Eastman alumni take music to national parks

The ensemble of Music in the American Wild (photo courtesy: Geoff Sheil)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It's an unlikely concert hall for this seven-piece ensemble.

"It's in the low 50s and very damp in the caves so it's kind of challenging conditions, but the sound in there was just totally incredible. It felt like playing in a beautiful concert hall,” said Emlyn Johnson, Director of Music in the American Wild.

That hall was actually Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, a national park.

"It's actually really inspiring to be playing in some of these places,” said Dan Ketter, Assistant Director.

The group is part of the National Park Service's centennial celebration. 11 composers created new classical pieces for the parks. So far they've performed in places like the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.

"We have found that the music has really affected different people in different ways. We've really had a positive response. All the people we've gotten to play for have been able to experience their parks in a new way through music,” said Johnson.

The task requires specially designed instruments to stand up to the varying conditions. Whether it's descending into a cave or hiking up a mountain.

"Some people hiked up and saw us playing there and we ended up having a group of 30 people or so that just stopped their hike to listen to us play at the summit,” said Ketter.

Next month, they'll start another leg of their tour. This time in the Pacific Northwest.

"It's been an unforgettable and very inspiring experience especially seeing how much people have enjoyed listening to us play,” said Ketter.

Emlyn says they were inspired by a walk through Letchworth Park, but they haven't performed there yet. They are raising money to help support the rest of their tour -- you can click here to help.

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