Bass Clef School acquires Times Square Building, planning for growth and offering new programs

From a 500-square foot space and about 20 students to now owning an entire downtown building and about 145 students, the Bass Clef School of Music and Fine Arts has come a long way in five years.

Tim Bass, the school’s owner, said that when he started, “I would have never imagined four and half years later I’d be here and owner of the building.”

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Over the weekend, Bass took possession of the Times Square Building in the 500 block of Central Avenue after being a tenant in the building for about three years.

The building was previously owned by the Montana Farmers Union, but Bass said they approached him in the fall as the largest tenant about purchasing the building.

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For now, Bass said the building will continue to operate as is with multiple tenants and an event center upstairs with a full commercial kitchen, chapel and reception space, but his larger goal in the next five to 10 years is to expand the music and arts school into the entire building.

Eventually, his hope is to create a private school that also offers academics with the heavy emphasis on the arts so that students interested in arts careers can get that training here in Great Falls.

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Bass said that as shrinking budgets continue to cause cuts in the arts for public schools, his school is working to fill that void by offering music lessons and has since expanded to include dance and fine art.

As those cuts continue in public schools, Bass said the class sizes grew and “there’s no way to really truly help that kid that really wants to learn” in that setting and not everyone can afford private lessons.

It’s important not to lose sight of the arts, he said, since the arts have been proven time and time again to improve academic learning and intellectual development.

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“There are so many things that the arts help with in human development, it’s so sad to see cuts,” Bass said.

Now, he looking at adding additional programs for crafts, knitting, crocheting and culinary arts.

About a year ago, he moved into a larger unit in the building on the street level and that increased his visibility to the public and also allowed more space for a retail store so music and art supplies were readily available to his students.

“As I’ve grown, I’ve tried to grow a little at a time,” he said, but it’s been a fairly quick expansion lately, which is “exciting but terrifying at the same time.”

Now the school has 13 employees, 10 of them music, dance and art teachers.

The dance program includes ballet, tap, baton, contemporary, hip hop and the school is starting a ballroom dancing club later this month.

The goal of that is not to offer formal instruction so much as a space for people to learn from each other, practice their skills and interact with other community members.

Starting Feb. 5, the school is launching a community choir that he hopes will offer an activity for young people to get away from their digital screens and spend time with friends or interact with new people while participating in music.

Bass said he often asks students how many friends they have and they’ll give their total from Facebook or other social media platforms, but struggle to identify true friends they spend real time with.

The thought was “what can we do as a school to bring people together for that face to face time,” he said.

They’re also adding a free weekly movie night that will have adult chaperones, but parents are welcome to stay. He said they ask that parents give their kids a little bit of money to purchase concessions to support the school’s labor costs for hosting the event, but it’s free to attend.

The new programs were born out of the divisiveness and vitriol that Bass said is becoming commonplace in our society and “I want to do anything I can to bring people together.”

The details for the culinary programs are still in the works, but Bass said the plan is to offer once or twice monthly workshops for families to learn cooking skills and prepare a meal together.

He’ll also tap the skills and cultural backgrounds of his staff and students from around the world to offer international cuisine nights.

More information about their classes can be found on their website.