of the Sentinel Konah
Nathan Zavalney is the current owner, instructor, and head of the Missoula Childbloom Guitar Program. For the past 17 years, Zavalney has been teaching classical guitar to students of all ages.
The Childbloom Guitar Program originally started out in Austin, TX and has expanded to several locations across the country. Zavalney has grown his section of the program to be the second largest in the country with over 200 students.
“There have been some very competent and expressive guitarists coming out of the program, young people who have chosen music to be a big part of their self-identity and how they interface with the world,” Zavalney said.
Zavalney sees around 85 striving artists every week while still managing two guitar ensembles, an in-shop guitar store, recording studio, training other instructors, and he still finds time to explore music he enjoys playing.
Around the age of nine Zavalney found a guitar at a garage sale for a quarter. It had a few more holes than the usual one…not a great instrument, but it got him started. His parents were very supportive of him and paid for lessons.
However, music wasn’t always the main focus of Zavalney’s life. Zavalney said, “My main focus was art, so music was still in the backseat for me.”
He first attended a college in Denver to major in Visual Art, but realized that his true passion was for music.
“For me, music is a process of exploration, creation, meditation, personal challenge, endless variety, play, connection, technology, and self-definition,” Zavalney said.
He finished the University of Montana’s vocal and theory program but decided college was not the route he wanted to take.
“I had the opportunity to study with and eventually perform and tour in a group with Matthew Marsolek. He ended up being my main music mentor and was hugely influential in how I approached learning music,” Zavalney said.
Zavalney joined Marsolek’s group the Drum Brothers and absorbed as much information and techniques that he could. After 10 years, Zavalney decided to put his full focus into the Childbloom Guitar Program.
He loves to see his students go from not knowing how to hold a guitar, to exemplifying proper technique and reading music, to a student who excels on intricate classical pieces.
Zavalney says he loves “seeing students take ownership of their playing; watching them master a piece of music or technique and enjoying how good it feels to be able to confidently play guitar, facilitating connection through music, seeing and hearing kids really work together to create something beautiful, exciting, or just plain fun.”
Zavalney plans local events for his ensembles. His advanced group, The Bella Corda Trio, has played at Saturday Farmers’ Markets, the Top Hat, and First Night Fridays.
In the small amount of free time Zavalney has, he enjoys mountain biking, hiking with his dog Jane, and playing for dancers, other community activities and anything related to music.
Zavalney’s advice for beginners is to, “Take the time to practice. Don’t be afraid of new challenges!”
Nathan is always on the search for new musicians and will continuously offer a warm welcome. Contact him by e-mail at
or by phone at 406-721-0328.