Last February, Rene Haynes was standing in line at a Los Angeles Costco when her phone buzzed. She didn’t recognize the number, but as a Hollywood casting director, she’s used to urgent calls from strange numbers at all hours of the day. This one was from a fellow casting director, Mark Bennett. He was looking for Native actors to audition for a lead role in an independent film set in Montana.
The cashier scanned Haynes’ groceries as Bennett described the character—a reclusive ranch hand, the strong, silent type, grounded. Haynes, a UM theatre and dance alumna whose casting credits include Dances with Wolves, the Twilight series, and The Revenant, knew the perfect person. The conversation was over before she pushed her cart into the parking lot. She’d given Bennett only one name: Lily Gladstone, a relatively unknown young actor from Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation.
At the time, Gladstone was between acting jobs and wondering about her future. When her agent called, she quickly recognized the scale of the opportunity.
“It was a dream role,” she says. “I’ve always been drawn to quiet films, subtlety, what is not said. I couldn’t believe I was auditioning for it.”
She spent two weeks learning about the role. First she bought a pair of work boots and a flannel shirt. She wore them every day to get comfortable in her character’s wardrobe. She studied the script. Her character had broken bones, so she practiced moving with creaks. Finally, she drove to tiny Belfry, the town where the story was set. She wanted to feel her character’s landscape. After all that, two friends helped her film some scenes, which she sent to the director, Kelly Reichardt.
Three days later, she got the call: The role was hers. She screamed. She paced. She called her mother. And then, shortly thereafter, she spent almost six weeks on set near Livingston, acting across from Kristen Stewart in Certain Women, a feature film based on three short stories by Helena native Maile Meloy.
“It’s pretty revolutionary that part went to an almost total unknown and that it went to me, a Native actress, without it being a trope,” Gladstone says.
When Certain Women premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this January, Gladstone’s performance was singled out for praise. Rolling Stone heralded her a “breakout star” with “greater depths of feeling than many performers could ever hope to show.” A writer for Variety called her “luminous” and said a sustained close-up of Gladstone’s subtly expressive face was “the best single minute of acting this critic saw all festival.”
“It was really validating and exciting,” Gladstone says, “but something in there is terrifying. It’s a lot to live up to.”
For a future movie star, Gladstone had a suitably cinematic birth. Her parents lived on the Blackfeet Reservation, and when her mother went into labor early one August morning, no one was available at Indian Health Service in Browning to give her a caesarian. So an emergency helicopter flew her to Kalispell Regional Medical Center just as the sun crested the Rocky Mountain Front. Lily’s father told her she didn’t cry when she was born. She just looked around the room and smiled. It was her first audience.
Growing up as an ethnically mixed kid on the Blackfeet Reservation wasn’t always easy. Her father is Nez Perce and Blackfeet, and her mother is Dutch and Cajun. Because she was a light-skinned Native girl, Gladstone often found herself in an awkward middle ground between her Native and non-Native classmates. She shrugged off the teasing—mostly from mixed kids like her—and tried to make people laugh with her goofball antics in class.
“I had a lot of energy I didn’t know what to do with,” she says.
Gladstone found her outlet when the Missoula Children’s Theatre came to East Glacier to put on Cinderella. She was cast as one of the evil stepsisters.
“It was the first time that I felt cool,” she says. “I think I just loved attention.”
When she acquired a videotape of The Nutcracker ballet, she watched it every day, marveling over the dancing and drama. She started seriously pursuing ballet herself, first in the basement of a Browning church. Her parents encouraged her, their only child, even driving Gladstone to Columbia Falls for lessons.
Eventually, Gladstone’s family moved to Seattle, in part to give her more performance opportunities. Her mother got a teaching job as an early childhood specialist. Her father found work as a boilermaker in a shipyard. Gladstone joined a ballet troupe and honed her practice until age fifteen, when her passion became self-destructive. She developed an eating disorder. Her self-esteem plummeted.
“In ballet, you get so involved in perfectionism that you hate yourself and what you’re not able to do,” she says.
Gladstone fled ballet for theater, which restored her self-confidence and allowed her to use her body in different ways. She performed Shakespeare, contemporary drama, and fairy tales in high school productions and in a small community theater.
“As a teenager, I was someone who didn’t keep a lot of friends,” she says. “Theater and acting changed that. I loved being on stage.”
Gladstone chats on the stage of the Dennison Theatre.Gladstone chats on the stage of the Dennison Theatre.
Gladstone enrolled at the University of Montana’s Davidson Honors College in 2004, where she was the first Native American to earn a prestigious Presidential Leadership Scholarship. She got her B.F.A. in acting, with a minor in Native American studies. And she performed every chance she got—in campus plays and in student films.
“There are a lot of talented kids at UM, but she’s always been a standout,” says Greg Johnson, who taught and directed her in Montana Repertory Theatre productions. “She’s absolutely a transcendent actress. We were lucky to have her.”
Johnson watched Gladstone transform from a “wide-eyed freshman” into a “thorough professional.” He says her focus, keen insight, and work ethic elevated her acting above her peers. She was punctual. When she got on set, she was usually “off-book,” meaning she’d memorized her lines. She instilled her characters with emotional depth. She paid attention and took notes.
As a longtime Broadway performer, Johnson knows that professional actors are beset with extreme highs and lows. Great achievement can be followed by spells of professional drought.
“Whether you’ve done fifty films or two films, you never know what tomorrow will bring,” he says. “You have to be strong of mind and spirit to succeed.”
But Johnson predicts a bright career for a grounded actor like Gladstone.
“I think she’s going to weather the slings and arrows of the profession very well,” he says. “She’s centered. She knows who she is.”
Gladstone graduated from UM in 2008 and went on a yearlong national tour with a Montana Rep production of To Kill a Mockingbird. She found work with a project called Living Voices, in which she traveled and performed one-woman plays about Native American boarding schools, Japanese internment camps, and migrant farmworkers.
Gladstone toured again with the Montana Rep for The Miracle Worker, in which she played Helen Keller’s mother. She wrote a play with a friend. And she directed children’s theater in Seattle with a group called Red Eagle Soaring.
She picked up local film work, too, first as an assistant for Montana filmmaking brothers Alex and Andrew Smith. The brothers were assembling a cast for their production of Winter in the Blood, the novel by Blackfeet author James Welch. Gladstone loved the book as a teenager. During the casting process, she read parts off-camera for hundreds of auditioning actors.
“We kept noticing no matter who we put in there, she was better,” says Andrew Smith. “We knew way before she did that we wanted her in the film.”
Eventually they cast Gladstone as Marlene, a woman who meets the main character just as his life is spiraling out of control. Smith says Gladstone worked hard to develop Marlene, while also contributing valuable cultural insight on the Blackfeet spiritual entities behind the other characters.
“She never stops thinking about the role,” says Smith, a professor in UM’s School of Media Arts. “I would like to put her in every film I make. She makes films better.”
Her success in Winter in the Blood soon led to other work. She played a minor speaking role opposite Oscar-winning star Benicio del Toro in Jimmy P. She acted in a short called Universal VIP and in a microbudget feature called Subterranea, which was made by UM media arts alumni.
But Smith says as a Native actor in an industry that is being skewered for its lack of diversity, Gladstone faces challenges other performers don’t.
“It’s more difficult if you’re an actor of color to get roles that are multidimensional,” Smith says, “because so few of those roles are written. But I think her talent will transcend the racial and ethnic pigeonholing. And as long as interesting roles get to her, she’ll have a damn good chance of getting them.”
Gladstone’s black hair, high cheeks, and transporting brown eyes are all products of her Native heritage. But her mixed genes lend Gladstone a look that many find hard to place.
“People see me and they know I’m something,” she says. “They think I’m Latina, or Japanese-American, but not Native American. We’re still a myth as a people.”
So Gladstone spends a lot of time explaining herself.
“Yes, I’m mixed,” she says. “Yes, I’m light. Yes, I’m Native.”
Her appearance is important, because it determines the roles she gets. Gladstone suspects she’s too fair to play a Native American in a historical movie like The Revenant. But she’s not fair enough to play the more plentiful roles written for white actors.
“That’s the industry,” she says. “It’s built around pigeonholing you based on appearance and type. You have to be confident in who you are. Otherwise it’s easy to get offended.”
To a casting director, Gladstone is “ethnically ambiguous,” meaning she could fit a variety of roles. And sometimes her characters reflect that ambiguity. In Certain Women, Gladstone’s character isn’t explicitly Native. Gladstone is proud of parts like these, because when Native actors play rounded, non-stereotypical roles, it helps demythologize the Native experience.
Independent movies are doing better at this than Hollywood. Gladstone says Native filmmakers Sydney Freeland and Nanobah Becker are telling modern Native stories, as is the sketch comedy group the 1491s. And she is encouraged by the success of Native actors like Q’orianka Kilcher and Chaske Spencer.
But when it comes to building a career as a professional actor, Gladstone is aware that being Native is a mixed bag.
“It helps and it hurts,” she says. “My identity has got me in the door for a lot of fantastic projects, but it’s not what ultimately landed me the role.”
On a recent Wednesday morning, I meet Gladstone in a café near campus. It’s unseasonably sunny, and she walks in wearing calf-length jeans, black Dr. Martens, a heather sweater, and a mustard-colored beanie.
She’s on time, and she holds the door for a stranger. Newfound fame hasn’t robbed her of any Montana decency. She’s confident, but considerate, too. She orders coffee and eggs.
Gladstone is twenty-nine years old. But at a time when many in her position would be fleeing for L.A. or New York, she just moved into a modest apartment near UM.
“I’m never going to fully leave Montana,” she says. “I like being in a place where I can work with Native communities. And Missoula’s a really nice place to be grounded when you’re a working, traveling artist.”
Gladstone did spend a week in L.A. during spring pilot season. She auditioned for sixteen roles, including a gypsy assassin, Nancy Drew, a lost millennial nanny, a hippy-dippy psychic who’s actually a witch, and a futuristic Marine sergeant on Mars. She’s waiting to hear back on some, but she’s not holding her breath.
“Sometimes you know you’re right for something,” she says. Other times, you’re just introducing yourself to a casting director.
It’s been four months since Sundance, enough time for the buzz to fade and questions to creep in about her future as an actor. She doesn’t have any definite acting work lined up. As for Certain Women, it won’t even hit theaters until the end of the year. Patience is part of the process.
“Even when you get something enormously exciting, it takes a long damn time,” Gladstone says. “It’s a lot of hoping and wishing. You have to learn to let go.”
Gladstone knows the phone could ring any minute, like it did with Certain Women. But in the meantime, she’s pursuing her own film ideas and working with kids. She’s helping produce a friend’s first feature. She thinks about grad school.
“I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do next,” she says, “but it’s going to be something unconventional.”
For now, Gladstone is heeding some advice from a former professor to never stop growing as a person, because character is the only thing with a shelf life in a business that can make you disposable.
“People want to work with good actors,” she says, “but they also want to work with good human beings.”
It bodes well for Hollywood and for the rest of us, then, that Gladstone is equally prepared for both of those roles.
MISSOULA – Four outstanding University of Montana graduates will receive 2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards during Homecoming weekend festivities on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The awards are the highest honor presented by UM’s Alumni Association.
This year’s distinguished alumni are Darrel Choate ’65, M.A. ’67, of Bozeman; Timothy Conver ’66 of Chatsworth, California, Arlynn Fishbaugh ’74 of Helena; and Tom Seekins ’74 of Missoula.
Choate, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics at UM, was instrumental in coordinating Boeing Co.’s efforts in the Strategic Defense Initiative – also known as Star Wars – for which he performed sensitive trade studies and analysis that have influenced the current U.S. ballistic missile defense architecture. He also served as the systems engineering manager for the development of Sea Launch, a program in cooperation with Russian, Ukrainian and Norwegian companies to launch commercial satellites from one of the world’s largest self-propelled, semisubmersible platforms. He is a member of the Boeing Company’s Technical Fellowship program, placing him among the top 1 percent of Boeing engineers who demonstrate technical leadership across the industry and who make a significant difference in U.S. and global engineering excellence. Choate began his career with the Aerospace Corporation and continued with the Kaman Science Corporation, eventually retiring from the Boeing Company. Upon retirement, he adapted his technical and personal skills to assist the development of infrastructure in Mexico, Honduras and Haiti, and made significant contributions to the Japan International Project, a tsunami rebuilding effort.
Conver, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UM, is the chairman and former CEO of AeroVironment Inc., a world leader in aeronautical research innovation involving cutting-edge flight technology. AV designs, produces and operates Unmanned Aircraft Systems – commonly known as drones – and other electric transportation solutions, including energy-efficient systems for electric vehicles. AV is the largest supplier of drones to the U.S. Department of Defense, accounting for about 85 percent of all UAS flown by American defense forces. The company is currently developing missile-like air vehicles that can eliminate potential collateral damage in its use, thus saving innocent civilians in a combat environment. AV also developed the bio-inspired Nano Hummingbird, a remote-controlled aircraft designed to resemble and fly like a hummingbird, which was featured on the cover of Time magazine as one of the “50 Best Inventions of 2011.” Conver was AV’s CEO from 1992 to May 2016. In 2016, AV’s market capitalization exceeds $700 million, and the company employs more than 625 people.
One of the most prominent arts administrators in the country, Fishbaugh will retire in September as executive director of the Montana Arts Council, a role she’s held since 1992. Under her leadership, the agency excelled at promoting the arts in Montana by encouraging commerce and business development for artists and art organizations and providing greater access to the arts across the state, including in underserved rural and Native American communities. Fishbaugh is known for creating an environment that makes people want to do more and who leverages the talents of her colleagues to meet and achieve their goals. She inspired Montana Arts Council staff to forge new partnerships with legislators and other state decision-makers who previously opposed public funding of the arts in Montana. The council’s initiatives and strategy have served as models for other state arts councils, regional service organizations and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Fishbaugh is often invited to share her knowledge and insight at arts conferences across the country.
Seekins is a professor of psychology and director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities at UM. He is one of the leading social scientists in the country working to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The community-based participator research methods Seekins helped develop have led to nationally implemented social programs, such as Living Well with a Disability, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living. He has published more than 120 journal articles and book chapters that have helped shape the science of disability and community living, and has influenced major research programs to reflect the voice of rural Americans with disabilities, including the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research in the U.S. Department of Education, and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has mentored nearly 50 students and secured more than $30 million in grant funds to conduct research and develop programs for health promotion, self-employment, economic development, community participation, housing, transportation, civic leadership and American Indian disability issues.
The public is invited to attend a panel discussion featuring the Distinguished Alumni Award recipients at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, in the University Center Ballroom at UM. An awards ceremony and reception will follow.
Ivan Morrison (MFA ‘67) considers the community of inspiring friends and mentors he found as a graduate student in the School of Art to be one of the greatest gifts of his UM education. However, it’s a story he hadn’t shared that inspired his generous gift to establish a new scholarship for UMArts students in need.
AN ARTIST AND A SOLDIER
Ivan grew up near the Mississippi River on a dairy farm outside of Ellsworth, Wisconsin; art and music were part of his life from an early age. It was an easy decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in art. Joining the Marine Corps meant that art would have to wait. Ivan served and completed his duty just ahead of the Viet Nam War, as his base in Okinawa was placed on red alert for transfer to Laos. His service provided him with his degree through the GI Bill; however, it also set him further apart from his high school peers—“I was a freshman when everybody else was a senior.” It was a productive, if solitary, time.
Ivan persevered and completed his degree, then taught for a year before realizing that teaching was not his path. He was accepted to the MFA program at UM, and again was making his way alone. “I didn’t know a single person in Montana; I came to the Art Department by myself. Then, walking up the steps to the Fine Arts building, the first person I met asked if he could help me …”
FINDING A HOME IN UMARTS
The person at the top of the stairs was Rudy Autio, the renowned professor who drew many students
to UM’s Art program though his artistry and charismatic style. Later, Rudy asked Ivan what brought him to UM, and Ivan simply said, “the mountains.” He chuckles now, “I
think most people, at that time, came to UM for him. I wish I’d been just 2% smarter about my answer.”
Autio became one of Ivan’s most influential professors, along with Don Bunce, Walter Hook, and James Dew. He remembers Hook and Dew: “They made all the difference; they always involved me, checked on me to see if I was getting on all right.” Ivan laughs, “I had to get used to that kind of personal attention.”
When asked to reflect on the highlights of his time at UM, Ivan answers, “The precious friends I made … always including me, always inviting me along. It was more precious than anything. Nancy Erickson had two small children and she always invited me on picnics … Dana Boussard, Brian Persha, Brenda Persha, Marty Holt, Jackie McElroy. There are so many, I don’t want to forget anyone. They all made an indelible impression on me. I knew I had connected with something special.”
“$25 FROM THE DOOR”
In this supportive environment, Ivan flourished, developing his artistic skill and unique style in drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Yet no one knew that his experience nearly ended in the second quarter of his first year; “I checked my bank account, and I was down to $25. I never told anyone about that … I was $25 from the door.”
Fortunately, the next day, a check arrived in the mail for a painting sold in the Midwest, then he got a sculpture commission. In his second year, with an assistantship in the Art Department and support from the GI Bill, Ivan was able to complete his degree. Still, he never forgot the feeling of being so close to losing a cherished dream, and pledged to someday help others avoid that precipice.
Ivan is quick to say that his career has not been one of fortune or fame; but it has been deeply satisfying. After graduating with his MFA, Ivan’s abstract impressionist paintings and drawings landed him
prestigious exhibitions across the West Coast. He branched into sculpture as soon as his supply budget allowed. His work can be seen in diverse venues, including the permanent collection of the Coos Bay Art Museum. His striking, massive sculpture Untitled (1977) is displayed as part of the TriMet Public Art program in Portland, Oregon. Today, Ivan and Mary Morrison live north of Seattle, and he continues to create sculpture in his private studio and to compose and play music.
Many would be happy with this culmination of a life well-lived, but for Ivan there was something still undone. Recalling his experience as a student, inspired by his faith and a lifelong passion for social justice, Ivan decided to create a scholarship for UMArts students. He began by making a series of gifts to create the Ivan Morrison Scholarship in the Arts, which benefits students who demonstrate financial need and rotates annually among the Schools of Art, Music and Theatre & Dance.
Initially, Ivan made annual gifts to set up the scholarship award, and after years of thoughtful saving, he made a major gift which was invested; a portion of the interest earned will fund his scholarship in perpetuity. Further, Ivan and Mary set up an estate plan to add to the endowment principal after their lifetimes.
“This was a stretch for me, it took a while to save it up … I know there are people who have a lot more money than me, of course, but certainly we have to do what we can. I believe we’re called to share our wealth, from a spiritual standpoint. You give because of love. Love for others and for those less fortunate.”
Lily Gladstone, School of Theatre & Dance, BFA 2008, was selected to participate in the 2015 Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) Emerging Leaders of Color Professional Development Program to be held in Denver Colorado on October 26-28, 2015.
WESTAF is a regional non-profit arts service organization whose mission is to strengthen the financial, organizational, and policy infrastructure of the arts in the western United States. In its work, WESTAF strives to reflect the values, insights, spirit and knowledge of communities of color, indigenous peoples and other marginalized ethnic communities in the west.
WESTAF established its emerging Leaders of Color Professional Development Program by: Building a Cohort of cultural leaders of color in the western United States. Engaging diverse emerging leaders in coursework and activities designed to strengthen competencies and prepare participants for leadership in the field. They establish networks; deepen understanding of the arts in the United States; and examine how public support sustains the vibrancy of the sector.
Lily Gladstone is an actress, theatrical artist, workshop facilitator and educator. Born and raised in Montana, Lily is of Native American/First Nations heritage, from the Amskapi Pikuni (Blackfeet), Kainaiwa (Blood) and Niimipoo (Nez Perce) nations. Lily grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, primarily in Browning and East Glacier. In 1997, her family moved to Seattle, WA.
By 2004, Lily returned to Big Sky country to attend the University of Montana. In 2008, Lily graduated with high honors. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an Acting focus, as well as a minor in Native American Studies.
Since graduating from UM, she has worked professionally on stages and screens around the United States.
She is a company member with Living Voices, a touring educational theatre based in Seattle, WA. Lily has also performed with The Montana Rep and Native Voices at the Autry. She is soon to begin work with the inimitable Red Eagle Soaring – a Native American Youth theatre program based in Seattle.
Michael T. Workman, School of Art BFA and Media Arts BA 2015, and Odyssey of the Stars Student honoree, was recently named one of Forward Montana’s 25 Under 25. 25 Under 25 is an award that recognizes 25 Montanans under the age of 25, who are shaping Montana through their work, while leading social change.
Michael is an artist working in film, installation, performance, and sculpture. His art deals with the ritual of consumption, the artificiality of value, social inequalities and superficialities. Workman’s first documentary, An Anonymous Rebellion, premiered at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in 2010. In 2015 his short documentary, Constructed Situations, won the Best Film Grand Jury Award at the Audience Awards Art Montana competition.
Michael’s solo art exhibition, Masses, at the Real Good Art Space in August 2015, was featured on the front page of the Missoulian Entertainer and a live interview was broadcast from outside the art building on ABC/Fox Missoula on Tuesday, August 25.
As the Associate Programmer/Festival Coordinator of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Michael mentors high school students interested in making documentary films.
He has taught teen and adult art workshops at the Missoula Art Museum and the Zootown Arts Community Center, and works to promote and educate students not only to get them excited and build confidence, but to help the next generation of Montana artists and filmmakers gain the knowledge and skills needed to be competitive in the field and share the issues of Montana with the world.
UMArts congratulates Michael T. Workman on his recent success and look forward to following his career in art and film.
Royce McIntosh enjoyed singing at a young age. At age 12, he was performing in summer stock shows at Weathervane Theatre, New Hampshire. His supportive parents never pushed him to perform, he simply enjoyed it. Being around the equity professionals at the Weathervane had a big influence on his path as a singer. Many had performed on Broadway or at the Metropolitan Opera. After graduating high school, he decided to attend college and focus on singing. McIntosh started a voice performance/pedagogy degree at Plymouth State College. By his third year, he was giving private voice lessons and singing in groups and shows and traveling in Eastern Europe performing concerts in venues one only dreams about. He was an all-New England NATS winner for musical theater and placed second in the classical division.
McIntosh took time away from college to audition in NYC. During auditions, he was often told “You have a beautiful baritone voice but your looks need to age before you can be cast in productions such as these. Come back in ten years and keep up your voice.” Disappointed, he chose to work building houses, resurfaced clay tennis courts and working at Cannon Mountain ski area, as a snowmaker in the winter and trail worker in the summer. McIntosh practiced singing under the stars at 3am while moving snowguns, flying down the mountain on a shovel, or running a chainsaw clearing the way for more ski lifts and trails.
After calling a childhood friend to ask about Montana, McIntosh came out west. He landed a job at Snowbowl, and was put at head of snowmaking. Some of his colleagues were musically involved in the community. Owner Ronnie Morse was on the board at Missoula Children’s Theater and her son Andrew has been involved with the orchestra for years. I inquired about the University of Montana music program and heard rave reviews. After singing a couple of songs at Snowbowl parties and gatherings, he decided to check out the program. According to McIntosh, “I never let my voice go and I know deep down I really wanted to continue my education and pursue my real talent. I got asked to give a couple voice lessons to people and my motivation really changed.”
He started the music program in fall 2005, studying with the then head of the School of Music, Dr. Stephen Kalm. It was a fresh look at voice and he learned a lot. Having a pedagogy background, he was able to apply new things learned from Dr. Kalm, which helped his singing and furthered his knowledge. McIntosh decided to take a hiatus from UM and traveled to Connecticut. While there he played Billy Lawlor in a community production of 42nd Street. McIntosh eventually returned to UM, and started working with Dr. David Cody. Dr. Cody brought more knowledge and function to his voice. McIntosh played the role of Count Almavita in The Marriage of Figaro at UM and the role of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Missoula Children’s theater. McIntosh also spent a summer working in Virginia City, MT at the Virginia City Players under the direction of Stacey Gordon and Gregory Johnson.
Colonel Timothy J. Holtan recently became the 10th Leader and Commander of The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” Washington, D.C. The change of command ceremony took place on December 12, 2014 at Brucker Hall, Fort Myer, Virginia, which is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. Presiding over the ceremony was Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Commanding General of Joint Force Headquarters-National Capitol Region and U.S. Army Military District of Washington.
Holtan most recently served as Commander of The U.S. Army Field Band (The Musical Ambassadors of the Army) at Fort Meade, Maryland; and was also the 22nd Leader of the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, New York. Colonel Holtan holds the distinction of being the first officer to command all three of the Army’s premier bands.
While under Col. Holtan’s leadership, The U.S. Army Field Band performed in Belgrade, Great Falls, Conrad, Billings and Glendive as part of their fall tour of 2012.
Tim is a native of Washburn and Bismarck, North Dakota, graduating from Bismarck High School in 1973. He holds music degrees from Bismarck State College (’74), Montana State University (’77) and the University of Montana (’83). He began his teaching career in Montana public schools, first in Superior, and later as Director of Bands at Great Falls High School from 1983 to 1988.
In 1988, at age 33, Col. Holtan entered the U.S. Army and has served as an Army Bands Officer for over 26 years. He has presented concerts and clinics in all 50 states, Canada, Japan, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Europe, and is active as a conductor and clinician.
Col. Holtan’s other military assignments include: Commandant, U.S. Army School of Music, Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he served as the primary proponent for all 100 Army Bands and oversaw the training of over 500 professional musicians annually; Deputy Commander of The U.S. Army Field Band, Fort Meade, Maryland; Department of the Army Staff Bands Officer; tours as Commander and Executive Officer of the U.S. Continental Army Band, Fort Monroe, Virginia; and Executive Officer of The U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” Washington, DC, where he served in overlapping capacities as Director of the Ceremonial Band, Brass Band, Chorale, and Chorus.
In 2000, Col. Holtan was selected for the Army’s “Training with Industry” program. He served as the Director of Operations and Associate Conductor of the Dallas Winds, while concurrently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of North Texas. Holtan’s ensembles have been seen on many nationally televised broadcasts and diverse stages such as the Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall, DAR Constitution Hall, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Myerson Symphony Center, and the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Under his leadership and after a 44-year absence, the West Point Band reestablished a partnership with the New York Philharmonic, which resulted in five Lincoln Center joint performances. Col. Holtan also led the West Point Band in the Emmy-nominated “Marina at West Point” PBS television production that has reached over 160 million viewers.
In 2001, Col. Holtan was honored as Alumnus of the Year by Bismarck State College, and in 2006, he was inducted into the Bismarck High School Hall of Fame. Col. Holtan serves on the National Band Association (NBA) Board of Directors and has received two NBA Citations of Excellence. In 2011, he was the University of Montana’s School of Visual and Performing Arts “Odyssey of the Stars” honoree, and was inducted into their Hall of Honor. In 2014, Col. Holtan was elected to membership in the American Bandmasters Association. He also serves on the president’s advisory board of the Midwest Clinic – the world’s largest instrumental music education conference.
Tim is married to Laurie Matheson Holtan, a native of Conrad, Montana. She is a UM alumna (’77) and holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Montana State University (’80). She taught choral music in Chinook from 1980-84 and was the Associate Choral Director at Great Falls High School from 1985-89.
The Holtans currently reside in Arlington, Virginia and Sykesville, Maryland, and have two daughters – Elizabeth Holtan of Arlington, Va. and Katherine Holtan of Sound Beach, New York.
UM Theatre & Dance Alumn, Amy Almquist (MFA Directing ‘93), has the national distinction of being the only professional actor working full-time in a prosecutor’s office exclusively to train attorneys in courtroom presentation techniques and persuasive communication strategy. As the Training Supervisor at the Pima County Attorney’s Office in Tucson, AZ, her work has given Pima County a reputation for developing criminal prosecutors with presence and strong trial skills. We asked Amy to tell us more about her creative career and her advice for prospective students and recent graduates in the arts.
UMArts: Amy, you’re breaking ground as a professional actor/director training prosecutors in performance theory for the courtroom. But your work isn’t just limited to Tucson.
Amy: That’s right. I also work with the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of the Army’s JAG Trial Counsel and Defense Counsel Assistance Program. I am honored to travel to military bases around the world training litigators in strategic trial advocacy by immersing them into the world of theatre and the discipline of acting and applying it to their work. As part of my work with lawyers, I authored a manual for effective courtroom trial advocacy called Authentic, Persuasive and Strategic Communication: The Three Keys to Powerful Courtroom Performance. I guest lecture and lead workshops on strategic communication skills at the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council, the University of Arizona’s Graduate College, International Doctoral Program, Eller College of Business and the James E. Rogers College of Law. I’ve presented communication training seminars at the National Advocacy Center in South Carolina and the JAG Criminal Law School for the U.S. Department of the Army.
UMArts: That’s impressive work–can you tell us more about your career path?
Amy: I began by studying acting at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago and then UM where I received my MFA in directing and served as a graduate instructor, teaching acting to non-majors. I worked professionally as an actor and director for over 25 years on stage, and in film and commercials, and I am a member of the Screen Actors Guild. For nearly a decade, I traveled internationally with LaughingStock Comedy Company performing customized comedy improv entertainment for Fortune 500 companies. I also served on the faculty at Pima College in Tucson teaching acting, public speaking and interpersonal communication before moving to my current role with the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
UMArts: Why did you choose the University of Montana and the Master of Fine Arts in Theatre?
Amy: I always loved Missoula for its rich arts scene and diverse population. I started my career as an actor and had minimal exposure to the complexities of directing. The UM MFA Theatre degree emphasized blending the discipline of acting with directing. I was able to work on my acting and become a better director because of it. In class I watched the way professors worked with my colleagues and then I applied those techniques with my own actors in rehearsals at night. The directing program at UM was also unique to other programs as it offered numerous opportunities to direct small scenes, fully-staged productions and film projects.
UMArts: How did your UMArts education prepare you for what you do today?
Amy: When I took performance-theory courses in my UM graduate program, I could hardly fathom a situation where I would use the information practically since I wasn’t looking to teach at the university level or pursue a doctorate. Working with lawyers has changed that for me. While actors openly embrace presentation and performance work with feeling, lawyers openly resist it with their intellect. I found myself re-learning how to teach acting from an intellectual perspective and performance theory really became the backbone of my work. I have the pleasure of being able to work with criminal prosecutors and defense attorneys much like a theatre director by helping them feel more comfortable and confident in their work. It’s a joy to workshop one-on-one with an attorney, get to the heart of their discomfort and see them grow and become more self-assured week by week. When I watch attorneys in front of a jury successfully put child molesters and murderers away, it’s tremendously satisfying to know that I played a part in making sure that justice was served.
UMArts: Was there a UM professor who especially influenced you?
Amy: The late Dr. James Kriley left an indelible imprint on me. He had a wonderful way of applying all disciplines of the arts to directing. Anyone who ever had the privilege of taking a directing class with him will never forget the discussion of My Last Duchess by Robert Browning. He taught staging through classical paintings and had an incredible eye for how stage pictures create impact and emotion. He taught me how to approach my work intuitively by listening to the needs of actors and finding a collaborative balance with my directorial vision.
UMArts: What advice do you have for a student considering an arts degree?
Amy: Odds are that you will never become a star or become wealthy by pursing an arts education. The competition is great and rejection is at every turn. Make sure you are ready for this life before you dive in. The desire to create and perform has to be in your bones from a need to do this work. It is a journey full of struggle and personal growth, but worth it if you are willing to open yourself, dump the ego and learn. With public schools dropping arts programs from lack of funding, the world needs you to remind it that the arts make a difference.
UMArts: Any tips for recent graduates embarking on their career?
Amy: First, keep your mind open. There are myriad ways to apply your training–you may be surprised. Always be open to learning and growing. Never work for free. The most successful people in this business are people that others like to work with. Finally, be memorable off stage–go the extra mile to be helpful, stay late, and get to know the people you are working with. Treat for coffee, buy donuts and show them you are part of the team.
UM College of Visual and Performing Arts students and alumni took home top honors from the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. Director Rachel Stevens, a second year MFA student in the School of Media Arts Digital Filmmaking program collaborated with Josef “Tuna” Metesh (BFA Media Arts ’13), Sarah Meismer (BFA Art, Media Arts ’13), and Caitlin Hofmeister (MFA Media Arts ’12) to create the documentary 20/Nothing. The film received the award for Best Experimental Film and the coveted PBS P.O.V. (Point of View) Award, which comes with opportunities for theatrical screenings in major cities and television exposure. POV is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.
The short film was created in just five days as part of the International Documentary Challenge. 20/Nothing was selected as one of twelve finalists from over 100 entries to premiere at the 2014 Hot Docs Festival, North America's largest documentary film festival. The team was encouraged to attend, and began crowdsourcing the funds through theaudienceawards.com to attend. In addition, they received support from the Montana Film Office. 20/Nothing is the second collaboration for this group of intrepid filmmakers. Their first joint effort screened this winter at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula.
“I was blown away as we sat there watching the films from the International Documentary Challenge— they were all incredible,” says Stevens. “I was certain that 20/Nothing's highest award would be showing a film that we made and love at Hot Docs alongside talented filmmakers from all over the world. When they announced 'This year's P.O.V. Award goes to 20/Nothing, directed by Rachel Stevens,' we were absolutely shocked. Throughout the rest of the weekend we learned to trust that strong feeling we had during the making of 20/Nothing, which was this is something good. We want to make more things like that, together. You will see more from us. Guaranteed."
A vocal scholarship brought Neal Lewing to the University of Montana School of Music in 1970. On May 9, 2014, the prolific musician, producer and arts educator will pay-it-forward, presenting a benefit concert in the School of Music Recital Hall at 7:30 pm on the UM campus. The concert is free; in lieu of admission, Lewing encourages friends and fans to make a donation to the School of Music General Scholarship Fund.
Lewing’s performance on the historic Recital Hall stage is especially meaningful; the senior recital in that hall has been a rite of passage for UM Music students since the building was constructed over 60 years ago. But as Neal Lewing entered his junior year at UM, a heart to heart with his advisor, the late Professor George Lewis, changed the course of his career, and interrupted his education before he had a chance to perform on the Recital Hall stage.
Neal was already playing as a professional and business was booming. Struggling to balance his work and academic life, he sought advice from Lewis, who encouraged him to follow his heart and go on the road. In 1972, Lewing did just that. “I went to UM for four years, and finished in 1974. I never got a degree, though I did get an education. George Lewis taught me how to keep my voice in shape and to follow my star.”
Lewing’s star led to performing on stages around the country and being heard on radio stations around the globe. He toured with the Missoula Children’s Theatre, performed and directed music for the Fort Peck Summer Theatre, and co-founded and directed Deer Lodge’s Old Prison Players. A passionate advocate of arts education, Lewing performs and teaches in schools and communities around Montana. He was appointed by the governor to serve on the Montana Arts council from 2001-2007. In 2008 the Polson Chamber of Commerce named him the “Polson Ambassador of the Year” in recognition for his contributions to the community as managing director of the Port Polson Players. For over 30 years, Lewing and his wife Karen have led the company, whose multi-level program includes community theatre, children's theatre, summer theatre and other performing arts opportunities.
“What a treasure Neal and Karen have been for the Flathead Valley,” says Linda Bates of Bigfork. “What they have been able to do for the generations of school children and adults (most with no training,) in producing unbelievable productions is genius… They have been advocates and exceptional role models for young people to pursue their education at UM where Neal, Karen and both their children studied.”
With all his success, one regret remained – never performing on the Recital Hall Stage. After 40 years, the May 9 concert will fulfill that dream. When he returns with his cadre of special guest performers, Lewing will find the historic stage nearly unchanged since his time at UM. Aside from minor equipment upgrades, the Hall and the School of Music have not been renovated since it was built in 1953, a state-of-the art facility at that time.
Though there’s certain to be some nostalgia in the air, Neal Lewing is clear that he devised the feel-good concert with the future in mind: “I've made my life in music and theatre and would like to recognize my roots and give back to promote the same for young people.” He hopes his story will inspire students facing a crossroads as they make career decisions. “Obviously, one does not have to follow any specific roadmap to have a successful and productive life in the arts”.