Project by flautist Norman Menzales inspired by his late father

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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about Great Falls artists using American Rescue Plan Act grants to develop local projects.

Norman Menzales is anything but busy.

Menzales, 36, has been principal flutist with the Great Falls Symphony since 2012. He is in his 10th season with the Fort Collins Symphony in Colorado, and he recently won the principal flute title with the Wyoming Symphony.

He also teaches at a community college in Nebraska and is president of the Montana Flute Association, which he founded in 2014.

But that is apparently not enough.

Now he’s using a $10,000 grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help with his new project: a recording of a composition by a Filipino composer with a full Filipino orchestra.

The project is called Sampaguita Filipino Flute Recording Project, named after a jasmine-like flower that is the national flower of the Philippines.

The impetus for the project came from Menzales’ father, who died in 2020.

During one of their last conversations, they talked about two things.

First, his father said, “Norman, you have to buy a house. Just because you’re buying a house doesn’t mean it’s going to rob you of future opportunities.

“It was a very big concern that I had,” Menzales said, adding that he feared he would stagnate as an artist if he stayed in one place. “I can say, now, that this is anything but the truth. I feel like rather than trying to just look at the negatives that could potentially happen to me, I’m choosing to live in the present and look at the wonderful things Montana has to offer.

“No matter where you go, there will always be pros and cons, but it’s up to you, do you want to thrive in this environment or will you let it diminish you?”

Secondly, Menzales’ father wanted him to remember his roots and be proud of being Filipino.

Menzales has been encouraged in the past to make a recording, and he said he didn’t want to do something that had already been done.

With his father’s voice in his ear, he began contacting Filipino composers and found 93-year-old Alfredo Santos Buenaventura. The ARPA grant provides part of the money to record a particular Buenaventura concerto.

The Philippino-American Symphony of Los Angeles agreed to work with Menzales on the project. Each person he reached out to led Menzales to another person, and that string of happy relationships went on like dominoes.

In addition to the $10,000 grant, Menzales has an additional fundraising goal of $16,000 to cover the costs of the full orchestra and the recording of the rest of the album, which will be filled with smaller works by chamber music for various instruments and combinations of instruments played by Filipinos. the musicians. Menzales hopes to record this next summer.

If you would like to help, visit Menzales’ GoFundMe at https://bit.ly/3wxDPHv.

There aren’t many recordings of music composed by Filipinos, so Menzales thinks it’s important to add to the canon.

Menzales said being a classically trained musician in Great Falls who didn’t come here because of the military or the medical field and who is Filipino and openly gay puts him in a unique position to show what this town can offer.

“I see it not just as something unique about me, but really as a responsibility, again, like my dad used to say, don’t forget your roots,” he said. “And not only that, just be myself. And hopefully people will notice in a good way that there are wonderful things happening here and there is some sense of diversity.

Menzales said there was starting to be a shift in the arts to have more BIPOC representation. Specifically, large orchestra programs feature more diverse musicians and composers. This project could not have come at a better time.

“It’s very relevant to our time, and I think that’s what art should be,” Menzales said. “That should be a reflection of what’s going on, and I also feel like for me personally, it worked out that way where I had the ARPA grant available and I took advantage of that and that idea, and I’m grateful that it just happened that way it happened.

The recording also gives Menzales the opportunity to reflect on what he wants his musical legacy to be and what he wants to bring to the musical world.

Obviously, Menzales said, he’d like to perform the concerto with orchestras all over the country, but right now he’s thinking no further than doing so.

Finally, Menzales spoke about the importance of ARPA arts grants in general.

“I’m just grateful and happy,” he said, “because I think each of us in Great Falls who received (ARPA grants) has a really big project that we’re all working on, and that’s very special and unique and something that I hope will help not only our community but beyond.

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