“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home,” proclaimed naturalist John Muir. “That wildness is a necessity.”
Though more than a hundred years have passed since Muir first published these words in his seminal book Our National Parks, they could not be more true today. 2016 marked the Centennial Anniversary of the National Parks Service, authorized by President Woodrow Wilson and later called “America’s Best Idea.”
As a long-time lover of travel and the wilderness, the National Parks System has been a significant source of my inspiration as an artist. In December of 2016, I was inspired to write a piece that would capture my wonderment at these amazing places. The National Parks Suite, premiered March 9, 2017, is a tone poem for jazz sextet, depicting my experiences with five National Parks that were most impactful for me. Because jazz is arguably the most quintessentially American music, I could imagine no medium more suitable for describing the wonders of the American wilderness. The piece features a blend of through-composed material and improvisation, and borrows from many traditional jazz forms, in order to capture a natural spirit deeply rooted in history, but born anew with each personal encounter.