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Whiskey & Wine fundraiser helps the Billings Symphony connect with kids, elderly

Billings, MT – Musicians and their audiences understand the power of music to heal, encourage, and engage. Through the Explore Music! Program, the Billings Orchestra & Chorale is providing outreach to members of the community who don’t often get to experience music. The Whiskey & Wine event scheduled for Sept. 16 will help fund that program.

Tickets for Whiskey & Wine are $50 per person, and they include live music, appetizers, unlimited wine tastings, and whiskey samples. The event runs from 6-9 p.m. at Henry’s Garage, 12 Garden Ave.

Many people know about the BSO & C’s signature concerts at the Alberta Bair Theater and the more intimate concerts and programs this season at the Babcock Theatre and the Billings Depot. But there are also small moments where children with health issues get to work one-on-one with professional musicians or the elderly, who may be struggling with memory loss, can reconnect with their past through music. BSO & C Development and Events Manager Sandy Cantesano described the dynamic of the BSO & C as symphony performances being the brain, but the outreach programs are the heart.

“We worked with a boy, Michael, who is 12 or 13 now. He has a myriad of health issues. He is on a ventilator and has curvature of the spine and seizures. He had never heard a violin, and when we had a musician come to play for him, his face just lit up,” Cantesano said.

The BSO & C bought Michael his own violin with a special surface that could be sanitized, and professional musicians taught him to play. Michael’s story even caught the eye of a nurse who is providing in-home health care for Michael so he can live at home.

Explore Music! also provides programs for the elderly at Canyon Creek Memory Care Community, including the purchase of drums so a drum circle could be started.

Cantesano remembers the day a woman at Canyon Creek was wheeled quietly into the room where musicians were preparing to perform.

“Her husband wheeled her in and she had no idea who he was,” Cantesano said. “We started playing songs and when she heard one of them, she started singing along. Then she looked over at her husband, and asked ‘When did you come here?’ The music brought her back, if only for a few minutes.”

During the pandemic, it has been challenging to get into the schools, the medical facilities or the Montana Women’s Prison for programs. So the staff and the musicians switched gears and began recording music to share with people. The BSO & C’s new office space has an Artistic Room set up for recording and for visiting musicians to rehearse in.

Fundraisers such as Whiskey & Wine help the BSO & C cover these costs for outreach programs. To provide more space for social distancing, the garage doors will be open so guests can enjoy the patio and grounds at Henry’s Garage. As with all indoor BSOC events we respectfully ask that masks be worn at all times except when eating or drinking. Brass and woodwind musicians will be featured and there is an online silent auction featuring such things as golf packages, guided fishing trips, and season tickets. The auction closes the night of Whiskey & Wine. For tickets, call 252-3610 or visit To register for the silent auction online, visit