In a state with more than 94 million acres spread far and wide among its borders, 1 million acres might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things.
But when those million acres are turned to smoke and ash, scorched black and gray by the summer’s wildfires, the entire state feels it. It was an historic season, and the fires only stopped once the temperatures cooled and the snow began flying.
Once they recovered from the shock of the disaster, Montanans from all corners of the state began to ask how they could help, how they could give back to the state they call home.
On Nov. 17 and 18, the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation, in coordination with Disaster Relief for Montana, will host two fundraising concerts, Crown Stars 4 Montana Relief, featuring guitar sensation “King” Solomon Hicks from New York City and Seattle alt-rock band Gypsy Temple.
The concerts will also include local favorites, such as Andre Floyd, Mike Murray, Luke Dowler, and many more.
“We want to see if there’s something we can do to help in the state of Montana,” said Diane Kautzman of the COCGF. “We thought it was a great opportunity for us to bring some music in and benefit a lot of people.”
While he’s here, Solomon Hicks will also make a round of presentations at local high schools, where he’s already “a big hit — the schools love him.” The 35- to 55-minute presentations, Kautzman said, will touch on how music changed his life, and how education was an important part of him becoming a success.
Ongoing music education with the younger generations is a big part of the COCGF’s mission to mentor and teach, Kautzman said. Though it is known for its weeklong workshops and concert series at the end of the summer, Kautzman said COCGF is a year-round organization, with programming and partnerships to reach as many people as possible.
Hicks will give presentations at Glacier, Columbia Falls and Bigfork high schools, and Whitefish Middle School.
Kautzman also said she hoped to get Gypsy Temple into the schools, and there was interest from the band, but their flight schedule didn’t allow for it.
The Nov. 17 and 18 concerts will benefit wildfire disaster relief along with the foundation’s music education. Hicks will perform on Friday, Nov. 17 only, at the Bigfork Center for Performing Arts from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. There will be appetizers and drinks available. Tickets are $50.
The Saturday, Nov. 18 show will be at the Craggy Range Bar and Grill in Whitefish, with two sets, one from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and another from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Food will be available for the first set. Tickets to the first show are $50, and $20 for the second set.
Hicks is known throughout the world as King to his fans, having been in the music industry playing guitar since he was 13. For nine years, he’s been the lead guitarist and performer for the Cotton Club, a 13-piece band.
Gypsy Temple is an explosion of alt-rock out of Seattle, featuring Cameron Miles Lavi-Jones as lead singer and guitarist, Hamoon Milaninia on the bass, Cory Cavazos on the cello, and Kai Evan Hill on percussion.
Kautzman said the concerts will support music education, but they’re especially geared to bring attention to the efforts of fire crews around the state who risked life and limb to keep more land from burning.
“It’s a way for our ongoing programs to benefit, but also to not forget that DNRC and our volunteer fire departments went up and helped,” Kautzman said. “It’s to show we all actually care, and to remind people in November that we can have fires next year.”
Tickets to the concerts are available online at www.crownguitarfest.tix.com, by calling (406) 270-1559, or for purchase at the Jug Tree in Bigfork, Montana Marie in Kalispell, and Craggy Range and Frame of Reference in Whitefish.