BAM: School of Music students turned teachers


Music brings people together in a way nothing else can. In Bozeman, music unites MSU and local public school students through the Bozeman Afterschool Music program (BAM). Each week, about 50 MSU School of Music students teach over 150 BAM students for free, which is around 440 free lessons over the course of the semester. In exchange for their hard work, the School of Music students receive scholarship money. The lessons, which go from week six to 12 of every semester, are either private or in small groups and are half an hour.


Kristin Harney, DMA, assistant professor in the School of Music, and the main organizer of BAM, described how “one year we had so many students from around Gallatin County we didn’t have enough teachers to meet the demand. We currently offer lessons only to students in Bozeman Public School ensembles, since our priority is to focus on and strengthen the partnership between MSU and the Bozeman Public Schools.”


BAM was started in 2011 by nonprofit Arts Without Boundaries (AWB) in partnership with MSU. AWB is based in Billings and has been helping start organizations such as BAM to provide mentors to students in music, the arts, writing and community. Harney explained “the AWB board started BAM by coming to Bozeman wanting to expand. They asked around the community and settled upon MSU due to the services the university and the College of Arts and Architecture could provide.”


The goals of BAM teachers are to learn how to develop a way to assess the needs of their students while also making the lesson fun, and to bring in previous experience to create the best learning environment possible. The students, in turn, learn how to practice outside of class and break down musical challenges. These lessons are easily translated to other activities such as school and sports.


A survey conducted in the spring of 2016 asked teachers and students what they liked about BAM. One teacher exclaimed “I love kids; I’ve been wanting to share what I know for several years, and Arts Without Boundaries gave me that opportunity. I wanted kids to get excited about their instruments so they will play for life.”  This enthusiasm was shared by the BAM students as well. One student explained how she decided to take BAM lessons because “The music that we play is really fun music and it’s just really fun hearing the instrument. The lessons stretch my ability, they make me better.”