Reservation Students Learn to Make Music Video

RONAN — On May 10, local students completed a six-week long MAPS Media Institute Class called “Bringing Music to Life” where they wrote, acted in, and directed their music video “Rain.”

To lead their Flathead Reservation and Lake County students, MAPS partnered with Salish & Blackfeet hip-hop artist Shadow Devereaux and Montana filmmaker Colter Olmstead. This class was made possible through support from the Greater Montana Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as endorsement from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Council.

Three separate educational systems were represented in the class: Ronan Middle School, Two Eagle River School, and home schools.

Students were able to discover a new passion for music, or deepen an existing one, as well as consider career options. Most significantly, students had a unique opportunity to learn from and work with professional media artists.

When asked about the flow of the class from an instructor’s point of view Olmstead said, “The students brought great energy to the class. Once we were able to focus this energy on the music and filming, the project came together easily.”

Students said the class was “like a family.” The instructors created an environment where they felt comfortable to be creative around one another. This connectivity was necessary because they were continually collaborating on story and music.

“At first, it seemed uncomfortable because we were all strangers,” said Ronan Middle School student Carter Gainan. “The more we met, the more fun we had, and the better we got to know each other. This made the project easier to work on.”

According to the class, a music video provides an audience with a unique experience and a different type of entertainment.

“It shows the story,” said home-school student Lina Sturman, “while also enhancing the visual components of the music.”

For the content, all students contributed ideas, voted on the top two, and then blended those together.

When asked to describe the class, Emmalyn Pierre from Ronan Middle School said, “This class shows that kids can do awesome things with the help of cool professionals.”

Devereaux noted that, “Teaching this MAPS class was a unique experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of opportunity paired with the level of knowledge provided in a place where students of this age group can take advantage of it. As a student from the Flathead Reservation, it was even more special. I grew up wishing I had something like this class – to be able to provide this for students was incredible.”

Devereaux and Olmstead taught students how to use the film and sound equipment. While they made suggestions, they encouraged the students to be themselves and flow through their own artistic ideas and abilities.

“We really gave creative control to the students,” said Olmstead. “While Shadow and I supported them by helping them understand how to create a music video from start to finish, the final product came from their vision and ideas. The students were the drivers.”

When asked if they were satisfied with their work, the students responded yes. “Everyone was able to have confidence in themselves, each other, and their work,” noted Two Eagle River School student, Vicente LaRoche. The students enjoyed the class and expressed an interest in future MAPS classes – maybe one on how to make a short film.

“Rain” is available on the MAPS Media Institute website at:

The history of MAPS Media Institute’s Flathead Reservation and Lake County Program:

From 2014 to 2019, MAPS, in partnership with Montana GEAR UP and St. Ignatius School District, facilitated a week-long intensive filmmaking workshop every summer. In April 2017, MAPS launched its first pilot afterschool program outside of the Bitterroot Valley. In partnership with the Salish Kootenai College, this inaugural expansion offered a free-of-charge, 8-week afterschool film class to Flathead Reservation & Lake County 8th to 12th graders.

In partnership with Salish Kootenai College, MAPS expanded to a 10 week after school film class in 2018 and in 2019 facilitated a 10 week after school film class with the Ronan Boys and Girls Club. Like all other programs MAPS paused the Flathead Reservation and Lake County due to Covid-19 but, through a 2021 partnership with the Ronan School District, MAPS facilitated a 6-week Photojournalism Class with photojournalist Tailyr Irvine.

Read this article on the Char-Koosta News website