48 Degrees North

‘The Arts Helped Save My Life’

The Flathead Youth Home this spring hosted music educator David Simmons and his music intervention program, the UBU Project

By Denali Sagner
David Simmons of The UBU Project performing arts education program provides a music lesson to students at the Flathead Youth Home in Kalispell on March 31, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“For me,” David Simmons, the founder and director of the UBU Project, a performing arts outreach organization, said, “the arts helped save my life.”

This March, Simmons spent a week at the Flathead Youth Home, a group home in Kalispell that offers crisis intervention and long-term care for adolescents. With Simmons, the youth home residents –– many of whom came to the home from child protective services and the juvenile justice system –– spent a week creating a song.

“It’s a platform that they’re not going to get in trouble for what they’re saying. It’s just, be real, be authentic, share your hearts, share what the struggle has been,” Flathead Youth Home Program Director Lori Madden said.

The song encompassed heavy topics, like the inherent brokenness of the criminal justice and foster systems. 

“By bringing music in, I think they’ve been able to share pieces of themselves,” Madden added. 

Simmons brought UBU to the youth home through a grant from Amazing Place Music, a Whitefish-based nonprofit that brings musical programs to the Flathead Valley. 

Though Simmons has worked with more than 7,000 participants, his visit to the Flathead Youth Home felt special. Having grown up in northwest Montana, working with the youth home felt like returning to his roots.

“As [my fiancé] Tamara and I were driving up the Mission, and you reach that hill in Ravalli and the Mission Mountains just sort of descend upon you, I just had this huge feeling of homecoming,” Simmons said. 

“It was such a joy, in addition to working with those kids at Flathead Youth Home and those amazing people, to just be home again.”

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