Powell Grad Earns Grammy Nomination for Best Chamber Music Performance

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A peaceful landscape in rural Montana isn’t the backdrop you’d expect from a state-of-the-art recording studio.

But near the small town of Fishtail, the Tippet Rise Arts Center is where the JACK Quartet created their musical piece “Lines Made By Walking,” which was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Chamber Music/Small category. Performance package.

And this New York, Montana-based quartet recording got help with this Grammy nomination from a former Powell resident.

Located on a 12,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in southern Montana, the Tippet Rise Art Center was founded by Cathy and Peter Halstead, artists and philanthropists who created a space for modern artwork large in size as well as intimate musical performances.

“Our concert hall, where we do all the recordings, is fantastic, acoustically speaking, so it really helps to keep that bar up there,” said Monte Nickles, the Centre’s on-site sound engineer.

Nickles is a graduate of Powell High School and a product of Northwest College’s Music Tech program.

Nickles told the Cowboy State Daily that opportunities to work regularly with high-caliber musicians in the northern Rocky Mountain West are not common.

“I think there are local jobs in radio and TV shows and stuff like that,” he said, “but working with world-class musicians musically here is very rare. .”

Nickles has been the sound engineer for Tippet Rise for four years.

He said composer John Luther Adams was commissioned by the Tippet Rise Arts Center to create the Grammy-nominated work “Lines Made By Walking,” performed by the JACK String Quartet.

“It had its world premiere here during the 2019 concert season, and we had about five days to record everything,” Nickles said. “And the JACK String Quartet is kind of John’s exclusive string quartet.”

The New York Times called the group “the nation’s most important quartet,” and Tippet Rise officials note that the JACK Quartet is one of the most acclaimed, renowned, and respected groups performing today.

Comprised of two violinists, a violist and a cellist, the Musicians operate as a non-profit organization, dedicated to the performance, commissioning and appreciation of new string quartet music.

“They’re on a whole other level,” Nickels said. “They are so good, their intonation is crazy. And John (Luther Adams) really takes that and pushes it and writes really challenging and challenging music. And they succeed amazing.

“It’s amazing to watch live, and when they’re recording, they’re on it all the time, no matter what,” he continued. “And it’s really fascinating to be part of it, to see musicians working at this level.”

Tippet Rise is located in rural Montana, over an hour and a half from the nearest airport in Billings. Nickles pointed out that one of the benefits of checking in at Tippet Rise is the uniqueness of the location.

“When you go to a traditional studio, you have a lot of pressure to go really fast because you’re usually paying by the hour for studio time, for engineer time, for producer time, and it costs very expensive money,” Nickles said. “But we really like to take the time it takes to do something and slow it down so people can really experience the artistic moment throughout the process. And the results are always, always paying.

Being away from the Arts Center adds a new dimension to a performance, Nickles said, as that time pressure is released, allowing creativity to flow.

“We want them to slow down, enjoy the moment, and really have that perfect space to immerse themselves in the art of whatever they’re creating,” he said. “And part of that is slowing down and taking time to be here, and to be in the stillness, and to be in nature and surrounded by the Beartooth Mountains and all this amazing scenery.

“It may seem a little isolated but at the same time, no,” continued Nickles, “because we are here to help raise their artistic capacity as high as possible, in this type of ecosphere of art and nature.”

Nickle’s experience recording the JACK Quartet was just one of nearly 30 projects he worked on in 2019, but the only one he recorded that received this kind of national attention. However, the competition for the Grammy award is tough. Other entries in the same category include a performance by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Nickles and the JACK Quartet will be waiting to hear if “Lines Made By Walking” will win the coveted award when the winners of the 2022 Grammy Awards are announced on April 3.

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