Excitement building for the new home of the North Valley School of Music
After more than a decade of discussions and planning, North Valley Music School is finally considering a breakthrough date for its new Whitefish facility that will give the local institution a chance to expand to better meet future needs and improve its current offerings for music. students in the Flathead Valley.
The music school hopes to break new ground in the spring of 2023 at its Smith Fields grounds and as the renderings continue to take shape, the school’s fundraising campaign to fund the project is moving forward, including during the ongoing Great Fish Community Challenge. .
To date, the school has raised $2.8 million in pledges. The objective of the project is 5 million dollars, including 4 million dollars for the construction of the new building and 1 million dollars for an endowment.
“We hope to keep things around $5 million, and including a $1 million endowment to help pay for the expansion, general operating costs to go from 2,700 square feet to 9,000 square feet” , said executive director Deidre Corson. . At best, Corson said the new building could open in fall 2024.
The new facility will have up to 16 private studios, including four larger studios for grand pianos, percussion instruments and recording space. There will also be a classroom for large groups, a multi-purpose room, staff offices and the building will be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant and have adequate parking.
Going back to 2006, Corson says discussions began among school board members about whether it needed to expand from its current location on Spokane Avenue. The current school house is, in fact, a house that Corson says is around 100 years old. It has been converted to allow the teaching of music, sometimes imperfectly. Due to soundproofing issues, electric drum sets are used for drum lessons, and instrument storage may require some improvisation.
“Right now we’re putting guitars, violins, and ukuleles upstairs in closets where we can find space,” Corson said. “If someone is playing electric bass upstairs, you can hear it downstairs.”
As former executive director and board member Cameron Blake said, “For the first time in the school’s history, we will be operating in a building purpose-built for music.
Blake has been involved with the school for years and her relationship with the North Valley Music School is particularly personal as three of her children learned music there. They are now adults and Blake described a kind of comfort that their musical knowledge brings him.
“None of them are professional musicians, but I feel like it gave them another language and something they’re good at and something they do often, that it’s whether it’s playing guitar in college for relaxation or jumping into a fiddle band.”
To meet the demand for music lessons that exceeded the capacity of that original building, the school rented space at the First Presbyterian Church up the street. Currently, the school’s 20 faculty and staff see a combined 350 students per week, most of them from Whitefish, but some also from Columbia Falls and Kalispell.
The Valley’s growing population has helped the school come into contact with students, but Corson also said a trend she’s noticed is an increase in the number of mature students, which she says , might in part have something to do with how much music has helped people through the pandemic.
“I think historically there’s always been an interest in parents getting their kids involved in music lessons,” Corson said. “I think the change we’re seeing now is that there are more adults realizing, ‘I’ve had a guitar for 20 years and I want to learn how to play it.’ “I used to take piano lessons and I want to get back into it. I think there’s a renewed love for the arts and the impact the arts have on human beings.”
In addition to the practical needs a building built for music will provide, Corson said she believes the new facility will help improve the quality of programs and lessons. The new building will have nearly 20 indoor performance spaces, including official studios built for music education.
For years, it was desired that the school would move somewhere in downtown Whitefish, but nothing ever materialized. In 2019, Corson said Don Bestwick of the youth athletics nonprofit Project Whitefish Kids approached Corson and a few other people involved with the school and offered to use land at Smith Fields which was too small to accommodate a football pitch. Corson said she liked the idea and things grew from there.
“It really came to fruition after 16 years of many different places and many different renderings. And the time has come,” Corson said. “We have some super excited people about it. ‘them.