CONCERT PREVIEW: Music in the American Wild

by Seth Tompkins

Photo Credit: Geoff Sheil

You may be aware that this year is the centennial anniversary of “America’s best idea,” the national park system. Created in 1916, the National Park Service (NPS) currently manages 411 sites in the United States and its territories. The national parks themselves, however, predate the NPS, with Yellowstone (the world’s first national park) being founded in 1872, and the land that would become Yosemite National Park being set aside for protection even earlier, in 1864. But, this August, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service itself, which not only protects and manages the parks, monuments, shorelines, historical areas, and myriad other sites in its care, but also serves to makes these sites accessible to the public.

If you are in need to a way to celebrate, check out the NPS’s centennial page. Or better yet, attend one of the upcoming concerts in Washington state by Music in the American Wild! And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.

Music in the American Wild is the brainchild of Emlyn Johnson and 17 of her colleagues, all of whom have a connection to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. This project started with a group of musicians hiking. While hiking at Letchworth State Park in upstate New York (which is awesome, BTW), this group of musicians found themselves with a desire to play music, but they were tragically devoid of instruments. Regretting the oversight, the group began thinking of a way to connect their passion for the outdoors with their love for (and vocation of) classical music. The end result of that thought process is Music in the American Wild.


Photo Credit: Geoff Sheil

This year, Music in the American Wild has been touring the country, playing fresh new music in national parks.  The music they are performing is all new, and has been written specifically for this celebratory tour. Some of the pieces, in fact, have been performed in the very locations that inspired them, such as Chris Chandler’s The View From Here. This piece was inspired by the Big Meadows location inside Shenandoah National Park, and was recorded there in June of this yearClick here to learn more about the composers featured on the tour.

So far, Music in the American Wild has performed on tour in several of the high-profile national parks in the Eastern U.S., including Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, and Shenandoah, with additional performances at the Smithsonian, The Theatre in Washington, Virginia, and at the Locust Grove Historical Landmark in Louisville, Kentucky. Some of these concerts have occurred in unique venues, including underground in “The Rotunda” at Mammoth cave National Park!

Video highlights from the eastern portion of the tour

Now that their eastern tour is complete, Music in the American Wild is coming to the Northwest!  This month, the ensemble will perform at North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier, National Park, and San Juan Island Historical Park. If you’re in the Northwest, attending one of these concerts in the national park setting for which it was intended is highly recommended. Check out their tour dates for dates and details.  However, if you cannot make it out of town, the ensemble will be playing a preview concert at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford, Seattle on Saturday, August 6 at 8pm (tickets $5-$15).

Second Inversion will be in the house at one or more of the Mt. Rainier shows (August 12-14), experiencing this music in its “natural” environment. Stay tuned for a review of that performance, and then for a wrap up of the project. In the meantime, check out the Music in the American Wild website to learn more about the project, or go further and support their Northwest tour on Kickstarter!  In any case, with this fresh new music happening in the parks, attending one these upcoming shows is a perfect excuse to get out there and soak in the majesty of “America’s best idea.”


Photo Credit: Geoff Sheil

Stay tuned for two more blog installments by Seth Tompkins related to Music in the American Wild, including a review of their performances in Mt. Rainier National Park and an overall reflection on the omnipresent relationship between music and nature.