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Music comes together in a certain Missoula Quonset hut

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Posted at 11:12 AM, May 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-08 13:30:07-04

MISSOULA - Missoula and music go hand and hand, but that’s only thanks to the many people that work to make the music scene what it is.

And as seen in one Quonset hut, there are a lot of different ways businesses choose to support the music scene.

Garden City Guitar is a guitar lesson program located in a small Quonset hut off South Grant Street.

In the back of this same building sits Ridgeline Studios, a full recording studio co-owned and engineered by Hannibal Hayes.

Nathan Zavalney has had a passion for teaching guitar for over 22 years.

He was previously teaching under the parent company ChildBloom Guitar Program, but recently changed the name to Garden City Guitar, and began teaching his own curriculum.

The name, Zavalney says, is in honor of the city he resides in and the Missoula community he loves.

“It’s not the Nathan Zavalney guitar program. It's the Garden City guitar program,” he says.

Nathan Zavalney plays guitar with his students on Thursday, May 4. He encourages his classes to perform jam sessions throughout the community, including at River City Roots. He loves to engage and give back to the community with music, and has even donated guitars to Watson Children's Center.
“I think music can be such a powerful way to connect with others,” he says.

For Zavalney, a fourth-generation Montanan, teaching music to young kids is a great way to teach diligence and self-confidence.

“I think maybe even more than spreading music, it's what being engaged in what music does for a person, and I feel just very honored that I get to be a mentor for these kids,” he says. “Reinforcing their own sense of self and self-esteem.”

After purchasing the Quonset hut in 2010, Zavalney says he has had over 2,000 kids come through, teaching 95 kids per week.

He works with young guitarists of all skill levels, something he loves because he gets to see a wide progression in his students.

“We'll have a class where we're playing classical music, playing Bach,” he says. "Earlier today we were playing a version of the Rolling Stones ‘Paint it Black,’ but a fingerstyle verse. So that's the joy of my work, as I get to work with kids at all these different development levels and skills, and explore really fun music with them– things that I enjoy playing.”

While Zavalney is spreading his love of guitar in the front of the building, Hannibal Hayes is producing music for local artists in the back.

Hayes grew up in the Bitterroot Valley and moved to Missoula in 2011, wanting to produce and perform his own music. His production skills are self-taught, learning from himself and his friends around him.

“It was group-taught and through just so much failure and experimentation, you know, like that was huge,” he says.

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Hannibal Hayes started producing music while he was still in high school. He says he sold all his video games to buy an electric guitar, and has been consumed by music ever since.
“I've loved the idea of creating, you know, and I never really had that outlet. So I think it was just trying to find it," he says.

Producing with Ridgeline Studios is just one of the many aspects of his wheelhouse.

Hayes is the owner of Bitterroots Recordings and the event coordinator at Live & Loud Montana, a live music event series.

With all of his businesses, he’s able to provide musicians a fairly comprehensive service, from recording and producing, to booking them live shows, to managing their brand and social media.

He does this all with the artist’s well-being in mind, charging inexpensive prices and supporting them in any way they need.

“We give opportunities to artists without signing them onto a contract that they're trapped to,” he says. “By independently training all of these artists to be their own independent brand managers, we can all work as a team and build a really successful and efficient group of independent artists who are all working for the same goal.”

That goal, for Hayes, is to promote the Missoula music community and put Montana on the map.

“Missoula, I consider it to be like the Austin, Texas of Montana. You know, it's this incredible hub of music and culture. It's a melting pot of chaos and creativity,” he says.

Hayes, and his partners on the projects, focus on community events, putting on live, high-quality concerts with no cost to the public or the performing artists.

All of these projects are happening while Hayes works on his own music.

“I'm doing it full time, constantly, like 16 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says. “I'm just like, obsessed.”

A guitar studio for kids and a recording studio may sound like two, fairly different businesses. But Zavalney and Hayes have more in common than one might think.

While the two men’s way of spreading music is different, they both enjoy helping others improve their musical talent and grow in the industry.

“That is incredibly fulfilling… to sit down and take their ideas and bring them to life and see their reaction while that happens, and you can feel the energy next to you as you're like, processing their song through you. You can feel how proud they are. That's amazing,” Hayes says.

While teaching his students, Zavalney loves that parents and family come to support them.
"It's just so fun to see the evolution and get to know these kids and develop relationships with their families over the years," he says.

And with his young students, Zavalney feels similar.

“Why do I do it? Why do I love it? It's just so amazing to see the excitement of discovery,” Zavalney says.

Of course, they also share a love of music. They both prefer guitar over other instruments; Zavalney started playing when he was 10 years old, and Hayes when he was about 14.

“I deeply love music I love guitar,” Zavalney says.

“I'm legitimately obsessed with music. I love it very much. I love creating it. I love helping other people create it. I love doing whatever I can to help the community in general just grow,” Hayes says.

And all of this creativity and musical talent comes together under one roof, on South Grant Street.

“When you see this Quonset hut, walking by it's maybe a little bit surprising that there's so much so much music happening here,” Zavalney says. “Hopefully when people see the Garden City guitar program sign, and people come in to record in the recording studio, I hope there's just an energy to it that it’s a welcoming, open space, and that it’s about being creative, it's about people coming together. And I hope that hope this space speaks for itself in that way.”

More information on Zavalney's Garden City Guitar Program can be found here. Additional information on Hayes work can be found here.