In Flathead, a Musical Collaboration Takes Flight

By Beacon Staff

Jane Corwin never fancied herself a concert organizer. A U.S. Department of Commerce employee who works out of Washington D.C., she enjoys live music and putting together the occasional event at her home in Somers.

But when chance gave her an opportunity to bring four extraordinary musicians together, she had to act.

“People who know me would ask, ‘What the heck is she doing that for?’” Corwin said. “Through a series of coincidences, I ended up introducing these musicians to each other.”

As a result, Flathead residents are the fortunate hosts for three concerts featuring four varied and talented artists: Jack Gladstone, a local Blackfeet poet-singer; R. Carlos Nakai, a premier performer of the Native American flute; Will Clipman, a percussionist, poet and performing artist; and Montana cellist Lee Zimmerman.

On Monday, June 29, Gladstone and Clipman will perform together at the Apgar Amphitheater in Glacier National Park.

All four musicians will then perform at the new Salish and Kootenai Tribal Theater in Pablo on June 30 at 7 p.m. The following week, the quartet will reunite for a concert on July 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Stillwater Landing, an outdoor performance venue resting on the shoreline of Lower Stillwater Lake about 15 miles northwest of Whitefish.

“This is the first time these four musicians will be playing together, and its happening in the Flathead,” Corwin said.

Corwin had gotten to know Gladstone over the years, hosting him for performances at her Somers home on several occasions. They met up again last fall, when Gladstone traveled with the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree as Montana’s spokesperson and troubadour, performing as the tree stopped at events across the country and finally at the nationally televised lighting ceremony in D.C.

Shortly after, Corwin found herself sitting across a dinner table from Clipman, the percussionist, while on a work trip in a “funky, little town in Arizona.” Clipman was performing there with Nakai.

Talk turned to Montana, and when Clipman said he and Nakai would be in Missoula this summer, Corwin began plotting for an appearance in the Flathead. A call to Gladstone and Zimmerman, and the beginnings of an unexpected group were formed.

Gladstone is likely the most familiar name for local residents.

A “poet-singer” and lecturer from the Blackfeet Indian Nation of Montana, Gladstone has built a reputation as a cultural bridge builder. He delivers programs nationally on American Indian myth, legend and history, including “Native America Speaks,” an award-winning lecture series he co-founded and has performed in Glacier National Park since 1985.

“The Glacier program is very grounding for me,” Gladstone said. “I don’t have to run around all summer. I can be near home.”

The upcoming concerts are attractive in a similar way: playing in good company close to home.

“Carlos Nakai is the premier Native American flute player in the world, period,” Gladstone said. “Clipman and Zimmerman, too, are amazingly talented musicians.”

Of Navajo-Ute heritage, Nakai has received two Gold Records and eight Grammy nominations for his flute playing.

While recognizing the traditional use of the flute as a solo instrument, Nakai has found new settings for it, performing in an ethnic jazz ensemble, classical concert halls, a traditional Japanese ensemble and more. He’s released more than 35 albums.

Clipman has recorded more than 50 albums, including 21 for Canyon Records, where he is the house percussionist, and several of Nakai’s albums. He is a four-time Grammy nominee and a two-time Native American Music Award Winner as well as an accomplished poet, maskmaker and storyteller.

Montana cellist Lee Zimmerman rounds out the bunch, bringing his singing and songwriting talents as well. In pop music cello players are traditionally limited to a mellow background for the occasional ballad. But Zimmerman introduces stylistic influences from American pop music, swing, jazz and world music for an unique sound.

While the performances promise concertgoers opportunity to see four-nationally recognized musicians, Corwin hopes they spark even a little more.

“I think this could be the beginning of some new relationships, bringing some of the top artist in the country together,” she said.

For the Pablo Concert: Tickets are $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. Tickets can be reserved at www.JackGladstone.com or by calling (406) 250-7038.

For the Stillwater Landing Concert: A $25 donation is suggested. For more information, www.stillwaterlanding.com.

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