We, Montana! has grown a lot since we started with a simple homeschool chorus in the Fall of 2018–to the point where it gets a little complicated talking about everything that’s going on–and to the point that our website at wemontana.org is quite crowded! So we’re splitting off our two most advanced vocal ensembles, Freedom Choir and Women’s Chorus under the Sing, Montana! banner, and we’ve given them their own website at SingMontana.org.
We’re in the fourth calendar year of our existence, and we still have a few items left to “finish” our Great Room space and equipment needs. It seemed useful to post a list here so that donors who are wanting to get involved can see how they can help. Just to put it in perspective, the list below totals at just over $10,500.
DIGITAL MINI-GRAND PIANO — $3,350 Our less-than-idea piano keyboard has died, leaving us in the lurch with an even-less-sufficient keyboard. What we really need is a digital mini-grand piano (since an acoustic piano couldn’t survive in the hot/cold cycle in our current space.) We could buy a new mini-grand for about $6,000 plus shipping, but there’s currently a very good used one for sale just four hours away for $3,200, plus about $150 gas money for the trip.
COMPUTERS, NEW OR USED –$? We could make good use of up to three PC computers, running Windows 2010 or later. We need one for lighting controls, one for audio/video, and one for livestreaming on social media. We had personally used a donated machine, and now we have to bring in our own machines everytime we come—but as we get more sophisticated, our own machines aren’t enough anymore. We don’t need fancy ones, so most any computer (that’s running well) will do. Chances are very good, then, that donated used machines would suit us very well.
SEMINAR TABLES (NINE) — $220 We’ve just received a generous donation for $500, and plan to put it toward the purchase of nine seminar tables (8′ x 18″) so that we can begin to offer paid seminars in the Great Room. The total cost of the nine tables we need, plus shipping, is $720. So that leaves us only $220 shy!
RADIANT TUBE HEATER — $1,500 – $2,000 The Great Room is a converted warehouse space, with a natural-gas box heater that hangs from the ceiling. It makes so much noise when it’s on that it wrecks the acoustics in the room, and ruins not only our concerts, but even regular class meetings and rehearsals. We’ve done so much to improve the acoustics already that the heater is now the primary target in going to the next level. After studying the issue for some time, we’re convinced that a radiant tube heater is the best solution, and we estimate the cost of having a new one installed to be at $1,500–$2,000.
CONSTRUCTING AN ELEVATED LIGHTING/SOUND CONTROL BOOTH — $2,000 – $2,500 We’ve been working toward moving all the controls for our lighting and sound equipment to the back of the hall, and currently have a temporary table set up on the floor level. But the goal all along has been to build an elevated deck, eight feet up, to house all the equipment, to give the technical crew an unobstructed view, and to maximize the floor space below to increase audience space. Our plans call for an 8’x12′ deck, 8′ up, with a ladder-style access. It would also have some enclosed storage space below for our new seminar tables and for excess classroom chairs. The remainder of the underside would house our existing restaurant booth. We estimated this project in Spring of 2020 for about $1,800, but with lumber prices up, we expect it to run somewhere between $2,000 and $2,500. We’d do the labor ourselves—unless somebody wants to donate that, too!
PAINTING — $200 – $500 We’ve done a LOT of painting, but we still have a little more left. We still have half the ceiling to paint flat black. And we’re going to change the West wall from green to blue, and the North wall from green to red. Further, we want to strip the earlier painting attempt from the concrete floor and try again, starting with acid etching and an industrial grade epoxy coating. We’re prepared to supply the labor, but would be happy to have someone else supply that, too!
MACKIE 16-CHANNEL SOUND MIXING BOARD — $500 For our new control booth, we need a new sound mixer and amp. (See just below for the amp.) The mixer has the features we need and is a cost-effective industry standard. Mackie Mixer.
1000-WATT POWER AMP — $140 We’re currently using an 8-channel powered mixer, which we’d like to move to the stage to power monitor speakers there. And this means we’ll need a new (or used) power amp up in the new sound booth. There are lots of suitable amps out there. Here’s an example that would suit us just fine. Rockvale Amp.
FURTHER STAGE ADDITIONS — $500 We’ve just completed some big improvements to our stage, and we need to bring it to completion by adding one more 16″-tall trapezoidal section (4′ x 12′) to the front/center. This will make it possible to do the piano recitals we’re so excited about, and it will further facilitate both our Skits and Choral programs. Further, we need to build two small portable steps for entering the stage from the front side, as well as three 96″x 18″ x 8″ box risers to sit atop our existing stage for back-row choir elevations. Depending on the cost of lumber this could all be done for under $500, we estimate.
ADDITIONAL DMX STAGE LIGHTING INSTRUMENTS — $360 We’re currently using a mixture of 16 digital (LED) DMX-controlled stage lights and 10 standard LED floodlight bulbs (in clamp lamps). We’d like to complete our capabilities by replacing the floodlights with another 16 DMX instruments. They sell in 4-packs for just under $90 per pack.
FOLLOW SPOTLIGHT — $500 While there are limitless specialty lighting devices we could use here and there, one standard device we don’t have is a follow spot, such as is used to track a performer moving across the stage. The one we want has multiple colors and is DMX compatible, so that it will work with the rest of our professional lighting system.
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 situation has created lots of upheaval in the educational world, and even at this late date, many parents are still uncertain as to how they will proceed for Fall 2020. Consequently, our We, Montana! enrollments for Fall are down such that moving forward with our classes is simply impractical. As a result, our Board has decided to suspend all course offerings for now while looking hopefully ahead to January or September 2021 to recommence, provided the situation is better. We regret this disappointing situation on behalf of all the people it affects, but we’re determined to make lemonade from the lemons that COVID-19 has handed us. Since we can’t fill up our classes with students, we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity to rework our strategic plan so that we can build another area of our intended outreach ahead of schedule, while hopefully raising enough financial support in the interim to keep the rent paid on our dedicated classroom space (the Great Room) .
As you may know, we’ve been making a big push this summer to spread the word about We, Montana! And thanks to the help of several of our older students, we’ve put together some great videos to help spread the word. Meanwhile, however, I think there’s a real need to get some parent testimonials out there, too. I’m thinking about putting together a video slideshow of written parent testimonials, and also about posting the same copy on a simple page on our website.
We’ve been very busy getting ready for the Fall, and there are many new things going on. I’ll start posting registration announcements all over social media today—and we sure could use your help to spread the word.
These are difficult times, to be sure, but we have high hopes that we can keep things going at the Great Room. With all this in mind, then, a successful Summer recruiting push is crucial!
Meanwhile, here are some brief bullet points about what’s new this year:
In these difficult social/political/economic times, the future of the Great Room is in doubt. I’m calling a meeting, therefore, for all parents and students who would like to discuss what it will take to move forward. If there is a way to keep going, it’ll likely be figured out on Sunday, so if you’d like to be involved, please find a way to attend. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of playing wait-and-see through the summer, so now is the time to be proactive.
The meeting is at 3:00 p.m. in the Great Room, this coming Sunday, April 26.
I have sent out a notice about this post through the Remind app. Please do let me know in advance if you plan to come.
Parents, to increase our efficiency and effectiveness in communication, we’ve just set up ten new “classes” in the “Remind” app. We need all parents with smart phones to go get the app and to register for those classes that pertain to them and/or their students. You’ll find our school listed under “We, Montana!”. You can download the app here.
For most new posts we make here, we’ll send out the appropriate notifications on the Remind app so that you’ll be informed immediately of things that pertain to you. So please go take a few minutes to look through the ten “class” options there—one of which is for “Weather Closures”, by the way.
We’re looking hard at finding a way to start an auditioned kids’ chorus for Fall 2020. The idea as it stands right now is to create a new performance group (as opposed to a music class), made up of kids from 7 to 10 years old. We’d be singing mostly 1- and 2- part songs, and probably collaborating with the We, Montana! Community Chorus on some of their concerts. (The upcoming May 17 concert, in which our General Music Class will be singing 3 numbers will serve as a bit of a prototype for this.)
The We, Montana! Homeschool Chorus is now the We, Montana! Community Chorus. We are now in our fourth semester, and sound better than ever. So good, in fact, that I think we’ll be able to go recruit the help we need to fill out our full choral sound. We’re so thankful to the handful of parent members who have joined us, and we’re looking to recruit a few more adults from the community—in addition to the continual recruitment of new and qualified student members.
We’ll be keeping the ratio of new, non-homeschool adults fairly low, mind you, because we don’t want to change the “feel” of the current group dynamic from what it is. So we’ll be looking to add maybe two new non-homeschool folks into each section. And I suspect that our upcoming semester-end concert will help a lot with recruiting them—as well as with continuing to build the number of homeschool student members we have.
As we continue to “sharpen the saw”, we’re adding for this Spring semester a mandatory parents’ orientation session on Saturday morning, 11 January, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Great Room.
This is for the parents of all enrolled students, across all our course offerings (or any thinking about enrolling). The goal is to explain briefly what each course is about, how it’s going, and what would make it better. We also want to iron out the communications/email process once and for all, as communication was spotty last Fall. Further, we want to be sure that parents have a good idea where We, Montana! is headed and how we plan to get there.
So please plan to attend this very important session. If both parents can come, that’s great. If only one can come, we really hope it’s the primary home educator. Your students are free to come with—and especially the older ones, as many of them are “taking ownership” more and more in what goes on here!
Please contact Jack Pelham ASAP, and by Wednesday, 27 November at the latest to express your interest in any of these classes. Please indicate the courses and the number of students for each. Otherwise, rather than trying to campaign until the beginning of next semester, we will simply withdraw the offer and keep our Mondays-only schedule for the remainder of this current school year.
Before we open official registration for the Spring semester, we need to gauge public interest in the following possible course offerings. Please let us know as soon as possible if you’d like to enroll in any of the following:
Please send us an email to let us know you got the notification for this post! firstname.lastname@example.org
I apologize for all the email troubles of late—and the website being up and down. Can you say “Cheap hosting company?”
Well, I’m glad to report that wemontana.org is now hosted by Zee Creative of Billings, MT, where we know by experience that the site will run with high reliability—as will the emails.
For those who are subscribed to our various post categories, we hope you’ll start getting emails that were previously being blocked by your email or Internet providers—but it remains to be seen just how it will work in each case.
Would you please take a moment and send an email confirming that you received the email notification for this post? That will help us to know how well it’s working.
Our second Movie Night is in honor of Veteran’s Day week (though delayed, to show it on a Friday.) This is one of Jack’s favorite films–and for several reasons. It’s one of the most heartsy and thoughtful stories you’ll ever see about military service, and it’s great filmcraft, too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergeant_York_(film)
Gary Cooper snagged an Academy Award for his portrayal of Sgt. Alvin York, and Walter Brennan won for best supporting actor. The film is also widely considered to have been one of the best mixes of musical score and picture ever. This is a film your kids are not ever likely to see on TV, so it’s worth it to come watch it on purpose. It’s a captivating story that makes it a worthy example of a classic film.
Here’s the parental advisory blurb from imdb.com for this film, so you can determine whether it’s a good film for them to see. (My opinion is that it’s probably fine for most.):
“Depictions of WWI. Much shooting; men fall onto the ground. No blood is seen except for one scene where a man is shot in the face and a small trail of blood oozes from his mouth. A couple scenes of men fighting in a bar, punching each other in the face, and pushing each other into tables. “
—————————————- Afterward, everyone is welcome to stay and play Foosball or any other games that you bring yourself, or simply to visit. Stay as late as you like. We mean it. Good friends. Good company.
Bring whatever snacks and non-alcoholic beverages you like. We’ll provide bottled water, coffee, tea (hot), and paper goods. We have a microwave for popcorn.
The movie starts promptly at 7:00. Don’t be late. The Great Room will be open at 6:30. We have school chairs and pews for 76 people. If you want to bring something more comfortable to sit in, do it! Also bring a blanket or throw–or some manner of pad if your kids would like to sprawl out on the floor.
(FYI, we’re hoping to have a movie night once a month or so. We’ll pick from Jack’s favorites, and you can count on our movies always being totally suitable for the family—although some may be better suited for younger ones than others. Please do plan, however, to keep any toddlers you bring well in-hand and orderly as we can’t have them running about during the evening.)
We had a great start to our semester this week. Here’s a brief review of every class.
OVERALL We now have over 80 participants, many of which are new to me. So, the day was something of a blur to me with so many new faces yet to be learned and names memorized. Things seemed to go fairly smoothly, although I learned that I simply must have a countdown timer on the wall, so that I can have a constant on how much time is left in each class. (Guess what Amazon is delivering tomorrow!)
I’ve been preparing since our Spring Concert for September 9th, and it’s now upon us! Our total enrollment is just over 80 at this eleventh hour, and we have nearly 120 total registrations, meaning that some of those 80+ people are taking more than one course. We’re up to six total courses offered, as opposed to five in the Spring Semester this year.
With the busy semester fast approaching, and with our total enrollment breaking 80 as of yesterday, I am reminded of the many benefits of excellent communication. I’d like you to consider having your students sign up for our email notifications for those categories of announcements that concern them. This can help reduce the likelihood that our announcements are missed altogether by a family, and can also increase the student’s overall habits of taking responsibility for his or her own learning and involvement. Obviously, this may not be the best strategy for our youngest students (at 6 years old), but many of them may be ready as early as 9 or 10. Naturally, you can decide what you think is best.
What I have in mind most specifically are reminder announcements for assignments, or announcements that announce new assignments not made in class. For example, an announcement might call for the Chorus to be ready to rehearse a certain number, or the Etiquette Class might be reminded to memorize a short poem. And further, we have at least six students this semester who are taking on teacher-assistant roles in the various courses, and it would be particularly good to have them well informed.
Thanks for your consideration! It’s going to be a great semester.
The Great Room will be open once again for general meeting and greeting and question answering, as well as for auditions for chorus (pitch matching), intermediate band, and the skits workshop. Time is running short, so let’s get these auditions wrapped up ASAP!
We expected more to audition for this class, so we’re going to try lowering the age to 10 (from 12). We currently have 8 enrolled and have room for up to 8 more if we can find enough who have acquired the level of skill we’re looking for.
We’ll have another open house this Saturday, 17 August from 9-11 a.m. You can audition at that open house, but you need to read the course description and notify us in writing of your intent to audition.
We’re now taking registrations through Google Forms. (Thanks, Jennifer Crow, for the suggestion!). Each course detail page now has a link to the new registration page. Now you can register each enrollee for multiple courses at once, rather than having to fill out a separate form for each.
Meanwhile, you can still download the Code of Conduct forms as before form each course description page. These can be printed, studied, signed, and submitted on the first day of class.
For the past couple of weeks, our web services have been intermittent. It’s up and running at the moment, but may well crash shortly, so I thought I’d send out this email while I can.
As soon as it seems to have been (really) resolved, I’ll send out another email to let you know.
Meanwhile, be advised that I have received several registrations through email in these past days, but I can’t respond to those emails when the system is down. No worries, though; I expect it to be resolved perhaps as early as tomorrow.
Hey, We, Montana! parents—-I need your help! As you know, we are taking an aggressive step forward for the Fall, so it’s forcing me to work both harder and smarter–as they say. If you’re willing, you can help make this easier for me in what may be a surprisingly simple way. It’s about communication. Please take a few minutes to read the following.
This post is to announce that we’ve just posted a new page concerning our recommended donations for participants starting this Fall, 2019. Please take the time to read it carefully so that you’ll understand what time it is and where we’re headed. Thanks!