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A Melody of Music and Imagination

The Always Be Creative Band believes in empowering young minds and fostering imaginative thinking. 

Article by Stephanie Hower

Photography by Photos by Jessica Jane Hart

Originally published in Billings City Lifestyle

Music is a language that everyone understands. It can connect, inspire, and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds. When implemented in the education of children, music can transcend the typical constraints of verbal communication and instruction. In 2009, Brian Epley founded The Always Be Creative Band for Kids as an outlet for his own love of music and a means to share that with children. At the time, his own daughter was entering her pre-K years. 

“I have always loved music, played in local original music bands, and have found so much joy in making music with my friends,” begins Brian, current director for Always Be Creative. “The band started writing ‘kids rock music’ with my friends and family. We then developed a 30 minute classroom experience that could be performed for school children, beginning in my daughter’s classes. News spread, since we also happen to know many teachers and administrators in the Billings area. Pretty soon, our pedigree was growing exponentially.”

The goal of The Always Be Creative Band is to engage children with music through a fun, active, enthusiastic delivery. Brian is now the Executive Director of The Always Be Creative 501(c)3 Organization (est. 2017). He plays guitar, sings lead, and writes songs for the band. As a Billings native, he takes pride in his local community.

“I was born and raised in Billings, have been married to my wife Kerry for 15 years, with our 16-year-old daughter, Seryn, and 24-year-old stepson, Kevyn. We are business owners, community leaders, public artists and lovers of all things encouraging to Billings culture.”

Brian is also vice-president of a family owned business, “Superior Concrete”, an industry which affords him three to four months off during the Montana winter. This “down time” inspired him to pursue his passion for music.

In 2017 the band partnered with photographer and filmmaker Jessica Jane Hart, incorporating as the Always Be Creative Organization

“Together we have been visiting schools and community events, providing hands-on learning experiences, playing concerts, and conducting cool physics and photography experiments,” explains Brian. “The band has always been composed of myself and local educator Mike Galt on drums. In true ABC form, he is a childhood friend I have been playing music with for almost thirty years. And since 2016 we have included Pete Bolenbaugh as well on bass. He is the executive director of Wise Wonders Science and Discovery Museum.”

While the band performs for a variety of audiences through community events, they have a special place in their hearts for little ones. 

“We absolutely love K through 5th grade,” Brian says. “Their imaginations are very open and in their creative prime! We have played assemblies, carnivals, block parties and classrooms at the following schools: Lil Rascsal's, Montesorri, Boulder, Washington, Park City, McKinley, Broadwater, Lewis and Clark, and RMC.”

Their resume also includes events such as Alive After 5, ZooMontana, Strawberry Festival, Harvest Fest, Saturday Live, and RMC Hogwart’s Ball, to name a few, as well as numerous concerts and birthday parties. 

While music is the band’s primary focus, their repertoire for the classrooms encompasses a wide array of interactive, creative and stimulating activities. 

“Our activities include interactive 30 minute musical classroom experiences, interactive hands-on STEAM classroom activities, such as sticking electrodes into fruit to make a piano out of things that conduct. Also, musical games, such as xylophones that we deconstructed and made into a pitch guessing game in a box with peer to peer playing power and many skill levels.”

Brian describes question and answer sessions the ABC Band has conducted with high school students and songwriting discourses they have held with junior high students. During a four day “Girls and Guitars” camp in Red Lodge, their group taught Girl Scouts age 7-17 how to play guitar, with the final day culminating in the girls playing a concert with the Band. 

The ABC Organization has also received grants which resulted in projects like the ‘Flower Gongs’ outside Wise Wonders and an upcoming “Painting With Light” installation.

“Our focus is to inspire creativity in children and adults by facilitating hands-on learning opportunities throughout the community,” concludes Brian. “Our aforementioned Musical Flower Garden is the first in a long line of upcoming projects with such partners as Oasis Water Park and BSEDA's recently adopted Coulson Park Development Plan. It is our belief that artistic and scientific engagement can spark valuable creative thinking and problem solving skills that are vital to maintaining a strong and resilient community.”