For students learning to play an instrument, music can sometimes seem like little more than endless hours of practicing scales, learning specific pieces and performing those songs in concerts or recitals. The joy of playing can get lost in the monotony of rehearsal and routine.
Maria Millar hopes to remind young musicians how much fun playing music can be.
“For me growing up, practicing was work. It wasn’t fun; it was kind of torture,” said Millar, a violinist and Juilliard School graduate. “I want to show the fun aspect of music.”
That’s what has brought Millar and fellow Juilliard alumni Shawn Wyckoff and Adrian Daurov, collectively known as Silver Roots, to the Flathead Valley this week. The trio are hosting workshops and master classes to help young musicians explore different aspects of music — and perhaps rekindle their love for it.
The idea of hosting the program began months ago, when Millar and Wyckoff first visited Kalispell. At the time, New York City-based Silver Roots was performing as a duo on a tour of 10 states and provinces.
They contacted Flathead County Library Director Kim Crowley to find out if she’d be interested in hosting their violin and flute duo at the Kalispell library.
“I said, ‘Sure, we’ll try something like that,’” Crowley said.
When Millar and Wyckoff performed at the library in February, about 100 people attended, Crowley said. “That’s a big program for an adult program at the library.”
Millar said she and Wyckoff were impressed with the Kalispell crowd, many of whom weren’t library regulars.
“The audience was incredible,” she said. “We just really loved it here.”
She and Wyckoff talked with Crowley about bringing classical music programs to the Flathead Valley, something the library director thought would be good, Millar said. So when Silver Roots applied for a grant from Chamber Music America to do a chamber music residency, they knew exactly where they wanted to teach.
“We thought Kalispell was perfect for it,” Millar said.
The residency grant covers most of Silver Roots’ expenses during the five-day program, but the Flathead County Library System and First Best Place Task Force also have been instrumental in bringing the group, now a trio with Daurov’s cello, to the Flathead.
“We got right on board with that because the program [in February] was so popular here,” Crowley said.
First Best Place “got involved because we wanted to make this valleywide,” she said.
The library already works often with the Columbia Falls group, she added, and hopes to one day move its Columbia Falls branch into the group’s Glacier Discovery Square.
“Columbia Falls is just such a vibrant place right now, and they have a good venue for this type of work,” Crowley said.
Silver Roots’ program kicked off Thursday at Glacier Discovery Square with performances by the professional musicians. The 16 students participating in the program range in age from 10 to 16 and play a variety of instruments, including flute, violin, bassoon, guitar and clarinet.
Most have been playing for years, Millar said; to be accepted into the program, Silver Roots asked that students have at least six months’ experience on their instruments.
Some students have played as many as seven years, she said.
“It seems like there’s a lot of opportunities that exist in the area to study instruments and play them in schools,” Millar said. “We can just build on that.”
The workshops are intended to broaden students’ appreciation for playing music beyond their typical experience, she said. Kids, especially those who play for school bands and orchestras, tend to have very set schedules and might not play beyond the pieces they learn for those groups.
“We’re trying to explore outside of that — how to play with your pieces, create your own etudes, use your instrument to create your own curriculum,” Millar said.
On Friday, the students learned about improvisation. Today they’ll spend a couple of hours in the library researching information that relates to the pieces they’re learning in the program.
They will share what they learn Monday on the final night of the program. That’s when the students will perform their pieces in a concert with Silver Roots at the Kalispell library. The show is free and begins at 7 p.m.
The concert will be the culmination of all they’ve learned over the last few days, Millar said.
“What we want is that kids can learn to take leadership but also to accompany, to work together, speak in public — all of these things are just wonderful life skills,” she said.
Those are the skills she hopes the kids will retain long after Silver Roots has returned home. Too many kids give up their instruments once they’re through high school and are no longer playing within a structured schedule, she said.
“This kind of provides students with the tools to continue doing it on their own,” Millar said.
Reporter Kristi Albertson may be reached at 758-4438 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.