, we have very dedicated musical professionals in our school system and at Carroll College, augmented by a tremendous organization of private teachers. It is this organization, of which I’m an active member, that I’d like to write about in this column this time. I’ll explore some of the other musical resources list above in later columns, I hope.
The Helena Music Teachers Association has been around for 50 years. It seems to grow more vital and ambitious as time goes by. HMTA has over 40 members teaching all kinds of wind, string, keyboard and percussion instruments. Oh, but that’s not all, either. There are teachers of voice, conducting, music theory and early childhood music, too. Almost anything you’d want private instruction in can be found through the HMTA. Of course, in today’s world it seems a prerequisite to have a website, and HMTA is up to speed in that regard, thanks to a webmaster in our membership – Jim Kirby. Go to helenamta.com to check it out. It’s searchable, too.
A variety of performance and learning events are annual traditions with HMTA. There is the annual “Celebrate Music” concert where some of our teachers and scholarship recipients play a great variety of music. There is the annual Spring Festival for students, where any student of an HMTA member can play for adjudication. It’s a huge day-day event, and there are usually about 175 students performing.
Next year may very well see the introduction of yet another special concert event that will showcase some of our stellar students. We really believe in getting them “in the game.” A committee has been formed to instigate it. Watch for details.
Our students also perform in the spring for our annual Pancake Breakfast, a fun fundraiser for scholarships and workshops. Speaking of workshops, we just completed an extremely successful vocal techniques workshop with a world-class teacher, and in the past we’ve had a variety of workshops and master classes. Also recently we had one of our youngest teachers open our minds a little with her program on some new teaching practices and philosophies.
And speaking of scholarships, we’ve distributed over $10,000 in scholarships to music camps and continue to expand those scholarships every year. A first for last year was a trip by percussionists to the Montana Percussive Arts Society’s “Day Of Percussion” event in Missoula, a trip that will take place again this year. Also, this summer will debut a two-day drum camp -- in the planning stages at this writing. These percussion events are open to the public. Contact me if you are interested.
Members of our group are very dedicated and enthusiastic and have, in many cases, DECADES of teaching experience. Among our members are college music faculty, Helena Symphony members and past members, the Helena Symphony concertmaster, the HSO assistant conductor and HSO staff accompanist, church organists and church choir directors and members of numerous vocal organizations.
Sometimes the hardest part of one of our meetings is getting it to adjourn because the members are all so excited with their interactions and plans and announcements. We’ve grown to be so robust in our pursuits that for the past few years we’ve had a DOUBLE Presidency. That is, there are TWOpresidents to take care of leadership. One can hardly do it alone with their busy teaching practices and performances.
Visit the website if you’re looking for a teacher of any musical instrument. Join our lively group if you’re a private music teacher who’s not yet a member. Visit the website to find out about upcoming concerts and workshops. Or visit the website if you’re just hungry for great pancakes, and make note of the time and place to come visit us, enjoy some great live music provided by our students, and eat some delicious pancakes.
PERSONAL ENDNOTE/FOOTNOTE: I have a piano that I’d like to have painted/decorated by an Art Department, for use by the general public, in a public place. Please contact me at my email address listed below for details.
John Dorr is a local piano technician and private music instructor. He can be reached at JohnDorrA440@gmail.com.