Tippet Rise Performing Arts Center takes shape near Fishtail

Montana’s majesty is a moving experience. The vastness of this state captivates audiences with prairie vistas and grand mountains upheaved from the earth. Nature’s organic brushstroke has created scenes of vastness and unconquerable beauty, earning the state its title of “Last Best Place.”

The mountains of south central Montana and their immense presence struck philanthropists and artists, Cathy and Peter Halstead. In this majestic surrounding, Cathy (an artist), and Peter (a photographer, pianist, and poet), found a home for their vision: a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing music, sculpture, and nature together.

“There is nothing like this confluence of art, architecture, music and landscape. It’s unprecedented,” said Christopher O’Riley, musical director of Tippet Rise. “There is nothing like it.”

Tippet Rise came from the Halsteads desire to combine their love of landscape with their extensive philanthropic work in the arts. Located one mile west of Fishtail on a working ranch, this arts center honors the landscape of Montana while enhancing these vistas to create something otherworldly. Across the 11,500 acre working ranch—where one will find sheep and cattle grazing the land—sculptures and performance venues dot the landscape.

Monuments to the untamed mountains, these creations by internationally known artists and architects link nature with architecture, art, and music. Abstract expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero’s “Beethoven’s Quartet” sits tall on a vista. One of two di Suveros on the property, the suspended, melodic sculpture (rubber mallets are provided so visitors and chime the structure) is almost as surreal as the panoramic views of the Beartooths and the Crazies. In homage to the mountains, Spain’s Ensamble Studio erected two sculptures (“Beartooth Portal” and “Inverted”) that feel unearthed from the seafloor: huge concrete structures teetering on the rolling plains. Appearing monolithic and unearthed in nature, these monuments to the untamed space of country span time. Tucked in the lowlands of the property, nomadic-looking architectural structures by NYC artist Stephen Talasnik frame the landscape. Down in the river valley of the property, twisting willow branches harvested from the area overtake dreamscape artist Patrick Dougherty’s replica frontier-period schoolhouse, aptly named “Daydreams.”

Three performance spaces also occupy the land. Domo, reaching nearly 100 feet long and 16 feet high, is a monolithic feat of concrete and engineering. Designed to appear as though it is hovering on the land, this structure is acoustically matched to the outdoor space and will be host to many of the organization’s live concerts. Created especially for Tippet Rise, Domo is one of three structures co-created by Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa, principals of Ensamble Studio. The music of García-Abril’s father, a well-known musical composer, will be performed this summer at Domo, bringing together the father and son’s work in a serendipitous way.

Tiara Acoustic Shell, designed for up to 100 audience members, acts like a band shell without walls. This wooden, moveable structure reflects sound from the corners, swirling it above the listener’s head.

The Olivier Barn, a third and main performance space, has been named one of the eight structures in the world to look out for in 2016 by architectural critic Jonathan Glancey for the BBC. Unassuming, the structure appears from the exterior to be a simple barn, organically nestled in the property’s valley. Alongside it runs a small stream lined with aspens, cottonwoods, and waving grasses.

More in June’s Yellowstone Valley Magazine >>>

Montana Folk Fest Butte, America rolls up its musical sleeves

There’s richness to summer in Montana, a backyard of brilliant adventures and a well-cultivated love of music, connection, and place. Music thrives here, not only because of setting, but because it’s such a high. Live music in an outdoor setting gives us a jolt. It transfers energy through listeners and shrinks the distance between one another. The lines blur between crowd and stage.

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The Granite Stage
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The Original Stage

Nowhere is this more visible than Montana Folk Fest. In its fifth year (not including three years of residency of the National Folk Fest), the festival drew 170,000 attendees across three days of music, dance, art and cuisine. Organizers report the festival continues to grow, based on indicators of donations, food sales, parking patterns, aerial photos, and merch sold.

Downpours, thunderstorms, and even hail, didn’t dampen the fest. “The festival was a success on every point we use to measure it,” George Everett, Festival Director, said. “Attendance was strong with venues often filled to capacity. The crowds seemed to gravitate to tented venues this year, especially the recently expanded Montana Tourism Dance Pavilion.”

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Challenging festival weather.

Everett credits the smooth operation of the event goes to the team of staff and volunteers that have pitched in across the past eight years.

“Thanks to the coordinated efforts of hundreds of volunteers, we were able to properly greet and entertain a large number of guests this past weekend, including friends and family from throughout the world,” said Everett.

Contributions to the festival by way of the ambassadors with buckets are still coming in, but have tallied $82,940 thus far. That figure may well climb as contributions after the festival take the total higher.

Images from 2015 Festival {by Anna Paige/Pen & Paige}

Festival planning for 2016 has already begun. Always the second weekend in July, the sixth annual Montana Folk Festival is set to happen in Butte July 8-10, 2016.

To help secure the foundation for future festivals, contributions are welcome and greatly appreciated and are tax-deductible. Send to: Mainstreet Uptown Butte, P.O. Box 696, Butte, MT 59703 or use PayPal to “Pony Up.”

Parker Brown Senior Recital

Cure for the Common The Squeeze

Before heading out on summer tour, Bozeman’s Cure for the Common brought their newest release, “The Squeeze,” to Billings.

The album features Garrett Rhinard (vocals, keys, synth), Steve Brown (vocals), Matt Rogers (guitar), Weston Lewis (guitar, vocals), Jordan Rodenbiker (bass, vocals), Joe Sheehan (drums, vocals), Frank Douglas (lights, vocals), Jon Gauer (trombone), Tully Olson (trumpet), and Ben Johns (tenor saxophone).

This album is the embodiment of the squeeze on all of our lives. It is a culmination of our love for music, art, family, friends, fans, each other, our planet, and humanity as a whole. It is an expression of our intent to use our art for action, and our desire to change the world for the better. Cure for the Common

The Musical Soul of Billings Ron Schuster's musical imprint lingers

^Ron Schuster, accepting the Freeman Lacy Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2012 Magic City Music Awards.

Ron Schuster could tell a thousand stories through vinyl. At one time he owned more than 5,000 records but has since paired his collection down to an essential 2,500 albums. Armloads at a time, Ron’s records overtook the house and slowly migrated to the garage. During a garage sale someone offered Ron $500 for the collection, lined alphabetically on handmade shelves.

“That’s not even a $1 per record!” Ron exclaimed. “Add another zero to that and maybe I’ll consider it.” The buyer left empty-handed.

Ron’s records may have been quarantined to the garage, but as I run my finger along the clear plastic sleeves, feeling the spines of the records, it’s obvious that this man’s record collection is invaluable. Ron has invited me to his home, nestled against Billings’ northern rimrocks, to eyeball his music collection, which includes thousands of CDs and bunches of cassettes recorded in the 70s and 80s. Ron’s music collection continues in a den-like area where he’s got two walls of CDs flanking a TV playing a live stream from a European music festival. Winn Butler of the Arcade Fire swings his head, throwing a sweaty Mohawk out of his face. I’m impressed—Ron knows the band, even has a favorite song: “Leave the Car Running.” These Canadian indie rockers aren‘t unknown, but they aren’t well known, either, especially to the baby boom generation.

I suppose I imagined Ron in his man-den spinning hit records from the 60s and 70s, not flipping music channels between Fatboy Slim and Arcade Fire. Ron was one of the first on-air programmers in the early 1970s at the fledgling Billings public radio station, KEMC, and he maintained a program on public radio for 30 years, which he recorded from his home. In the corner of Ron’s den, he still has an area set up for recording radio shows, though he’s been off the air for more than a year now. Hosting the program forced Ron to seek out new music on a weekly basis, from roots to rock to reggae music. In the heyday of radio, Ron received boxes of new music in the mail to sort through. He’d pick out the oddball artists that never made it big and give them some airtime.
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