Spirit: The Vision and Performers of the 2018 Martin Luther King Celebration


Martin Luther King Day

7:30 pm January 13, 2018 Whitefish Performing Arts Center

Here in the Flathead Valley of Montana, we’ve been celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King with a public program for over ten years now. The past five years have seen the program become larger and more ambitious, culminating with the 2017 program, Dear Mr. President: These are our Dreams for the Future.

That event took place under the cloud of a threat from a White Nationalist group that, after their cyber assault on the Jewish community here, they would march in our streets on MLK Day. Our program boldly went on and served as a cathartic and edifying experience for the nearly 700 people who saw it over two nights.

This fall our little corner of the world has, once again, found itself in need of reassurance as a cyber-­terrorist brought threats that closed our schools for three days until the local and federal authorities determined the messages were probably being rendered from overseas.

We are learning that the message of Dr. King becomes more relevant as time goes on. We have striven to dig deep into the life and work of MLK and use music, speakers and the words of Dr. King himself to illustrate his thinking and philosophy. Program titles have included; The Evolution of the Dream, Songs that Changed America, Living the Dream: The Movement after 1963; An Experiment in Love: Is Nonviolence the Answer?; and the aforementioned Dear Mr. President.

Audiences have provided considerable feedback on the event year after year, and they consistently tell us that they appreciate the efforts we make to keep the program challenging and fresh. People are constantly surprised that there is much more to MLK than the “I Have a Dream” speech.

This year’s event will be driven by an artistic presentation of King’s life and legacy. To that end, we have asked Montana songwriters to consider some aspect of his work and write a song that captures the meaning or spirit of it and then perform that piece for a live audience.

We have given the artists broad license in terms of musical style and lyrical expression, but we have also  have a watchful eye to make sure the program is historically accurate in order to meet our fundamental goal of edifying and educating the public about Dr. King and his work.



The Production Team

Erica von Kleist is serving as music director and will oversee the quality, variety and logistical needs of the music. Bruce Guthrie is serving as content director and will assist songwriters in research and assure the historical accuracy of the program. Allen Secher is serving as creative consultant and technical liaison and will be the evening’s emcee.


Participating Artists and themes of their works:

Erica von Kleist - After graduating Juilliard, Erica toured as a woodwind player with several
Grammy- nominated ensembles, including Wynton Marsalis at the Jazz at Lincoln Center
Orchestra. Now living in Whitefish, Erica performs and teaches here regularly. For the MLK
event, Erica will be composing instrumental and choral pieces as well as creating
improvisations drawing from King’s life influences, including Bayard Rustin.

Rob Quist - A household name in Montana, Rob is one of the most well-respected and
legendary musicians in the state, and has recently become an outspoken voice in current
politics. Rob is penning an original composition based on King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Mike Eldred - Broadway veteran Mike Eldred recently moved to Whitefish full time where he
tours from regularly for performances nation-wide. A veteran of the symphonic pop genre, Mike
will perform captivating renditions of two traditional spirituals, arranged by Erica von Kleist.

Jack Gladstone - One of Montana’s most influential musical leaders, Jack has been
performing for inspired audiences here for decades. As an award- winning songwriter and
storyteller, Jack will perform his original piece “I’ll Stand With You” at this year’s MLK
event to emphasize King’s message of “sombodyness” in his Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Halladay Quist - A native Montanan, Halladay has become one of the most notable young
musicians in the state. A multi-instrumentalist on guitar, bass, banjo and ukelele, Halladay will  focus on King’s “stride towards freedom” in the Montgomery Bus Strike.

David Walburn - As a critically-acclaimed songwriter, David’s music has become synonymous
with the beauty and rustic nature of Montana. David will be writing two pieces for the
performance based on MLK’s personal awakening to the philosophy of nonviolence and his “I
Have a Dream” speech.

Nick Spear - Nick has made his mark on the Flathead Valley as one of the most
versatile performing artists, both as a prolifc songwriter and actor. Nick has
composed an original song based on the theme of unity of purpose between King
and Malcom X.

Brent Jameson - Brent is most known for his leadership of the Sordid Seeds, one of
the Flathead Valley’s most popular bands. A noted songwriter, Brent will perform
his original piece “Brother Man” at this year’s MLK celebration, as a reflection of
the Poor People’s March and MLK’s opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Jeremy Reinbolt - A gifted percussionist and composer, Jeremy has been a recurring
musician with the Alpine Theater Project. Now a resident of Montana, Jeremy will be
composing an original instrumental piece for this year’s MLK celebration.

Pending Artists

John Flordis - One of the most revered performers here in Montana, John can be
regularly heard on “Musician’s Spotlight” on MTPR. John will hopefully join us for the
MLK concert pending some schedule changes.