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Hangar Band, 18-piece ensemble, advocates for Montana music education

Posted at 12:50 PM, Mar 07, 2024

COLUMBUS — The Hangar Band, an 18-piece big band jazz ensemble, meets every other Monday at pilot Art Daniel's hangar at the Woltermann Memorial Airport in Columbus to rehearse.

“I started flying with Northwest Airlines when I was 23 years old. I retired in 1997," said Daniel.

The group said it began meeting in the airplane hangar in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing the Montana musicians with a safe and socially distanced platform to adapt.

“I showed up with my tenor saxophone and sat down, and Art goes, ‘By the way, you’re the director,'" said John Novotny, the band's director.

Many members commute from outside of Columbus for the group's rehearsals; some from as far as Cody, Wyo. and Bozeman. Performers said not only are they having a good time, but the Hangar Band often performs to support music education across Montana.

"We do it to raise money for kids for music and art … We’ve sent numerous kids to Red Lodge Music Camp," said Novotny.

Several of the group's musicians said they have been playing instruments since they were enrolled in elementary and high school, ranging from 25 to 50 years ago.

“Music education programs in the schools are a long-term benefit that – the public doesn’t generally recognize," said Joe Acciani, a saxophone player.

Hangar Band members said the experience of playing music with other people is entirely different from the experience of music listening.

“You become one with music if you play it," said Jim Guimonte, a trombone player.

The Hangar Band's upcoming performances can be found below:

March 23 - Craft Local, Billings
April 13 - One-Legged Magpie, Red Lodge
April 26 - Home School Ball, Swift River Ranch
May 3 - Hot Air Balloon Festival, Columbus
July 27 - Big Timber Legion Club