Ed Stalling & John Sporman present Sunday, September 6 – FreeSessions resume collaboration with the Racer Sessions for the Zoom Sessions Online

From the organizers:

We are excited to resume our monthly sessions this Sunday 9/6 in collaboration with Seattle’s Racer Sessions online. Online sessions will go from 6-7pm MT. We’ll feature a curator for the first 15 minutes, and open up to improvisations from the community after that. Every month we will highlight and donate to a racial justice organization, encouraging our community to support this organization as well. We are supporting racial justice organizations in order to honor and recognize the profound influence of Black music on our community and the systemic way Black people have not been properly supported by the music industry and our general society. We feel it is important to catalyze our privilege as a community to support Black people and other marginalized communities.

For September, the curators have chosen to highlight the Southern Poverty Law Center. Read the blog post below for more information. Find suggestions below the blog post for optimizing Zoom audio settings.

Sunday, September 6, 6pm MT Zoom link for the session:

Blog post by Ed Stalling:

Combined Racer Session (Seattle) & FreeSession (Lakebottom Sound, Missoula) 

September 6, 2020

FreeSessions’ aim is to use improvisation to help bridge the different “scenes” that exist across genres in Missoula.  Sunday’s opening is just that:  two artists from different “scenes” coming together to improvise a piece they call “Through The Window.”

Ed Stalling and John Sporman are no stranger to the Montana music scene.  Combined, they perform over 250 gigs a year in a wide variety of groups, genres and settings. 

Multi-instrumentalist John Sporman creates and performs with national touring groups (currently with Wylie and The Wild West), local bands (Tom Catmull and Clerics, Shahs, NextDoorPrisonHotel, Avant-Garde Alliance), and also writes scores for films, silent movies and dance pieces.  

Percussionist Ed Stalling has been described as having “huge ears and an even larger command of subtle dynamics.”  His performance experience crosses genres ranging from pit-orchestras and big bands to traditional Brazilian combos, covering all points on the musical compass.

They will present an improvisational piece called “Through The Window”


Through The Window


Many of us across the world have loved ones in nursing homes.  We put our hands together on windows — generations separated by glass.  On one side, those at the end of their lives; having lived through the great depression, a world war, the turmoil of the 60’s.  On the other side, their grown kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Unable to hug or hold hands, communications fraught by bad hearing and dementia, it’s a sad meeting of confusion, frustration, and sadness. 

I’m at such a window in Missoula with my 97-year old mother-in-law.  Pictures alone can’t express how surreal it is so we’ll try music.  We’ll have an improvisational musical conversation exploring: What is it like?  To be confused, tired, isolated, 97 years old, looking out a window at your daughter, your grandkids, your great-grandkids, not quite knowing why they can’t come in and what’s happening.

Invest in Social Justice:

We want to Spotlight and encourage donating to SPLC, The Southern Poverty Law Center.  Hate groups are using social media to grow hate, and this is a group that is a counter-balance to them.  They fight hate from three angles:

  1. They monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the US and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement.
  2. They Teach Tolerance by providing educational resources to teachers that emphasize anti-bias and social justice — encourages children and young people to challenge prejudice and learn how to be agents of change in their own lives. 
  3. They stand up for the powerless, the exploited and other victims of discrimination and hate.  With a staff of more than 100 lawyers and advocates, SPLC focuses on impact litigation in these practice areas: Children’s RightsEconomic JusticeImmigrant JusticeLGBTQ Rights, Voting Rights, and Criminal Justice Reform.

SPLC also gets the highest rating from Charity Navigator — meaning they are a well-managed, efficient, reputable not-for-profit.



0) TURN ON ORIGINAL SOUND! (details below)

1) Use a laptop if possible (not a phone or a tablet)

a. Use headphones when playing with other people

b. Use external mic if available

2) Settings → Audio

a. Turn OFF: Automatically adjust microphone volume

b. Adjust microphone level

c. Optionally: turn ON “Enable stereo” (this options needs to be activated first on your zoom account)

3) Settings → Audio → Advanced

a. Turn on: ‘show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone’

b. Disable: both Background Noise options

c. Echo Cancellation: Auto

4) Turn on Original Sound!

a. Turn it on in the top left of the meeting; if it’s on, it should read “Turn off Original Sound”

5) If possible, connect to the internet with an Ethernet cable, not WiFi

June 7 collaboration with The Racer Sessions postponed to focus on the Black Lives Matter movement

The FreeSessions, in collaboration with Racer Sessions, recognizes and honors this critical time in the movement to end systemic racism and police brutality against Black people. Therefore we will not be holding a session on June 7. We hope that you will join us in continuing to learn about these issues and take actions to support Black people and this movement because BLACK LIVES MATTER and we live in a culture and country that continues to systematically deny this fact.

Here are some resources that may be of use on your journey. We are encouraged by how many people are leaning in to this work right now, and we hope you will continue to do so for the long haul.

Education Resources:*zdgIkwIHaRXLdg5mv1-QkA


Action Resources:


Montana Places to Donate:

MT BIPOC Mutual Aid Fund: Venmo @mtbipocaid. Cash app: $MTBIPOCAid


National Places to Donate:


National Resource List:


Anti-Racism Resources for the Arts and Nonprofits:


How to Support Black-Owned Small Business

Please email to make any useful suggestions for this list.

May 3, Zoom Sessions – Cameron Sharif & ptesseract (Collaboration with the Racer Sessions)

Hello fine folks from the FreeSessions community,

This week’s session is very special because it is a collaboration with the Racer Sessions out of Seattle, WA! The Racer Sessions model is the original inspiration for the FreeSessions, so we are thrilled to be bringing our communities together at this time.  We’ll start off the session with two opening sets, one curated by the Racer Sessions and the other by the FreeSessions.

First up, presented by the Racer Sessions, we’ll have a solo set by Cameron Sharif, an incredible keyboardist from Seattle now living in LA who was a Racer Sessions regular and an integral part of the Seattle creative music scene.

Next, presented by the FreeSessions will be Sean Howard aka the ptesseract, who uses a looper, drum machine, sampler and a variety of instruments to create a sonic wonderland that is based on a symbiotic balance of composition and improvisation. Check out more of Sean’s work at these links:

Following the opening sets, we’ll open it up to a jam session like normal, this time with members from both the Racer Sessions and FreeSessions communities and hopefully beyond! Everyone is welcome to participate in the jam session, or you can just sit back and watch and listen. We will also stream the session live via the Racer Sessions Facebook page [], so if you only wish to spectate, no need to log in to the Zoom meeting.

Link to the Zoom meeting:

“Doors” will “open” at 3:45pm, meaning that’s when you can join the Zoom meeting and start hanging out! At 4pm the music will begin, and we’ll finish up at 6pm.

We also want to apologize once more to those who experienced the unfortunate Zoombombing incident last Sunday. We were caught off guard and should have been more prepared to adequately handle the situation. We have implemented a number of security measures to help prevent this from happening again, including:

– Enabling a waiting room to control who’s joining.
– Designating people in charge of managing participants in case an issue arises.
– Tightening up a number of other security settings in Zoom to centralize control to the official Host/Co-Hosts of the meeting.

Since we aren’t able to support Cafe Racer by purchasing food and drinks, we’re asking for donations for them via Venmo. These are tough times for everyone, so donate what you can, but don’t worry if you don’t have the means to contribute right now.

Venmo: @Cafe-Racer

You may also support Cafe Racer by purchasing gift cards [], checking out their current online auction [], or ordering their great food to-go!


*If possible, connect directly to your Internet via ethernet when using Zoom. WiFi should still work well enough in most cases if a wired connection is unavailable, though there will be higher latency, and if the connection is too weak it may result in inadequate audio/video quality and/or freezing.*

*We recommend using headphones unless you are muted, and, generally, using an external microphone of better quality than your device’s built-in microphone. For digital/electronic instruments, plugging directly into your computer may work well, too!*

1. In Zoom, go to “Preferences.”
2. Click “Audio” from the menu on the left.
3. If using an external microphone, make sure it is selected from the menu in the “Microphone” section.
4. We recommend unchecking the box next to “Automatically adjust microphone volume” and setting a good “Input Volume” yourself. You can click the “Test Mic” button to record a short sample and listen back to see how it sounds. Try playing something loud to make sure it isn’t distorting. The auto-adjust feature compresses dynamics, which may be ok for talking but not for music!
5. Click “Advanced” at the bottom right of the Audio Settings screen.
6. Check the box for “Show in-meeting option to “Enable Original Sound” from microphone.” Turning Original Sound “On” allows you to preserve the sound from your microphone without using Zoom’s echo cancellation and audio-enhancing features which are not necessarily music-friendly.
7. Under “Audio Processing,” select “Disable” for both “Suppress Persistent Background Noise” and “Suppress Intermittent Background Noise.”
8. “Echo Cancellation” can be set to “Auto.”
9. Last thing! Once you’re back in the Zoom meeting, find the button in the top left of the video window that says “Turn [on/off] Original Sound” — make sure that Original Sound is turned on!

April FreeSessions cancelled due to Covid-19

Stay healthy out there and feel free to send us videos of you improvising or tag Lakebottom Sound on social media. We will miss our community gathering this month and look forward to a time when we can gather and listen and play.

Please continue to support Imagine Nation Brewing Company – our gracious hosts. They are doing CANNED BEER PICK-UP ONLY (cards only/no cash) at the brewery between the hours of 4:00 – 7:00PM.

Sending love!

Mitchell Bailey presents Sunday, March 1

Mitchell’s Blog Post:

I moved to Missoula last August to study and teach music. Until this point in my life, I had never lived more than an hour’s drive from my childhood home in central New Hampshire. In the absence of the familiar, I became confronted with many unexpected obstacles. The need for honest expression, community, support, and understanding significantly overshadowed much of my need to study and improve at my craft. In response to this imbalance, I found that the act of creating melodies on the piano, an instrument that I held little to no expectation of my technical ability on, was a kind of therapeutic exercise. 

As I did this over time, I began to accumulate the string of melodies and textures that we will be presenting tonight. When applied to quintet I intentionally made key landing points clear but left a lot of ambiguity in how the group arrives at each new groove, melody or texture. This creates a deeply open experience where time, harmony, and texture must be thought of as elastic and shared. The human connection and trust that I have felt though the performance of this music has been exceptionally cathartic.

The amazing drummer/musician/person Matt Wilson performed in Missoula a few weeks ago. During his time here, he brought up the idea that while creating no expectations = no failures. So often I see highly capable people who are dying to create but are paralyzed by the idea of taking an embarrassing or incorrect first step. My hope is that this piece can help show that in any creative/improvisational/life endeavor, steps can just be steps. 

Though I don’t have any specific parameters for how we will create in the following session, I would like to challenge you all to examine what expectations, titles, and identities you hold for your own creation. Do not necessarily reject them, but question them, attempt to find what is driving these associations and weigh out whether it is helpful to you or not. I have found the Free Sessions immensely helpful to this process, so if you are in the room, I guarantee that you’re already on the right track.

The Quintet will be:

Me: Trombone

Ross Strausser: Saxophone

Connor Rocicot: Piano

Kyler Rebich: Bass

Willie Baltz: Percussion

Lindsey Marie (Bells from Linden) presents Sunday, February 2

Lindsey’s Blog Post:

The Real, the Raw, the True – that’s what it’s all about, the growth that spreads inside.  In creative expression we attempt to translate the sometimes impossible, mysterious realm into sight, sound, touch, taste or smell.  When brave hearted artists have the strength to unzip the inner walls of our existence to translate our own presence, lives can be shifted forever.  Unmovable mountains can be moved. We bring our empty cups to the wellsprings of vulnerability in search of the Real, the Raw, the True. We drink and refill.  It is not easy.

This process of opening to artistic attunement helps us learn how to be more human, for ourselves and others.  We need this like we need food. All people need creative expression – not all people know we need it. But we will die without it.  It’s a basic human need, an interconnected thread that asks artists of all mediums to be life-affirming leaders.

We want to witness the ethereal spoken into thick air, to be blanketed in words or images that trace the very existence of our desire.  We want to hear courage, to listen to the momentary erosion of our own fear from the beginning of a song to the end. We want to see grief in a matted glaze, to hold the clay bunny in our hands and feel tragedy translated perfectly.  We want to taste kindness, that sweet relief of a soup made with empathy. We want to feel love pour through our hair and land on our shoulders, like a flannel bag of hot rice.

Moments of attunement, strung together, form a life fully lived.  And attunement is impossible without the ingredient of free creativity.  The way mindful conversation with a loved one can open long hidden rooms, like language as a map leads the lost souls home.  The way light lands on a prison cell floor and brings a memory of comfort to the innocent’s eyes. The way a two hour play can mark the official beginning of a new way of life.  The way a book can sooth loneliness through companionship over dinner alone.

What moves you in the wide umbrella of creativity?  My answer is humble vulnerability. Intimate and open exploration of the Real, the Raw and the True is the gift of all gifts.  As everyone is an artistic being, we are all invited into the choice of how much to open our emotional vessels, when to unzip our internal landscapes and if – if to even begin at all.  For me, that’s the hardest part. But I want skin inside out, I want the microscopic. I want to feel the churning circulation of the heart of the one giving the gift. And if that’s me, I want to make sure I’m showing up a clear channel on my highest road.  I want to hear your stories – however thin or vast – I want to share mine. And when I sing, I want to give like gravity.

FreeSessions is a place that has consistently invited my vulnerability to widen.  Without knowing it, FreeSessions has held me in days I could not speak yet found strength to sing.  FreeSessions held me up when I could not stand. FreeSessions is a small community worth fighting for, a place I love to co-facilitate.  For this curation, I’m grateful to share some of my original music with this mountain town, solo style. My broken down ukulele, with alternate tunings, will be my trusty steed.  I’m grateful to offer my poems as an optional cliff jump for free improvisations. And I will invite myself and other brave explorers to dive into the question:

What does your Real, your Raw, your True…need to express right now?

FreeSessions v. 26 Sunday, January 5

Open session. We will be improvising the whole time with varying group sizes. There will be a sign up sheet when you arrive that you can sign up to participate.

Introduce yourself to your collaborators.

Take a moment of breath and silence before you play.

Can you be playful and hold this as a place of growth – a space to create something new?

Remember this session is about collaboration and experimentation. It’s about serving the piece through sound, movement, silence. It’s about listening with your whole body, through your pores. It’s about honoring everyone’s innate ability to create. It’s about being kind. Silence is a super worthy contribution. It’s about committing to the piece.

It can feel intimate, vulnerable, and uncomfortable.

Our aim is to make it as safe a place as possible for as many folks as possible. Try not to let your discomfort cause others to feel unsafe. Discomfort is different than pain. Discomfort is to be expected when being experimental and creating something brand new. Please be conscious of personal space and volume in this space.

Always feel free to pass if your name is called and you don’t want to participate. You can also step out of an improvisation if necessary.

Here’s to being playful, having fun, expressing, listening, collaborating, making new sounds, connecting with community, and doing so in a way that is mutually supportive.

Facebook Event



The FreeSessions Crewa

FreeSessions Showcase at First Night (12.31.19) at The Dana Gallery

The Dana Gallery 
246 N Higgins Ave
6-6:30-Tricia Opstad’s All You Can Eat Life
6:45-7:15-Heidi J’s Sistema Libre
7:30-8pm Missoula Conduction Orchestra led by Naomi Siegel
8-8:15-Transition for Jams
Tricia Opstad’s All You Can Eat Life
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat -‘Perhaps the World Ends Here’ by Joy Harjo
A dance improvisation performance by Holly Biehl, Jessica Goodburn and Tricia Opstad with live experimental sounds by Bill Kautz and Lauren Norby centered around a dinner table.

Heidi J’s Sistema Libre features:
Madeline Rose Finley, Nathan Zavalney, Raleigh Charbonneau, Jordan Demander, Will Adams, Courtney Sowa, Omaur Keita, Peter Schaefgen, Molly Buchanan, Duane Raider

Missoula Conduction Orchestra:
Bill Kautz, Jenni Long, Mayana Kantor, Leslie Burgess, Nathan Zavalney, Molly Liu Buchanan, Lindsey Stormo, Nancy Seldin, Tommy Sciple, Tom Berich

First Night Info:

Michael Musick, Bill Kautz & Naomi Siegel present Sunday, December 1

It’s our 2 year anniversary!

We improvise because….


Bill Kautz:


I improvise to be grounded.


Improvisation is the most effective way for me to understand myself in a given moment, and to accept my position in that moment. It is spiritual, meditative and when conducted with others who understand and foster a similar sensitivity during improvisation, deeply embracing.


Improvisation has opened opportunities that nothing else could have. It continues to be a regular driving force in who I am becoming. A constant teacher. My life is unimaginable without its presence.



Michael Musick:


I improvise because, to me, it is the most authentic form of creation. I improvise to connect to the immediacy of the moment with a force larger than myself. I improvise with others for the art of the journey.



Naomi Siegel:


I improvise to

ride the edge of the moment



and create in real time

I improvise to

breath and be mindful

be delightfully playful and creative

have fun and stretch the limit of possibilities

in devotion of the present

I improvise to

“value sound/silence as an infinitely flexible tool”*

serve the music, the piece, the collective creation

deeply listen

and love

I improvise to

be vulnerable, take risks and make way for authentic creation

listen with my whole body and being

connect to the moment, myself, my surroundings, my community

I improvise to

be adaptable and fluid

appreciate and learn

collaborate and smile

give and receive

I improvise to

be open

stretch the possibilities of music-making

and transcend boundaries

as a spiritual practice


* quote by Neil Welch




Lauren Norby presents Sunday, November 3

The Amateur

For this session, I ask that performers embody the concept of “The Amateur.” An amateur is “one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession,” or “one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science.” Amateur encompasses both a naiveté and a passion. In your participation, think about ways you can chanel the amateur; perhaps by using an unfamiliar instrument, or deliberately using the instrument “incorrectly,” or abandoning tonality. Keep in mind the collaborative nature of the improvisation, and the importance of listening to and learning from your fellow performers. Try to abandon yourself to the music. Be open to surprises and discoveries.


The Season

This session falls on November 3rd, one day after All Souls Day, two days after Hallowmas, three days after Halloween, and just as we begin seeing flurries of Christmas spirit. In this spirit, each group of performers may decide amongst themselves if their improvised work is a funeral dirge or a Christmas tune.