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The Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation celebrates 10 years

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It all began in 2009 when Bigfork resident David Feffer envisioned the Flathead Valley as a mecca for the study of guitar. Feffer’s vision and boundless enthusiasm became the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation, which officially launched eight months later. Looking back, it was a challenging time in which to start a nonprofit music education organization as the economy was in a recession. But music has the power to uplift and David’s idea offered a timely remedy. It caught fire, energized the community and, like playing the blues, helped people get over the blues. 

With a motto of “Celebrating the Love of Guitar in the Magical Splendor of Montana,” the goal was to bring world-class musicians and guitarist of all levels with a passion for teaching and learning the guitar to Montana while exposing them to the unparalleled beauty of Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park. Nine seasons later the “Crown” has become a beloved tradition for Flathead Valley music lovers, not only of guitar music, but also the instruments and voices that complement it. 

The roster of national, international, famous and up-and-coming artists who have studied, taught, performed and experienced the Crown is very long indeed and includes: jazz masters Lee Ritenour and Pat Metheny; classical guitarist Scott Tennant and fingerpicker Alex de Grassi; and Montana pianist Phil Aaberg. They all taught as Artists in Residence at the first workshop, and encouraged the board of directors to push forward with their dream. Grammy-winner Ritenour explains: “It was the most unique, inspiring workshop I’ve been involved with. It combined great teachers, great students and incredible atmosphere that kept everyone motivated and creative. There is nothing like this, that I know of, in the world.” 

Following the core of their mission the COCGF board developed a scholarship program for students and teachers. In 2010, eight deserving recipients – three students and five guitar instructors – were awarded full scholarships worth over $2,500 each. They joined 40 other students, many who came from across the country, and experienced the harmony, collaboration and celebration of all things guitar in last week of August. 

Over the past nine years 153 scholarships have been awarded to Northwest Montana students and guitar teachers, with 47 of the recipients coming from Whitefish. Founding board member Cheryl Richmond recalls, “We wanted to provide an opportunity for guitar students of all levels and means to study with outstanding guitar artists, with the intention of advancing their playing skills while also creating a lasting impact on guitar music in Flathead Valley.” 

Whitefish guitar instructor Tim Torgerson, one of those early recipients, comments that “The whole week was a phenomenal nurturing experience for me as a musician and music/guitar teacher. I felt like a sponge, soaking it all in.”

Now, as the Crown begins fundraising for its upcoming 10th season they have planned two extraordinary nights of music. First up is a concert in Whitefish on Dec. 4 featuring acclaimed indie folk-pop singer songwriter Brett Dennen, who hails from central California. Dennen has released six studio albums and five live albums and EPs. He will be joined by special guest, Montana native, composer-pianist Philip Aaberg who has performed on over 80 albums. The next night, Dec. 5, will be a Winter Gala party featuring the artists held at The Nest on Swan River in Ferndale. (See related story on next page.)           

Founding board member Steve Anderson has led the Crown as its executive director for three years and says the Crown’s Music Education program will expand its focus across the Flathead Valley and further into Montana. “The key piece of our 2019 program is our annual Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival that will be held this year from Aug. 13-16 and based at The Nest on Swan River in Ferndale.” He notes that the dates are now a full two weeks earlier in a new location to better accommodate students with school start up dates in late August.

Three public festival concerts featuring stellar Artists in Residence will be held during that week as well. Steve adds, “We will also have performances this summer in Whitefish, Lakeside, Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Bigfork, and from July 10-13 there will be three workshops in Bozeman. Watch for announcements on dates and artists along with our great Crown Pass options on our website www.crownguitarfest.org.”

Steve finishes on a personal note: “Music is an unbiased, safe, clear and amazing gift of calm, happiness, peace, excitement, joy, and trust. It brings people together and can be a catalyst for agreement, community and so much more. The Crown Board and I want to thank everyone who has supported the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation and music education over these past ten years.”  

Crown of the Continent Ten year Milestones: awarded 153 scholarships and 39 fellowships;

- Helped live music performance grow over 300% in Northwest Montana 

-sponsored (so far) a dozen serious musicians to develop their entrepreneurial careers as full or part-time musicians; educated over 600 participants; entertained tens of thousands at low-cost, world-class musical performances all in Montana; and evolved the “magic and love” of guitar music in Montana.

 

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