The Billings Outpost

St. Vincent Healthcare brings back Living Well


It should come as no surprise that the top three New Years’ resolutions for 2013 had to do with improving one’s health, namely through weight loss, improved physical fitness and kicking that old smoking habit.

In the interest of this continued focus on improving one’s health, St. Vincent Healthcare will be returning to the 2013 Home and Health Expo Feb. 14-16 with a larger exhibit and a number of additional health screening services.

Attendees from previous years will remember the St. Vincent Mobile Mammography Coach, which will once again be on site Thursday and Friday of the show.

In addition to the usual breast cancer screenings, St. Vincent Healthcare will introduce its Living Well program, which will allow expo attendees the opportunity to receive comprehensive health screenings at a substantial savings.

Living Well specializes in on-site health screenings and continued education around identified risk factors. “These days, not many people have the time or energy to find out just how healthy they are,” said Colin Dow, St. Vincent Corporate Outreach Liaison, “Through the St. Vincent Living Well program we are able to give people a great overall snapshot of their health at a fraction of the time and cost.”

The health screening consists of three steps:

Participants are given a risk-assessment questionnaire to determine potential health risks in their lives, such family medical history

Measurements such as biometric blood pressure, height and weight, resting metabolic rate, body composition, BMI and pulse ox are taken to determine the body’s overall condition.

A blood draw is administered and complete blood work-up including lipid profile, metabolic panel and thyroid stimulating hormone test are recorded.

Normally this comprehensive health snapshot report costs $95, but with a coupon Home and Health Expo attendees will pay only $55.

Further testing including Vitamin D, Testosterone, ALC, and Prostate Specific Antigen will be available for an additional charge.

For more information on the Living Well program and to schedule your 15 minute appointment at the Home and Health Expo, call 1-855-277-5563 or go to

Living Well health screenings will take place at booth 619 inside the Montana Pavilion.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 19:48

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Pioneer West built by farmer and son


A trip to the local farm equipment store, not unlike a trip to the local feed store, serves multiple purposes. A farmer may go to pick up a part or a piece of equipment, but he goes back for the warm welcome, hot coffee and friendly handshake that come from doing business with someone he knows and trusts.

These are the values that Pioneer West was built upon when two farmers, a father and son, started building spray equipment fifteen years ago. Today, with the Pioneer West headquarters in La Grande, Oregon, a retail location in Joseph, Oregon, and a new retail location having opened in Belgrade just six months ago, the company with modest beginnings continues to grow, but remains true to its roots.

Pioneer West carries a variety of agricultural equipment including sprayers, Precision Farming electronics, irrigation systems and tractors, offering complete solutions for today’s modern farmer.

“A farmer [Greg Bingaman] owns the company,” said Pioneer West’s Kaela Curtis, “he has specialized knowledge regarding the needs of our customers.” In the company’s Belgrade store, the staff’s primary focus is providing customers with the highest quality sprayers available on the market, including large capacity Miller Sprayers and Pioneer West’s smaller capacity skid sprayers that are manufactured in-house. With the company’s commitment to its customers’ productivity long after the sale is complete, they are also Miller Certified for service and offer in-house service on all the sprayers they sell.

“Casey is outside sales and service,” said Del Richardson, store manager in Belgrade, “He was on a sales call at a farm where they were having trouble with their equipment and was able to get them back up and running at full capacity that day.”

Del Richardson and Casey will be at the MATE Show in booth #548 in the Expo Center.

They will have a Miller “Condor” sprayer on hand, complete with 1000 gallon tank and 100 foot boom, along with information on Precision Farming and the various electronics they offer to support it. To learn more about Pioneer West and the products they offer, visit

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 19:46

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Becky’s Berries at show


The phrases “Traffic Jam” and “Road Rage” might not typically conjure up images of peacefully sipping tea while nibbling on a piece of crunchy buttered toast slathered in sweet, fruity preserves, but perhaps they should.

If you have ever spent a bustling Saturday summer morning in downtown Billings methodically investigating the wide variety of Yellowstone Farmers’ Market vendor booths, it is likely you are familiar with the delicious offerings of Becky’s Berries.

If you have not yet had a chance to sample her heavenly concoctions, you will get your opportunity at the 2013 Home and Health Expo.

Becky’s Berries may be a first-time Home and Health Expo attendee, but the business is already well-known in the Billings community. Becky Stahl of Absarokee began sharing her homemade jams, jellies and syrups with eager Yellowstone Farmers Market attendees in 2004. Since then, her business has continued to grow, even in a challenging economy.

“When I told my husband about my idea to start this business, he said, ‘You are going to make a living making jam?’ I’m going to try,” said owner, Becky Stahl, “I’ve never looked back.”

Her signature, Made in Montana jams and jellies are prepared blending local ingredients such as huckleberries, chokecherries and wild plum with strawberries, peaches and even jalapeños. “Traffic Jam” is a blend of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and marion berries while “Road Rage” throws a kick of jalapeños into the mix.

According to Becky, “Road Rage” and her other gourmet pepper jellies, with combinations like mango jalapeño and pineapple jalapeño, are her biggest sellers.

Becky will have plenty of items on hand for sampling and purchase at booth #663 inside the Montana Pavilion. Her products may also be purchased on her website at and locally in Billings at the Good Earth Market and Buffalo Chips.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 February 2013 19:47

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Material Flow open here


In business, improving efficiency all comes down to employing the right tools to get the job done, regardless of the industry. That’s where Material Flow can help.

Headquartered in Donald, Ore., with a sales branch in Anchorage, Alaska, Material Flow opened the doors of its Billings sales branch within the last year and a half. With its unique approach to sales, service, parts and rentals, Material Flow has the tools and knowledge necessary to improve efficiency in nearly any production-oriented sector.

Attendees to this year’s MATE Show will be introduced to a small sampling of what Material Flow has to offer at booth 86 inside the Expo Center. Complete product lines include forklifts, conveyor systems, overhead cranes, racking and shelving and a variety of other material handling equipment.

What sets Material Flow apart from the competition, in addition to its quality product offerings, is the company’s ability to assist customers in developing solutions to production concerns with the help of custom design services.

They also service the products they sell, in-house, providing specialized expertise and peace of mind to the purchaser. “We service a variety of industries,” said General Manager, Steve Arnold, “including farming, the oil industry and warehousing. And we don’t disappear as soon as the sale is final.”

To learn more about Material Floor and the products it carries,

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 February 2013 19:41

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Don’t worry, it’s OK to eat quinoa from Andes


By ARI LEVAUX - @arilevaux

Many quinoa-lovers have hit the existential skids recently, thanks to a story in England’s Guardian about the supposedly negative effects of buying imported quinoa.

“The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it.”

This was one of several stories in the last few years published by the likes of NPR, Associated Press, and the New York Times. Some, like the Guardian, went to the extreme of guilt-tripping readers against buying imported quinoa. The idea that worldwide demand for quinoa is causing undue harm where it’s produced is an oversimplification at best. At worst, discouraging demand for quinoa could end up hurting producers rather than helping them.

Most of the world’s quinoa is grown on the altiplano, a vast, cold, windswept and barren 14,000-foot Andean plateau spanning parts of Peru and Bolivia. Quinoa is one of the few things that grows there, and its high price means more economic opportunities for the farmers in one of the poorest parts of South America.

An analysis by Emma Banks for the Andean Information Network responds to many of these quinoa questions with nuance largely absent from the press reports.

“The impact of rising food prices is complex and encompasses food security and sovereignty debates,” Banks wrote. Food security means having enough to eat, while food sovereignty means having a voice in the food system. These are impacted differently in different places by increasing prices. But some generalizations can be made.

“Quinoa fetches a guaranteed high price affording farmers economic stability. This economic power has also translated into political power though producers’ associations and cooperatives. Since the 1970s, these organizations have worked toward greater producer control of the market, spurring other political actions such as blockades and protests for greater economic and environmental rights in quinoa-growing regions.”

Relevant to the food security discussion, though absent in all of the recent quinoa press coverage, is the fact that, as Banks notes, “Bolivian government nutrition programs have begun to incorporate quinoa into school breakfast and new mothers’ subsidies.” Similar programs are under way in Peru, New York Times reporter Andrea Zarate told me by phone from Lima.

Edouard Rollet is co-founder of the fair-trade import company Alter Eco, which deals in Bolivian quinoa.

His company works with 1,500 families in about 200 Bolivian villages. “I’ve been going to the altiplano once or twice a year since 2004,” Rollet told me by phone. “The farmers are still eating quinoa.” He said that over the years he’s watched how the extra income from rising prices has allowed the families he works with to diversify their diets dramatically, adding foods like fresh vegetables.

Of course, not all quinoa growers are fortunate enough to sell their product to fair-trade organizations, and many receive less for their product. Regardless of the price, Rollet says, an average small farmer with 2 or 3 hectares to work will set aside roughly a tenth of his harvest for personal use, and sell the rest. It’s hard to see how rising prices could be considered anything but good for these people.

Of greater concern to Rollet is the environmental degradation that could result from more aggressive quinoa cultivation. His and some other quinoa merchants require an organic, rotational grazing system in which llamas are pastured on fallow fields, which helps stabilize the soil - and ensures llama meat on peasant tables. Reportedly, it’s really good with quinoa.    

This isn’t to say there are no growing pains as the worldwide demand for quinoa continues to grow. There have been squabbles over land and water. Farmers have been screwed by middlemen.

In her analysis, Emma Banks points out that while quinoa farming has for years received state support in Peru, in Bolivia it’s largely been a grassroots effort, with producers organizing and collecting the necessary equipment to process seeds and bring back quinoa real, the most commercially viable variety of quinoa.

“The quinoa boom greatly benefits farmers in spite of little state support,” she wrote.

The United Nations has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, saying it has the potential to advance food security around the globe and prevent malnutrition. In fact, quinoa is so nutritionally complete that NASA is considering it as astronaut food for long space rides. It’s a favorite of vegetarians because it’s so high in protein, and because it’s a rare plant-based food that contains a full complement of amino acids.

Interestingly, the Guardian story seemed as much a hit-piece on vegetarians and vegans as on quinoa eaters.

“Britain excels in producing meat and dairy foods ... . However, a rummage through the shopping baskets of vegetarians and vegans swiftly clocks up the food miles, a consequence of their higher dependency on products imported from faraway places.”

While attempts to grow quinoa haven’t worked out in Britain, Locovores in the U.S. can take heart at the fact that farmers in Oregon and Colorado are figuring out how to grow it. That said, domestic quinoa sells out quickly after every harvest, so for the time being quinoa lovers will be importing most of theirs from the altiplano.

There is, in fact, a ghastly irony here. It’s when media stories discourage people from buying imported quinoa in the name of solidarity with the locals. But instead of helping, such reports threaten to kick the legs out from under one of the most promising industries in one of the world’s poorest places.

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 February 2013 20:06

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Artwalk includes fundraiser for Venture

“The Mothership,” a photograph by Sean Heavey, will be on display as part of his “The Sky Above” exhibition at Jens Gallery and Design.The Winter Artwalk in Downtown Billings will be held on Friday, Feb. 1, from 5-9 pm. Galleries, all locally run businesses, will present new works by area visual artists.

Refreshments, live music, raffles for gifts from galleries, art demonstrations, the artists on hand to discuss their work and a great way to chase away the winter blues all are good reasons to join the party. The Artwalker bus, a free two-hour tour of the Artwalk galleries sponsored by Walker’s Grill will begin at the Good Earth Market at 5 p.m. and 7 pm.

Maps are available at all of the galleries and give the bus stop schedule. Maps can also be downloaded by visiting or see the map on Page 17 of this issue.

Artwalk will feature a fund raising event for the Venture Theater during the evening. Artwalkers may stop by the Kennedy Stained Glass and purchase a raffle ticket with a donation of $5 or more for a chance to win a piece of bevel and clear textured stained glass, handmade by Susan Kennedy Sommerfeld and her staff.

Among the highlights, Stephen Haraden Studio presents his new paintings. Purple Sage Gallery features the work of oil painter, graphic designer and illustrator, Thomas English.

Originally from Texas but now living in Montana, Thomas works in oils and pastels.

He is both a plein air and studio painter.

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 January 2013 12:35

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Got those winter blahs? Give these ideas a try

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

“The party’s over ...” croon Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Doris Day, and several others. That could be the theme song for January in Montana.

Christmas, New Year and Epiphany are just memories. The sun goes down early and comes up late and it’s cold, cold, cold. But Ol’ Man Winter doesn’t have to call the shots. Here are some fun activities, both inside and out, to beat the blahs.

Almost for free

1. Reread your favorite childhood book. Mine is “The Secret Garden.” I read it every year when I was home from school with the flu. Or wend your way through a difficult book that you always promised yourself you’d read.

2. Fresh snowfall? Make a snow angel. Try to get up without destroying your creation. If the snow will pack, build a snowman and then paint it by squirting on water and food coloring.

Eat some fresh snow. It crunches and melts at the same time. Just make sure it’s not yellow. (A 9-year-old boy joke.)

3. Pop some popcorn and watch movies until your eyes won’t focus anymore. I’m a multi-tasker. I like to watch movies while also working a jigsaw puzzle and eating popcorn.

4. Create something. Whittling has always been a winter activity. All it takes is a piece of wood and a pocket knife. Crochet. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Play with clay from the dollar store. Buy a package of construction paper and a new box of crayons.

5. Gather friends and kids and go sledding or sliding at Pioneer Park or on the closest hill, then finish off with a bonfire and weenie roast with marshmallows.

6. The next Art Walk is Feb. 1 from 5-9 p.m. You don’t have to walk. You can take the trolley from gallery to gallery.

7. Take a spiritual holiday. Turn off your phone and enjoy the silence. If that’s too big a leap, play some gentle music. After quieting the inner chatter, try writing with your non-dominant hand and expect some surprises.

8. If you have a grill, invite your friends to a pot luck winter barbecue. You supply the drinks and a side dish or two and they bring their own steak, chop or burger.

9. For star gazing, Montana’s dark winter skies are the best. Take some old blankets, leave the city lights behind, find a safe place to park, and lie down on your back. Holding hands with your sweetie while you do this is even better. Add a hot drink and snacks.

10. Have a sleep-over with your girlfriends. Listen to oldies while you eat things that are really bad for your waistline. Share some scandalous secrets. Do men do this? I think that it’s called a stag party.

11. Plant some seeds. Marigolds, tomatoes, and petunias all are great choices. You’ll be able to watch the sprouts shoot up in just a few days.

Give yourself away

1. Bake some cookies for the workers at your favorite nonprofit: the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter; the closest fire station; your priest, minister, rabbi. You get the idea.

2. Be a good Samaritan. Help someone change a tire. Shovel a walk. Give someone a lift to the store. Pay for the meal of the person behind you at the drive-up.

3. Clean out closets and drawers, then don’t keep them for a spring garage sale. Instead, donate the bags and boxes of stuff to a thrift store and take the tax deduction.

For a small amount of money

1. Go to a museum. The Yellowstone Art Museum, Western Heritage Center, Moss Mansion, Yellowstone County Museum, Museum of Women’s History, and High Plains Women’s Museum. Admission fees vary. Visit one of these a week and you’ll arrive at Easter.

3. Go to Zoo Montana, a thriving venture where the exhibits are more and more interactive. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.

4. The Billings Symphony presents Trout Fishing in America on Jan. 26. In February, the Russian Ballet Company dances Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

Billings Studio Theater performs BST Encore: “On the Funny Side of the Street: A Broadway Riot” at Yellowstone Country Club Jan. 26 and 27. “On Golden Pond” plays weekends in February.

Venture Theatre plays “Red” and “A Steady Rain.” as part of The Fringe Festival.

5. Dine out! The choices, from the A&W to Z Pizza, will please your palate.

6. Bars, Saloons and Night Clubs. Billings has more live music (as opposed to dead music?) than even a skilled bar hopper can experience on a weekend. Cover charges are minimal to zero.

7. Movies! The Academy Awards are Feb. 24. See one of the nominated movies on the big screen. Or treat your inner child to “The Hobbit.”

Take heart. The first day of spring is March 20, mere weeks away. In the meantime, keep your eye on the Outpost’s calendar for more ways to defeat the winter doldrums.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 10:37

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Safety unsettled of genetically modified salmon


By ARI LEVAUX @arilevaux

If you want to bury an unsavory news story, the afternoon before Christmas vacation is a good time to break it. The Food and Drug Administration chose Dec. 21 to release its long awaited Environmental Assessment of the genetically modified “AquAdvantage” salmon.

This move quietly slid the fish closer to making history as the first GM animal approved for human consumption. The public was given 60 days to comment, beginning winter solstice, 2012, on a farmed salmon that salmon farmers won’t be allowed to raise in the U.S., but Americans would nonetheless be allowed to eat.

If the announcement’s timing suggests FDA wants the application to flow smoothly, also consider that it has been 17 years since AquaBounty first applied for permission to sell its recombinant Atlantic salmon in the U.S. The company has paid a heavy regulatory price for trying to be first.

The slow and meandering path of the fish’s approval process owes more to agency machinations than any prevailing ideology. Four years is just enough time to settle into a new course before a new administration takes over and replaces your boss and, possibly, your agenda.

During the Bush II, FDA announced it would regulate AquAdvantage salmon as an animal drug rather than food, perhaps in hopes of expediting the process. More recently, according to a hypothesis espoused by Jon Entine in Slate, officials in President Obama’s inner circle conspired to delay the salmon’s approval for political gain.

Its application in bureaucratic purgatory for decades, AquaBounty leaked money, sold assets, was often without a clear idea of where the process was going, and flirted with bankruptcy. The tide began turning in November, 2012, when biotech giant Intrexon began acquiring AquaBounty shares (ABTX), triggering what has become a 400 percent run-up of the stock-most of the gain since the FDA’s solstice announcement.

Meanwhile, many are still wondering how a salmon steak could be considered a drug. According to FDA logic, the drug per se is AquaBounty’s patented genetic construct, made of genes from two other fish inserted into Atlantic salmon DNA. Inserted at the animal’s one-cell stage, the gene sequence exists in every cell of the adult fish’s body.

The company claims this cluster of genes, aka the drug, makes AquAdvantage salmon grow faster than its non-GM, farm-raised counterparts, and it hopes to sell that claim, and lots of AquAdvantage salmon eggs, to fish farmers around the world.

But unlike most other so-called animal drugs, this one inhabits an animal that can do very well for itself in the wild. It can swim across oceans, up rivers, mate with wild fish, and pass along its drugs to the next generation.

Given precedent that will be set in approving the first GM animal for human consumption, it’s understandable that the review process might take some time. Unfortunately, the FDA has spent most of its time figuring out how to avoid asking some tough but very important questions.

The Christmas EA predicts “an extremely low likelihood” that AquAdvantage salmon will affect “the environment of the United States.” This conclusion spares FDA and AquaBounty the significantly more-rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming process of conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which would include a comprehensive failure analysis investigating the possible outcomes of worst-case scenarios at every link in the process. Such hassle was largely avoided by simply stipulating that no AquAdvantage salmon shall be raised in the U.S., and no live AquAdvantage fish will even enter U.S. territory.

AquAdvantage eggs are to be produced in a facility on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and shipped to a facility in Panama to be raised in tanks to marketable size. In the future, AquaBounty hopes to ship eggs worldwide from Prince Edward Island-but not to the U.S., or any other country, apparently, with sturdy environmental laws.

A key step in the AquAdvantage approval process came in September 2010, when FDA held a public meeting of its Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee (VMAC) to review what was then the draft EA. Jon Entine, of the Team Obama interference hypothesis, assumes the VMAC committee “unanimously endorsed the FDA’s findings that the salmon was safe.” But the meeting transcript paints a more nuanced picture.

VMAC member Dr. James McKean noted, in his final remarks, of AquAdvantage salmon, “It appears to be safe, but that loop has not, in my mind, been closed.” Purdue biologist Bill Muir commented at the VMAC, has looked extensively at risk associated with GM fish, and believes AquAdvantage salmon don’t pose much of an ecological threat. Nonetheless, as he explained to the New York Times, “Shit always happens. If shit happens and they end up somehow in the ocean ... maybe it’s hypothetical to the FDA, but people would like to know what happens.”

In fact, shit did happen at AquaBounty’s Panama location in 2008, when a storm swamped the facility. As AquaBounty reported to investors, the largest batch of salmon in company history was lost. According to the Christmas EA, meanwhile, “no serious damage was incurred by this event, and no problems of significance to aquaculture operations occurred.”

Dartmouth sustainability science professor Anne Kapuscinski addressed the committee as well. Like the rest of the public, Kapuscinski had barely two weeks to review the hundreds of pages of documents released Friday before Labor Day.

Dr. Kapuscinski recently led a team of 53 scientists in writing a book about how to conduct scientifically credible risk assessment of genetically modified fish, and her lab has done ecological-risk research with GM fish. Kapuscinski was one of the most qualified people in the room, VMAC members included, to comment on the ecological risks posed by AquAdvantage salmon. Her oral comments were cut short due to time; she submitted a written transcript of those comments, but I was not able to find it in the FDA website.

A copy of her oral comments that Kapuscinski forwarded to me stated: “The Environmental Assessment does not adequately consider the growing body of research on genetic and ecological risks of transgenic fish.”

The EA, she wrote, lacked the basic quantitative information necessary to verify its conclusions.

The statistical methods were outdated, and sample sizes too small or not reported. Kapuscinski called for “a transparent Environmental Impact Statement that completes genetic and ecological risk assessment.”

In person, according to the VMAC transcript, Kapuscinski advised the committee, “FDA should require a quantitative failure mode analysis for all the confinement methods. Failure mode analysis is standard practice for technology assessment.”

The Christmas EA, in explaining its decision to not follow Kapuscinski’s recommendations, cited her work 14 times.

An EIS would be a sensible if, less convenient alternative to approving an EA that depends on exporting fish farming to other people’s backyards, and sending U.S. agents to the ends of the earth to inspect the facilities of fish farms that want to raise AquAdvantage salmon and sell it to the U.S.

To claim that AquAdvantage salmon is safe to produce, while at the same time circumventing the process of regulating its production at home, sends a mixed message to consumers, environmentalists, and industry. It also reeks of colonialism, and serves as a reminder of why “animal drug” might not be the most productive way to describe this fish.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:42

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MSU’s Funk keeps busy composing


BOZEMAN – Eric Funk doesn’t have an iPod, but he’s pretty sure his head works like one.

“Composers are like iPods, only they are filled with their own music,” said the award-winning performer and composer, who recently also won one of Montana State University’s top teaching awards

“At any one time, there are three or four compositions in my head, fighting to get out. So, you need to take time to intentionally listen, really listen, to the music that’s playing (in order to get it out).”

Finding that time can be a problem for Funk, who might be one of Montana’s busiest people. The namesake, creative director and driving force behind the award-winning “11th & Grant with Eric Funk,” he is also a popular jazz musician, performer, recording artist, conductor, band director and church musical director.

He has six CDs featuring his original work and recorded by symphonies and orchestras around the world. His compositions have been performed twice at Carnegie Hall, and he has been featured on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning and in the New York Times.

He also teaches some of MSU’s most popular classes and is so adept at it that he recently was named the recipient of the 2013 James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence.

In fact, Funk believes one of his biggest creative leaps as a composer came as a result of teaching. “For me it was education, interacting with young people and mentoring them,” said Funk, who has composed more than 121 major works – nine symphonies, four operas, 16 concertos, five string quartets and an extensive list of choral and chamber works.

Perhaps his most noted composition to date will be introduced to the general public in March when MontanaPBS releases its documentary, “The Violin Alone,” featuring Funk and Hungarian violin virtuoso Vilmos Olah and a complex piece that Funk composed in which Olah plays all parts of the concerto on one violin. The documentary follows a visit to Budapest that Funk made last year to see Olah debut the piece.

“Things are coming to fruition,” said Funk, who is 63 and says he is just in the middle of his career.

“With composers, it usually takes awhile,” he added with a chuckle.

That Funk practices his art in Bozeman, rather than Prague, Paris or even Portland is somewhat surprising. After all, Bozeman is known more for its western swing than its violin concertos.

Funk explains that he works in Montana because it is “where I make sense.”

“In Europe they tell me, ‘Your music is so big.’ I couldn’t compose the music I do if I didn’t live here.”

Born in Deer Lodge to a musical family that also lived in Lewistown, Havre and Missoula, as well as Minnesota, Funk was considered a child prodigy in a family of musical prodigies.

“We were like the Von Trapp family,’ Funk said. “We had a ton of repertoire.”

Funk received his bachelor’s degree in music from Portland State University and studied for a doctoral degree from a tri-university program that included Portland State, University of Oregon and Oregon State University. He taught in colleges and community colleges in Oregon and Texas before returning to Montana in 1985. He has been teaching at MSU’s School of Music since 2002.

Funk is thought to be one of MSU’s most prolific faculty members in terms of numbers of students taught woven with creative pursuits. His music appreciation classes, which are part of the university’s core classes, are among MSU’s most popular. About a quarter of MSU’s students will take a class from Funk.

“Former students rave about his teaching, and due to the large number of students that have passed through his classes, I hear favorable comments very often,” said Greg Young, interim director of the MSU School of Music. “They feel he is knowledgeable, captivating, warm and talented.”

Funk has also served as the music director and conductor of the Helena Symphony Orchestra, the co-founder and conductor of the Gallatin Chamber. He received the 2011 Innovation in the Arts Award (through the National Endowment of the Arts) and most recently was named a Humanities Hero by Humanities Montana.

He is perhaps best known in his home state for the award-winning MontanaPBS series, “11th & Grant,” which he curates. Now in its eighth season, the series features Montana musicians. It is filmed in just one intense week in the summer, airing during the winter.

“I could already program 10 years ahead with the groups that have been submitted,” he said. “There’s always new and tremendous talent out there.”

The producers of the “11th & Grant” series traveled with Funk to Hungary to film Funk and Olah in Budapest for the documentary “The Violin Alone,” which not only features the music but the bond between the two men.

Curiously, the Funk/Olah friendship and partnership did not begin in Eastern Europe, where Funk has performed, conducted and studied frequently during his career, but in Bozeman.

Olah performed at a Mendelssohn Symposium in Bozeman two years ago. Olah, who is not well known outside of Budapest despite his talent, is able to play several parts of music at one time on his violin.

”When I heard (Olah) I had this spontaneous idea,” Funk said. He wrote “Concerto for the Violin Alone, Opus 109” in five days. He said that the music “is not impossible, but it’s not easy. Yet, when Vili saw the piece he understood it like he had written it himself.”

“We are kindred spirits,” Funk added. “We haven’t really known each other very long in real time, but our musical communication is like a life-long friendship.”

Olah practiced the piece for two years before premiering it in Budapest last spring.

Olah plays a Stradivarius violin, and Funk said that the “sound that comes out of that thing is so phenomenal. It actually sounds like an oboe a flute and a trumpet.”

The “Violin Alone” is far from Funk’s last work. About one-third of his compositions are commissioned, so there is “music that always has to get out the door.”

For instance, while recently grading final essay tests from his 635 students from the fall semester, Funk was putting the finishing touches on a piece that will premiere in 2015 in Prague celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Czech composer Jan Hanus.

He was also finishing a chamber opera. His composition “Montana Winter” was performed in December by the String Orchestra of the Rockies in Missoula as well as at Bozeman High School Orchestra.

“Generally composers are writing all the time,’ Funk said, tapping his head. “When we actually have time, we try to get it out in a final form.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 January 2013 11:06

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Hemingway book is One Book Billings selection

“Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways,” by Valerie Hemingway. Ballantine Books. $16.

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

Valerie Danby-Smith lived most of the first 17 years of her life in St. Mary’s Dominican Convent, Cabra, in Dublin, where the days was largely silent and highly regimented. It was no surprise that after leaving the convent, followed by secretarial school, she longed for some excitement.

At a friend’s suggestion, she found a post tutoring the children of an affluent Spanish family, a family with connections in journalism. And Spain more than lived up to her expectations.

She attended her first bullfight on Easter Sunday 1959, and immediately loved it. “Here in the bullring was everything I sought, the parallel to my beloved Dublin theatre,” she wrote. “I determined whenever possible corrida would be my entertainment.”

In May of that year, the young nanny cum reporter was asked to interview Ernest Hemingway. She had read several of his books but knew little else about him. They were an odd couple: a 19-year-old with little life experience and an eccentric, celebrated author approaching 60.

She expected an interview and nothing more. But that encounter with Ernest Hemingway changed her life forever.

Valerie Hemingway’s memoir of her 28 years attached to, married to, mother of and stepmother of Hemingways, is aptly titled, “Running with the Bulls.” She matured in just a few months from a somewhat naive girl to a woman able to deal with all the craziness associated with Ernest Hemingway’s last year on earth, his fourth wife, Mary, and finally, his third son, Gregory, whom she married.

Gregory Hemingway eventually brought his family to Bozeman on July 4, 1980. Bozeman is still her home.

I found especially poignant her inability to save her husband from his many self-destructive behaviors. “Yagottawanna” says a plaque I’ve read on many occasions, meaning you have to want to get better, to change. She desperately wanted recovery for her husband. He did not.

I salute Valerie Hemingway’s tenacity, her courage, and ultimately her survival. Her reflections aren’t for the faint hearted, but well worth the journey.

“Running with the Bulls” is the One Book Billings selection for January. To sign up for a discussion group and receive a free copy of the book, call the Parmly Billings Library at 657-8258.

Discussion groups will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, at the Parmly Billings Library and at Castle Rock Middle School. On Tuesday, groups meet at 5 p.m. in the Community Library at City College and at 7 p.m. in the Rocky Mountain College Library. On Wednesday, a group meets at noon in Parmly Billings Library. On Thursday, groups meet at 7 p.m. at Huntington Learning Center and at the Billings Family YMCA.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 January 2013 11:46

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