Bentley Monk, a Dolores music teacher, uses his passion for music to pursue a career as a musician while teaching and inspiring his students.
Monk reminisced about his career in music, saying he first fell in love with music when he was 7 or 8 years old and saw the music video “For Paradise” by Guns n Roses for the first time.
“I immediately thought to myself, ‘I want to be a singer of a rock and roll band,’” he said.
After that, he could be found singing everywhere he went, even the hallways of his school.
As an eighth grader, he was walking down the hall singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when a teacher asked him to join the school choir. After that, Monk went on to try out for a performing arts high school in Atlanta although he had no formal training in singing, dancing or acting.
“I was mostly an athlete,” he said. “I played basketball, baseball, did track and field and did a lot of BMX. But then I got into this performing arts program, and the entire trajectory of my life changed.”
During his time at his performing arts high school, Monk received training in music theater and Broadway-type performing and learned the art of singing, acting and dancing.
Monk graduated from his performing arts high school and attended Oklahoma City University, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in performance music theater on a full scholarship.
After graduating from OCU, Monk began a career in music and performing. He performed for a couple of different national tours and regional theaters, before working at Disney World as a singer and performer in front of Cinderella’s castle for six months.
It was a youth camp toward the end of Monk’s time at Disney, however, that shifted his trajectory toward teaching.
“I realized that my path in life was not necessarily performing and working with adults. I found that I worked better with kids,” Monk said. “I then decided, OK, maybe it’s time to change paths.”
While obtaining his master's degree at the University of Georgia, Monk doubled up to get his bachelor’s in education. Sleep and extra time fell off while Monk took 17 to 19 credit hours of classes per semester and worked nights and weekends, but he said the challenge prepared him to become who he is today.
“That’s one thing that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older – is that if you put your mind to something and you really want it, there’s nothing that can really get in the way of that,” he said.
One of his first teaching jobs landed him in an inner-city school in Atlanta where he taught music to 70 to 80 students at a time. Soon, many of his students were accepted into the same performing arts high school he attended and went on to have music and performing arts careers of their own.
Monk didn’t stay on the East Coast for long. Soon, he began teaching at a school that bordered the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and it was in that town that Monk met his wife, Amala Posey-Monk.
During their free time, Monk and Posey traveled to Southwest Colorado and spent time hiking, mountain biking and vacationing. Soon, Southwest Colorado began to feel like home.
“Once I discovered Phil’s World, I was never the same,” Monk joked. “I rode the Rib Cage like 10 times the first time I rode at Phil’s World.”
When Posey was offered a job at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum during winter 2019, they jumped at the chance to move to the Four Corners area. When a position for a music teacher opened in Dolores schools, he applied and became the only music teacher at Dolores in March 2020.
Because he is the only music teacher, Monk combines a variety of ages into his classroom, making for a challenging yet unique learning experience for students.
“It’s a challenge, but at the same time, I’ve always loved challenges,” he said.
He teaches a variety of music classes, including a class that is a combination of marching band and pep band, concert band, jazz, rock and roll band and more.
This year, he will teach a new course in Colorado called modern band, defined as “any music made in Western culture of America since 1950” including a mix of early rock, blues, country, R&B, soul, rap, electronic dance and more.
Monk said his goal is to foster his students’ love of music and help them pursue it if that’s their dream.
“My goal for this program is not to be a marching band program that sends kids off to college, but creates performers that come into this community as soon as they graduate and start professional work like I am because there’s a lot of great opportunities,” he said.
Monk decided to dust off his performing side during COVID. He learned how to be a one-man band and jumped at the opportunity to take gigs once people were able to perform in public again.
“I use a loop pedal and a bunch of effects pedals to create a soundscape,” Monk explained. “Then it sounds like a full band, even though it’s just me.”
“I’m more like an ATL, Atlanta, hip hop sort of country version of Ed Sheeran,” he said.
Monk has become a familiar name through his performances at events such as the Dolores River Fest and Dolores Summer Fest, and he’s become a regular performer at the Mancos Brewery, doing 30 to 35 gigs, weddings and performances a season, which normally lasts from the end of April through the middle of October.
One thing that stands out to Monk, however, is that his performing is not just about him, but that it is also a family affair, saying that his wife and two children come to his performances.
“It’s just a normal weekend activity for them,” he said. “My wife and kids are there with me dancing.”
Earlier this summer, some of Monk’s students saw him perform at the Dolores Summer Fest.
“A couple of my students came, and I didn’t know they were coming,” he said. “They walked up and sat right in front of me and they never left, which was really special to me. You know, you’re a teacher. You teach these kids all day long, all year long. You don’t really know what kind of impact you’re going to have on them.”
Monk said he hopes that his music and teaching career will show students they don’t have to limit themselves to a job they don’t like just to make money, saying that it is possible to do what you love and do more than one thing.
In parting, Monk shared advice he would give others hoping to pursue their passions, saying that anything is possible if you put your mind and heart into it.
“Be willing to be tired. Be willing to (mentally) fight for what you want and pursue what you love,” he said. “If you don’t love what you do, go find something that you do, because life is short.”
Those who wish to contact Monk about the music program at Dolores can reach out to him at (970) 729-8142 or email email@example.com.