The Billings Outpost

Local artists teach courses in Art Academy

By JANE WHITE - The Billings Outpost

Artists in Billings teaching creative arts classes in Rocky Mountain College’s June 17-21 Summer Art Academy include Susan Germer, a jewelry maker, and Jason Jam, a cartoonist.

Ms. Germer will teach “Jewelry, Art and You,” which provides kids from ages 8-14 with four jewelry projects, while Jam, whose father is an English and art teacher and whose mother is a pre-school teacher, will teach “Drawing Comics” for the third year with Rocky’s academy.

“Comics is a huge mystery for those who want to do it,” he said. “Any book is incomplete - but with hands-on and showing them how you create, it knocks down any wall of impossibility.”

His mother, Jeanie Jam, had a comic strip in the 1970s in the Times Clarion, a newspaper serving Harlowton and Ryegate, where he grew up for part of his life. The strip was called “A Day in A Jam Jar” and focused on family antics, similar to “Family Circus,” he said. Originally from Billings, Mr. Jam returned after about 12 years in Ryegate.

Ms. Germer’s mother was an artist also. 

“I took a lot of inspiration from my mother,” said Germer. “She was a jewelry maker, painter and did a wide variety of other art, too.”

This year is Ms. Germer’s fourth year teaching jewelry making, in which she and the students use many kinds of tools and materials.

“We will be using round- and flat-nosed pliers, wire cutters, found objects and jump rings,” said Germer. “There will also be wire-wrapping, where we encase a beautiful stone or other object in wire.”

Ms. Germer also paints with watercolors and oils, makes cards and sculpts fine jewelry in Precious Silver Clay. 

“I fell in love with beading … I use buttons, wine bottle foil, sticks … it’s getting lost in the process … [sewing with beads] it’s very meditative,” said Germer. “I respect the meditative quality of the process.”

Regarding her young charges at Rocky’s summer academy, she said, “I really enjoy being with the kids … I learn so much from them every year … what their imaginations produce. They have shown me different ways of putting together design components … they always surprise me.”  

Rocky’s Summer Art Academy began 13 years ago thanks to the diligence of Ryniker-Morrison Gallery Director Sally McIntosh. McIntosh said kids come not only from Montana but also from other states.

“Many times they are visiting relatives, and they are able to participate in the Art Academy as well,” she said. “Our Parent-Student Studio Day is June 21. That day is the only day completed student works will be available to see.”

Ms. McIntosh plays a major role in organizing each Artwalk, in which both Ms. Germer and Mr. Jam participate. 

Both Ms. Germer and Mr. Jam are open by appointment and during each Artwalk.

Ms. Germer’s Studio is susang at (406) 671-7176. Mr. Jam’s business is Jason Jam Gallery at (406) 530-4344, website

For information on the Art Academy, call Ms. McIntosh at 259-6563.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:04

Hits: 1873

Symphony picks members

The Billings Symphony has announced results of auditions for the upcoming season orchestra roster.

Auditions were held Sunday, April 21, at Montana State University Billings with 15 musicians performing.

Selected for the symphony’s 2013-2014 season roster were: Elizabeth Crawford, Great Falls, principal bassoon; Mark Soueidi, Billings, principal trombone; Sandy Stimson, Fort Wayne, Ind., section oboe/English horn; and Mike Nelson, Great Falls, section horn.

In addition, Rosie Weiss, Billings, violin; Taylor Shea, Billings, viola; Maria Fulton, Billings, cello; Rebeca Strong, Billings, cello; and Rich Gonzalez, Laurel, bass; were selected for intern positions with the orchestra.

Substitute musicians chosen for the Symphony’s roster include Dan Brockelbank, Billings, trombone; Vincent Hurtig, Hardin, tuba; and Michelle Maurer, Laurel, flute/piccolo.

Auditions for the Billings Symphony Chorale will be held in August.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 09:38

Hits: 2480

Correction - Blaming GMOs

In a story about a protest against Monsanto last week, Shannon Kahler was quoted as stating that she thought Genetically Modified Organisms gave her thyroid cancer. Ms. Kahler notes that she did not specifically say that GMO food gave her cancer. She said she does not know with certainty whether GMO food caused her cancer.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2013 20:27

Hits: 2579

‘Gracious Space’ helps opens up conversation

By BETTY WHITING - For The Outpost

Civil dialogue among people with diverse interests and backgrounds is a needed but lacking quality within the United States. It’s just plain difficult these days to talk about anything important, not only at work and in organizations, but within families.

The League of Women Voters of Billings is committed to public learning programs, but wanted more tools for opening up conversations of concern to everyone.

Mary Hernandez of Invisage Consulting is a trained facilitator for “Gracious Space.”

Through a grant from Humanities Montana, seven other Montanans have also become trainers. A thin book titled “Gracious Space,” by Patricia M. Hughes with Bill Grace, has the subtitle, “A Practical Guide to Working Better Together.”

In a retreat with Ms. Hernandez on May 20, the board of the League of Women Voters of Billings explored how to “invite the stranger to learn in public.” All groups can appreciate and use the following ideas.

“Gracious” is described as generosity of spirit. Each of us has something to bring to the space; recognizing the gifts others have, as well as our own, is a first step. Knowing we can learn from others becomes an act of graciousness. That spirit of interest in others is what we bring to the space.

Setting up the space, the vessel in which we engage others, comes next. The space needs to be comfortable and safe for all. Being open to others, allowing them to come within our bubble, makes us vulnerable, so it takes courage to set the stage where others are free to speak. We develop questions so others speak out and we really hear, understand, and learn the answers.

With this gracious space, we are ready to invite the stranger, those who think/act/feel differently. It also demands that we recognize the stranger within ourselves, ideas that we have not felt comfortable expressing. The stranger is to be honored and valued for providing another perspective.

Finally, as we meet with the stranger within this gracious space, learning in public means letting go of what you’ve learned and what you think you know to enable the possibilities of new ideas. It means letting go of being right long enough to consider that things may have changed or may be different from what was previously known.

Creating a gracious space where we can invite the stranger in order to learn from each other in public is a valuable process by which we can promote the common good. It allows for creative potentials for diverse, divergent thinking and for the possibility of joining together in solving problems.


Last Updated on Thursday, 06 June 2013 20:25

Hits: 2030

Speedy young women threaten track records

By WILBUR WOOD - For The Outpost

This is a “heads-up” story appearing one day before the last Friday and Saturday in May, when Montana high school track and field meets happen.

This year the Class A and Class C meets run concurrently in Laurel, while the Class B and AA meets do the same in Bozeman.

It is in Bozeman where a bunch of speedy young women will appear. They’ve been running really fast times this year, in races that we used to call the half-mile, the mile and the two-mile. And this weekend they could set some new state records.

Those three races are now the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters — and by rule of the Montana High School Association, state records can be set only at these season-ending state meets.

It’s an old rule, going back to an era of hand-held stopwatches on dirt tracks and the uncertainty of measuring time, space and motion in conditions like that vs. measurements in more refined conditions, like a college campus with a smoother track surface and more accurate measuring procedures.

Last Thursday, May 16, in Laurel’s state-of-the-art facility (smooth track, photo finish, electronic timing) the Class B and Class C Southern Divisional meets were held concurrently, so you’d see four iterations of the same event before moving on to the next event. First came the Class C boys running or hurdling, then the Class C girls doing the same thing. Then came the Class B boys and finally the Class B girls.

Chiara Warner’s 3 wins

It was the Class B girls’ distance races that most interested me, and the decisive winner of all three — 800, 1,600, 3,200 - was a senior from Townsend named Chiara Warner. Last year Warner was a good runner who placed fourth in the 1600 and second in the 3,200 at the State B meet.  This spring Warner, in her final year of high school, has improved her times so dramatically that she is on the cusp of becoming one of the premier distance runners in Montana history.

The 3,200 came early in the day, eight times around the track, and Warner finished more than a minute ahead of all others in the field. Her time - 11 minutes 11 seconds - was 14 seconds faster than her second-place time in last year’s State Class B meet, but she appeared dissatisfied with her result. I figured she’d been aiming to get down into the sub-11-minute zone.

In early afternoon, running the 800, her winning time of 2 minutes 14.28 seconds was almost 15 seconds faster than the second-place runner. Until last year, that would have been just three seconds slower than the All-Class state record of 2:11 set by Julie Brown of Billings Senior High School way back in 1973 — with some of those more primitive measuring devices, apparently, because the co-record-holder was listed as Carlee Clark of Bozeman, who ran a 2:11.10 in 2003.

Sub-5-minute ‘miles’

Now, however, 2:14 is six minutes slower, because at last year’s Class AA State Meet, Billings Senior’s Danielle Aragon raised the stakes by winning the “half mile” in 2 minutes 8.31 seconds. In that meet, Aragon turned in one of the finest performances by any athlete, any gender, any class, by winning the 3200 in 11:09.28; just missing a win in the 400-meter dash by about half a second; and winning the 1,600 in one of the few below-5-minute times turned in by a Montana girl: 4:56.43.

This “mile” time was very near the All Class (and Class AA) state record in that event - 4:55.18 — set in 2002 by Heidi Lane of Great Falls, C.M. Russell High School.

But back to 2013, Laurel and Chiara Warner. She had one more race toward the end of the day, the 1,600, and in this one she wowed those in the crowd aware of what was going on, rounding the track four times in what may be the fastest 1,600 meter time ever turned in by a Montana high school girl on a Montana track: 4 minutes 52.01 seconds.

This, from a girl who ran a 5:28 to finish fourth at last year’s State Class B Meet.

I timed Warner’s splits — each 400-meter circuit of the track — and they were metronomically regular: 74 seconds, 74 seconds, 74 seconds, and a final split of 70 seconds, as the willowy blonde sped to the finish line.

To offer more perspective, Warner’s 4:52 was the fourth fastest 1,600 run that day on the Laurel track, the fastest being 4:47.98 run by Layne Lantis of Terry, the boys’ Class C winner, followed by the top two Class B finishers - Darren Hecker of Big Timber (4:48.63) and Baker’s Travis Koenig (4:49,64).  Both Lantis and Hecker, by the way, joined Warner in winning all three distance races.

Morley and Warner

Still, at this weekend’s State B Meet in Bozeman, Warner is no shoo-in to win all three races – or even two, or even one – because she’ll be running against last year’s three-race winner, Makena Morley of Big Fork. Morley was just a freshman, yet she won the 800 in 2:18, the 1,600 in 5:09 and the 3,200 in 11:02.

While Warner has spectacularly dropped her time in the 1600, Morley has dropped hers in the 3,200. This year, in a race on the West Coast, Morley clocked a 3200 time of 10:30 (the Montana All-Class record in that event is 10:26.18, set by Zoe Nelson of Kalispell in 2004).

At last week’s Western B Divisional in Missoula, Morley also won three races: the 800 in 2:17 (three seconds slower than Warner’s), a sub-5-minute 1600 (4:59.50 — seven seconds slower than Warner’s), but a 3,200 time of 10:42.29 (nearly 29 seconds faster than Warner’s).

Morley looks capable of catching up with Sabrina Monro’s Class B 3,200 meter record of 10:46.12 (set in 1998). Both Morley and Warner have excellent chances of breaking Monro’s Class B 1,600-meter record of 5:03.29 (also set in 1998). The big question is, can either or both of them surpass Heidi Lane’s All-Class 1600 meter record of 4:55.18?

And how about challenging that 2:08 All Class 800 record set last year by Danielle Aragon? It’s possible, though Danielle’s younger sister Christina Aragon (a freshman at Billings Senior), who ran the 800 in 2:13.6 at the Eastern AA Divisional Meet last week, might have something to say about that as well.

And Aragon’s 5:02.5 time in the 1600, at that same Eastern AA meet, suggests that she could join Morley and Warner, the two Class B runners, in the sub-5-minute category as well. She’ll be running on the same track, in Bozeman, but of course won’t be running in the same race with them.

However, she’ll be competing with another Class AA running star, Paige Gilchrist, who is a senior at Missoula Hellgate. Gilchrist just joined the sub-5-minute “mile” club by winning the 1600 at the Western AA Divisional Meet last week with a time of 4:54.8 – faster than the All-Class record, two-plus seconds slower than Chiara Warren’s time in Laurel.

Speedy young women. Records in jeopardy.


Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:47

Hits: 2940

Speaker asks why some can’t samba

By JANE WHITE - The Billings Outpost

The sound was “skin on wood,” the spank on which a palm inspired the sound of the African conga drum, which in turn gave birth to Latin dance called salsa.

Dance dominated two lecture slots on the Western Heritage Center’s schedule last month. At the WHC’s High Noon Lecture Series, Mark Matthews presented a pictorial and audio history of social dance ranging from about the turn of the century to now.

Writer and dancer Matthews, 42, from Missoula, said he was on his way to Bozeman to teach contra dance, which he said was just like walking in a line, only more fun.

Tall, slender, blond and dressed in black except for a gray tie, Mark Matthews delighted about 20 people in the audience, only a few of whom were male. Mr. Matthews focused on the qualities of social dance that contributed to social interaction between blacks and whites.

Iconic Latin star Desi Arnaz said he thought the best way for people to get to know each other was through music and dance. Performing “Babalu,” he featured a conga line that many said promoted community via its simple steps and line format.

“Music and dance are what make people get to know each other,” said Desi Arnez. Matthews built on Arnaz’s wisdom by describing the history of social dance in America in two one-hour lectures, entitled, “Why White Men Can’t Mambo,” and “Jitterbugging on the Dance Floor - Social Change in America.” At the second lecture, he also taught a community swing dance called “The Big Apple Dance.”

He said Izzy Romero spread the salsa craze in the 1950s through the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo and Cuba. Adding that several salsa crazes have ignited throughout the years, he showed a photo that highlighted the spirit of sensuous salsa dance: a beautiful, curvy woman in a skimpy bikini made entirely of black feathers. The model, he said,  represented the height of chic during the Latin dance phenomenon during the ’50s. Mr Matthews told the story of how Latin dance was the first social experience that invited blacks and whites together to dance on the same dance floor, eradicating many cultural barriers that divided them.

Continuing on, he said rumba in 1931 became a staple of Brazilian dance. Later on in 1949, Perez Prado burst on the dance scene as an expert rumba dancer in New York City. New York then became the epicenter of dance and especially of Cuban rumba fests. Further, the United Services Organization hosted rumba clubs for soldiers traveling during wartime. Another dance from Brazil that excited the continents was samba.

Local dance teacher Steve Gillis, from Greeley, Colo., who has taught dance in Billings since 1973, said everyone experiences different dances in different ways and then makes them their own.

“Mambo is the studio version of street dance called salsa,” he said. Students ask me if I teach different kinds of salsa, and they ask about New York, Miami, Los Angeles and casino salsa ... . You get an American version of Latin dance when the cultures mix ... and remember Latins have grown up with dancing since they were young children.”

He also said he teaches nine different kinds of swing dance, including West Coast swing. Mr. Gillis can be found every Thursday from 8:30-10 p.m. teaching free dance lessons, including cowboy jitterbug, cha-cha and various kinds of swing dance at the Wild West Saloon at 1516 Fourth Ave. N.

Samba schools, said Matthews, were often situated on the outskirts of slums in Brazil, called favelas, and Brazilian samba schools celebrate Lent and Mardi Gras in the community via a multitude of street parades and parties called Carnevale. He said samba schools compete viciously in the sumptuous street celebrations that can draw people to party for up to several weeks in Brazil. Some Brazilians even quit their jobs to perfect their samba skills, make an elaborate costume and participate in that important samba dancing event. Mr. Gillis said, “The samba clubs get huge reputations based on how they party ... . The whole attitude is ‘Let’s have a great time and celebrate.”

Mr. Matthews said spot dances, like the various Latin dances except for conga line, could be danced on a crowded floor. He said the Italian Mafia ran many dance clubs, especially Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, who combined the two most infamous organized crime enterprises ever to exist. Finally, he said, emigration from Cuba and Puerto Rico filled the clubs with skilled Latin dancers with gyrating hips. Where did they get that rhythm?

He said the complicated patterns of rhythms came from drumming on African slave ships, among other things. Sailors played fiddles to get the slaves to exercise while on board ship en route to various auctions and ports. These complicated percussion patterns also paved the way for rock ’n’ roll. For further information, check out


Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:42

Hits: 1848

Nagel looking forward to life after Rimrock Opera

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

“Oh my God! I’ve done the opera for 14 seasons!” said Doug Nagel, commenting on his decision to leave the Rimrock Opera.

“I cannot teach all day and sing all night,” he added. “It’s time in my life for me to move on and to focus my energies on my job here at MSU B. “I have 20 students and it’s intense, one on one.”

Professor Nagel first connected with the then Billings Opera Guild as a performer in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” in 1999. The guild then asked him to become the group’s artistic director. Over the years, he’s been a performer, a producer and the general manager as well.

His favorite operas are “Salome” by Richard Strauss and “Die Walküre” by Wagner. His favorite operetta is “The Merry Widow,” but he also enjoys Broadway tunes.

“My signature tune is ‘Ol’ Man River,’” he said. He’s a Helden baritone, a dramatic or heroic baritone.

“I basically sing the big roles,” he said. He has performed all over the United States. His favorite roles are Baron Scarpia in “Tosca,” which he performed here in Billings with the Rimrock Opera in 2002, and “The Flying Dutchman.” He also received outstanding reviews as John the Baptist in “Salome.”

But his repertoire is not limited to the classics. He’s comfortable in all genres.

“I do love modern music. I’ve done 506 modern works with the symphony. I like modern music because it challenges the musician.” He stepped effortlessly into the baritone part in Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” with the Billings Symphony Chorale in March when the scheduled performer fell ill.

“I started life out as a teacher. I took music ed at the University of Wyoming and then, for my first job, I did all the music at Park City while the music teacher was on maternity leave.”

But he really wanted to sing opera, so he enrolled at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied under teacher and mentor Dickson Titus, now deceased.

“He was able to tap into what worked best with my voice,” he said. Other influences include Ettori Bastianini, whose voice Professor Nagel described as “steely,” and American baritone George London.

Now he’s teaching voice at Montana State University Billings. “This is very rewarding for me. I can make a difference with my students. Seven of my voice majors were in the chorus (of “Aida.”) That’s what I do here. I produce singers.

“Aida’s a really big show to manage,” he added. “I was the producer. It was a challenge to keep everyone happy and from freaking out.”

The last week in June, Professor Nagel will lead the second Institute per la Bella Voce for junior high and high school students. It’s a one-week camp. “It’s an opportunity for my college students to get some hands-on experience in teaching voice,” he said. And some of the high school students enroll as freshmen at MSU Billings.

He also teaches in Connections, a program at MSU Billings that allows high school students to take college courses for credit. “I have five kids in the Connections program here. It’s a wonderful tool to transition them into college life.”

At this writing, Professor Nagel is in the People’s Republic of China. “We have a partner university, Xuang Chen University in Zheng Zhou, Hunan Province. It’s a city of over a million. I will be teaching there for a month, twenty 18- to 20-year-old voice majors. They sing only in Chinese. I’ll teach Italian art songs, German lieder and Broadway. My last week that I’m there I’ll give a solo recital, mostly in the English language.”

Professor Nagel has never been blase or laidback about anything he’s done in his career. Singing is his life.

“It’s hard to take criticism when it’s your passion. And change is hard for all of us, personally and professionally,” he said once more, referring to the end of his association with Rimrock Opera. But he ended his comments on a positive note.

“The timing was amazing. I’m full time at MSU B, and I really love my job here. Now that I’m teaching, I think that I’m singing better than ever. And the opera’s going to have a facelift, new ideas.”


Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:40

Hits: 2983

Tea Party rallies against IRS

Local Tea Party members plan to rally at the Billings Internal Revenue Service office, 2900 Fourth Ave. N., at noon Tuesday, May 21. 

A news release said, "Tea Party groups from across the country are planning to protest IRS offices Tuesday as details of inapropriate targeting by the agency continue to emerge.

 "On behalf of Tea Party, Patriot groups, 9/12, liberty activists, and the American people, we are calling for anyone and everyone to protest the IRS' complete abuse of power on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at noon local time. "

Last Updated on Monday, 20 May 2013 17:31

Hits: 1940

MSU professor dies on trip


MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Betsy Palmer, an associate professor of education at Montana State University, passed away Monday as a result of injuries sustained in a landslide while traveling in Nepal, university officials announced Monday.

Palmer was in Nepal leading a group of 16 students on a course offered through the University Honors Program at MSU. None of the students were injured in the landslide. The university is working with the U.S. Embassy, Senator Max Baucus' office and emergency transport services in Nepal to expedite the students' return to the United States.

Palmer and the students were on an extended trek to a remote village in the Arun River Valley in the Himalayas as part of  “Great Expeditions,” a University Honors Program course.

"Betsy was a strong, spirited, amazing woman filled with graciousness and kindness for every person she met. She was a gifted and award-winning teacher, researcher, and scholar because she cared deeply about her students and was passionate about finding ways to promote their success and well-being throughout their college experiences. We have lost an incredible member of our department, our family, and our lives," said her friend and colleague, Jayne Downey, head of the MSU Department of Education.

Palmer, who taught statistics and research methods courses, came to the university in 2001. Through MSU’s adult and higher education program, she also taught courses that focused on college student research and theory, student services, and college curriculum and teaching. Her research focused on college students and the institutional practices that foster improved outcomes for students.

Palmer spent the 2011-2012 academic year conducting research in Nepal. In May of 2012, she received the MSU Department of Education’s Outstanding Research Award.

Palmer had a deep connection to Nepal. While visiting the country in 2005, she met her future husband, who was born and raised in the village of Pandok. They later married in a traditional ceremony held in that village. The couple have twins.

A university memorial service will be announced at a later date.


Last Updated on Monday, 20 May 2013 17:20

Hits: 2271

Information sought on game kill

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens are looking for information about an incident about a month ago when as many as 30 antelope were killed illegally southeast of Billings.

The state’s TIP-MONT program is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to a conviction in the case.

Game warden Nick Taylor said FWP received information that two males trespassed on private land west of Montana Highway 418 and south of Blue Creek. The two killed as many as 30 antelope in one field, then left them to waste. At least one perpetrator later drove into the field and removed some of the carcasses. Game wardens have retrieved several of the antelope carcasses.

Montana law makes it illegal to kill antelope without a license or out of season. It also is illegal to leave game animals to waste.

Taylor asked that anyone with information about the incident call him at (406) 247-2976 or (406) 697-3443. People also may call FWP’s 24-hour wildlife tip line at 1-800-TIP-MONT (800-847-6668). The TIP-MONT program is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to a conviction in the case.

The 1-800-TIP-MONT program is a toll-free number where people can report violations of fish, wildlife or park regulations.

Callers may remain anonymous. It is similar to the well-known Crimestoppers program and offers rewards for information resulting in conviction of persons who abuse Montana’s natural, historic or cultural resources.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 May 2013 20:47

Hits: 1750

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

Top Desktop version