Hometown talent returns to Whitefish

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If you listen to the radio these days you may hear a familiar voice.

“I need some good news, baby; Feels like the world’s gone crazy; Give me some good news, baby; Give it to me, give it to me,” croons Ocean Park Standoff frontman, Ethan Thompson, in the band’s hit single, “Good News.”

Thompson, 28, was raised in Whitefish and currently resides in Los Angeles when he isn’t busy touring the country with Ocean Park Standoff bandmates Samantha Ronson and Pete Nappi. Thompson was first thrust into the limelight in 2014 when he appeared on “American Idol,” and two years later, helped form alt-pop band Ocean Park Standoff. The group released their debut EP last March and their breakout single “Good News” reached number 13 on the Billboard Adult Pop chart.

One could say Thompson has “made it,” but despite his success, the young musician hasn’t forgotten his small-town roots.

His musical career began in Whitefish in a 100-year-old house on Spokane Avenue — home to nonprofit music academy, North Valley Music School.

“North Valley gave me the beginning nourishment in music that gave me my roots. It also was one of my first supporters in being a musician,” he wrote.

When Thompson was 8, he began taking voice lessons at North Valley and also added piano and guitar to his repertoire as he grew older.

“Ever since I went through my first break up when I was a little kid it’s what I always turned to,” Thompson said. “Music has always been my friend and the number one entity that understands me. It has always has and continues to pick me up when I’m at my lowest, and reach me higher when I’m at my highest.” 

And on July 25, Thompson will return to the place where it all began, with his band in tow, to perform at a fundraising concert for North Valley — the third annual Montana Music Event. Thompson and the Ocean Park Standoff crew are even donating their performance to help support the school.

“I felt it was something I needed to be a part of with my bandmates,” Thompson wrote. “I love how much love for the arts is in Whitefish and the whole valley. In a lot of places it’s not considered a need so it’s very special for it to so heavily supported out in Montana.”

North Valley Music School offers affordable music lessons to approximately 400 students annually and holds free community outreach events such as concerts, instrument “petting zoos,” jam sessions and music camps. The school also offers scholarships so students in need can study music.

“We’ve been really trying the last couple of years to turn nobody away for financial reasons,” said director Deidre Corson. “If someone wants music in their life, they should be able to have music in their life.”

Private individual lessons are offered at a rate of $45 per hour, or $22.50 for half an hour, to both children and adults in instruments ranging from voice and violin to harp and ukulele. Program fees combined with private donations help keep the costs of lessons below the going rate. Fundraising events like next Wednesday’s Montana Music Event, also keep the school running.

Proceeds from the sale of VIP tickets will go directly to the student scholarship fund while earnings from a raffle for a Gibson J-45 guitar will be diverted to the school’s endowment fund.

The Music Event will include a photographic slideshow featuring work by five local photographers showcasing slices of Montana life. Whitefish-based group, Gimmic, will be the opening musical act followed by Ethan Thompson with his band, Ocean Park Standoff.

“To hear him perform will just be a treat for the audience out there,” said board member David Hunt. “They all seem like a very well focused group. There’s so many ways that people can get distracted in that business and they’re focused on doing good things. We wish them a lot of success and we’re very lucky that they’re coming back here.”

While Thompson is in town, he’s also looking forward to stopping by McKenzie River Pizza and backpacking in Glacier National Park with his family.

“I miss the breeze going through some trees on a quiet morning or afternoon walking down to Haskill Creek by my house,” he wrote when asked what he misses most about his hometown. “Used to walk my dogs over there as a kid with my family pretty much every day. Also miss the close knit community that the locals have.” 

The Montana Music Event will be held at 7 p.m. at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish on Wednesday, July 25. Tickets for the concert are $20 in advance and $25 at the door and can be purchased online at www.northvalleymusicschool.org or by calling 862-8074. Tickets for the guitar raffle may also be purchased by calling the school.

Reporter Mackenzie Reiss may be reached at 758-4433 or mreiss@dailyinterlake.com.

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