Don Beans: a renaissance man

Bigfork musician Don Beans releases new CD


It’s hard to keep your eyes on Don Beans while talking to him in his office.
There’s just so much to absorb around him.

don beans bigfork montana musician, Opus 13, montana living, david reese

Beans’ desk is surrounded by books — hundreds of them — as well as vials of nutritional supplements, interesting artifacts and of course, music.
This latter item is what is keeping Beans fired up about life right now. But then again, there’s not much that doesn’t keep Beans from getting excited.
“I’m just fascinated by everything,” Beans said. “What isn’t interesting?”
Beans, 61, has been an acupuncturist in Bigfork for 30 years, and he’s now entering an exciting new chapter in his life. He recently released his first solo music CD, “Opus 13,” a collection of songs that he wrote and recorded at Renegade Ridge Studios in Whitefish.

Beans has taken the stories of his life and collected them into Opus 13. Beans calls the songs a cross between Jimmy Buffett and Gordon Lightfoot, and listening to Opus 13 he’s spot on; he has a lyrical tenor voice that floats easily among the various melodies and harmonies. Beans tells a good story and he carries it out with his voice, his guitar, and sometimes sitar, an East Indian instrument about the size of a gas pump.

“I want to lay open the emotion of what I couldn’t do in ordinary conversation,” he said.

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Some songs are meant to portray the universal emotions in life, and others are just playful. Like “Hippie Shuffle Swing.” Beans recalled talking to a music store owner in Great Falls, some 40 years ago, and the record store owner was saying how much he detested “the way people dance nowadays,” Beans said. “From 1975 to 2013 that phrase was in my head. I sat down to write and that song just tumbled right out.”
Starting last year Beans would take off five days a month and devote them to his song writing. He wrote 50 songs, 12 of which appear on Opus 13. (Including Hippie Shuffle Swing) “I’m not trying to be a rock star,” he said, “but I’d like to write for rock stars.”

Beans is also at work writing the score for “A Timeless Legacy,” a new documentary about women artists in Glacier National Park. The documentary is being produced by Ed Gillenwater and Denny Kellogg, both of Bigfork. Writing for the film is giving Beans an opportunity to hone his writing and composition skills.

In writing, he starts with an idea; a thought or a phrase. With his guitar he finds the tonal structure that he feels reflects the mood, whether it’s major or minor. Does the mood demand a delicate finger picking of the guitar, or a chord melody with a symphonic feel? “I let the music reveal itself,” he said.
Beans is passionate about whatever he sets his mind to. It wasn’t long after Beans first arrived in Bigfork that other people recognized his energy and drive. He was soon elected president of the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce. “I think people recognized me as someone who knew how to put out fires,” he said.
As a healthcare provider he incorporates homeopathy, acupuncture and nutrition into his client therapies. For the last 15 years he has worked at the Bridge clinic in Whitefish, but has moved his clinic back to Bigfork, where he is also building a recording studio. 
Beans has never been far from music; it’s just that he’s stepped away from it in the last 30 years.
His roots in music go back to his youth in Great Falls, and on to a major in musical composition at the University of Montana. As a student at C.M. Russell, Beans was a voracious learner of music. He brought home a different musical instrument each month, including flute, oboe, French horn, trumpet, bassoon and clarinet. “I wanted to understand them,” he said. His teachers had so much confidence and faith him, that when they had to be out of the class, Beans was tapped to lead the band or orchestra. Meanwhile, even as a teenager, he was writing his own orchestral scores. He would take popular scores from the period and rewrite them. One of his “interpretations” of Godspell was used by the C.M. Russell pep band to play at basketball games.

Beans decided that the U.M. music program was not for him, so he enrolled as a nursing student at Montana State University. That’s where his healthcare training began. He has published a text book on endocrinology, and he’s passionate about integrating that aspect of human health into his client regimens. “I’m a neurotic studier,” Beans says, kicking back in his office chair in blue jeans and crisp cotton Oxford. And no shoes.

Beans had also been a professional musician, back in the 1970s, playing gigs at bars in Great Falls and Missoula. Growing up in Great Falls with his buddy Andre Floyd, another popular Montana musician, Beans knows the ropes of the Montana music scene.
Healthcare has been a pleasant and demanding occupation for Beans — and it still is. Then he participated in a Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival in 2012 in Bigfork. Working with Montana native and professional songwriter Tim Ryan cemented the idea of Beans pursuing his musical passion — again. “I went to the Crown of the Continent and I just took off,” Beans says. “There was just something about Tim Ryan’s song writing that just fired me up.”

Ryan writes for some of the biggest names in country music, and Beans jumped at the chance to be able to work with him. In the last 40 years Beans has learned the stories of life. Now they are songs. “The core of music and the core of medicine I practice are all about looking at and observing the human spirit,” Beans said. “it’s all about the energy between people.”

Beans sits back in his chair for a moment, torn away into some deep thought. He recovers, straightens and taps his heart, like a 4/4 meter of a song.

“The beat goes on,” he says, his eyes focusing on some distant subject, like the idea for a song.

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