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Students learn, play with Dallas Brass

| October 4, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Lincoln County High School's Natalia Utter got quite a lesson while skipping classes Monday.

That lesson came from the members of Dallas Brass, one of the nation's foremost and internationally acclaimed musical ensembles.

A clarinetist, Utter was among about 180 middle and high school band students from Libby, Troy and Eureka who spent the afternoon learning more about music from Dallas Brass at the Memorial Center. The students later that evening joined the group for a public performance at the center.

"It's an amazing opportunity to work with these guys and bring everyone together from the other schools," Utter said.

Ty Nagode, band teacher for Troy Public Schools, agreed.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with teachers of this caliber," Nagode said. "It's the first time something like this has come to our area during the 20 years I've been teaching."

Troy Fine Arts Council received grants totaling $2,500 to bring Dallas Brass to Libby. The larger of the grants came from Western States Art Federation, which gets support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The arts council also received funding from Lincoln County Community Foundation. The three school districts each contributed $850.

Kimberly Finley, president of Troy Fine Arts Council and a former teacher who works for Troy Public Schools, headed up the effort. Finley had worked with Dallas Brass when the group was in Bonners Ferry School District, where she taught.

Finley also saw the group's appearance as an opportunity to bring students together from the county's three school districts.

Michael Levine, who 24 years ago started Dallas Brass in Texas, and his group travels around the nation working with students. They flew into Montana over the weekend after a stint in Pennsylvania.

Dallas Brass attempts to inspire rather than teach students in hopes of them continuing with their music.

"You don't have to become a professional musician to continue playing your whole lives," Levine said. "You can play in community groups, flute trios, percussion ensembles or start a rock band."

He liked what he heard from the Libby, Troy and Eureka instrumentalists.

"They did great," Levine said. "I'm really impressed being so remote. I've heard some really good sounds."

Libby ninth-grade alto saxophone player Stephanie Shuey enjoyed Monday's opportunity.

"It's just a great time to play with professionals and with students from Eureka and Troy," Shuey said.

Her mother, Lois Thatcher, also appreciated it.

"I think it's an excellent opportunity for the children of the community to work with professionals and someone other than their normal band teacher," said Thatcher, who's seventh-grade son, Steven, also participated.

The appearance by Dallas Brass in Libby is one of seven in Montana. Dallas Brass on Oct. 4 will be in Fort Benton; Oct. 5, Helena; Oct. 6, Great Falls; Oct. 7, Billings; and Oct. 9, Dillon.

Proceeds from ticket sales were divided equally between Troy, Libby and Eureka band departments. Troy Fine Arts Council will use its share to continue bringing arts and humanities to the schools and community.