Bemidji music and arts organization gets energy efficiency tune-up

December 2022

Inside Headwaters Music & Arts, music of all kinds bounces around the walls of the building. Tuning pitches, guitar strums and piano warm ups all blend together in nearly every corner. Accomplishments from throughout the years decorate the corkboards.

For 30 years, Headwaters has been providing the Bemidji community with a space to grow through art at any skill level. The school offers weekly one-on-one lessons for a yearly fee. The school also offers financial assistance through scholarships and need-based tuition.

First housed in the historic Carnegie Library, the organization began as a school with only 72 students. The nonprofit school moved into its own building in downtown Bemidji in 1997.

Today, Headwaters enrolls about 250 students — both children and adults — and over 20 instructors. With the help of a recent CERTs Seed Grant, the building is now illuminated sustainably for several generations of artists. As far as energy efficiency goes, this establishment is getting tuned up.

Hear from staff and students of Headwaters Music & Arts and see the updated space.

An asset to the community

Headwaters employs a range of staff members who teach many types of popular instruments and artistry. Students can take half-hour lessons for piano or guitar as well as brass, woodwind, strings, and vocal lessons. The school also offers pottery lessons. The program hosts after-school art clubs, adult workshops, and community events like the retirement-age community choir and monthly open mic nights. Many alumni have gone on to become accomplished professionals after beginning at Headwaters.

Wendy and Morgan, two kids who have been attending Headwaters for a few years, both emphasize their instructors’ kindness.

“I’ve been here for quite a few years now, and the people here are really nice,” says Wendy.

“I just love all the people, and I get to learn a lot of stuff,” Morgan adds. Both girls take piano, guitar, and pottery lessons.

Dr. Deborrah Frable, a recent retiree and pottery enthusiast, enjoys the opportunity to hone in on her hobby.

“I discovered this wonderful community resource where there are adult potters, people just like me. I’ve been able to find the community I was looking for and the opportunity to grow.”

Dr. Deborrah Frable, Headwaters student

Old building; new lights

Executive Director Tricia Andrews says Headwaters’ move to their current building 25 years ago “reflected the original founders’ dream of having our own physical space, not just for music instruction but art activities as well.”

Drum lessons at Headwaters


However, the building occupied by the school is around 100 years old. Like any well-loved place that has stood for a century, it needed some updates. Last year, two Headwaters board members and an employee worked out how the funds from a CERTs Seed Grant could be used toward some building updates. Lighting was the highest priority because the changes were specific, measurable, and realistic. After Headwaters was awarded the $5,000 grant, the new LED lighting installation began right away.

The upstairs studio was the biggest lighting improvement area. Not only are the new lights motion-controlled, but they adapt to the amount of natural light coming through the windows.

“It’s fun to see the utility bill in relation to this place,” says Andrews about the upstairs studio.

Just getting started

According to Andrews, the money saved on their bill from the energy efficiency upgrade will be used towards other sustainability projects. Looking ahead, Headwaters’ sustainability plan also includes implementing natural, eco-friendly landscaping.

“It’s also served as a starting point for how we can take these successes. That has led to a several-year action plan regarding sustainability — (whether) it’s related to transportation to reducing our building waste,” says Andrews.

Additionally, Headwaters purchased a mini split heating and cooling system last winter to replace an old, noisy furnace.

The energy-efficient changes have lifted a barrier to more students attending, as the practice spaces are more inviting now with less harsh lighting and a quieter heating system. Andrews calls these improvements “invaluable.” She feels that Headwaters can plan additional programming more confidently now that they can depend on the infrastructure.

“That’s been an unexpected benefit. When I throw out the idea of solar panels or a garden on our roof, our staff gets excited. They say, ‘Can we do that? What else can we do?’”

Tricia Andrews, Executive Director

Clean Energy Focus: Extensive LED lighting upgrade (93 lights or fixtures) and lighting controls
Northwest CERT Seed Grant: $5,000
Other Funds Leveraged: $500 from Beltrami Electric Co-op's Round Up Program and volunteer time by scientist Brick Fevold
Energy Saved Each Year: 9,034 kWh
Money Saved Each Year: $920
People Involved and Reached: 1,738


Sign up for our email newsletter

We encourage reuse and republishing of this story. All Clean Energy Resource Teams stories are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can share and adapt the work as long as you give us credit. We'd also love it if you link back to the original piece. Have questions or want to chat? Drop us a line.