Prelude for Yuba Salmon

Location:  Durango, CO
United States
Project Description: 

Prelude for Yuba Salmon is a collaborative adventure in music, environment, composition and film. Bringing together music students, environmental educators and professional musician mentors, the project explores a defining community issue in the Sierra foothills of northern California: the health of the native salmon run and the importance of watershed conservation. 

While extraordinary in natural beauty, this gold rush region suffers from the long-term effects of a toxic mining history that wreaked havoc on its ecosystem, and in particular its watersheds.  As one of the few major rivers spared from the artificial propagation from hatcheries, the 24 miles of the lower Yuba River below Englebright Dam provide spawning and rearing habitat for two distinct populations of Chinook (King) Salmon, as well as ocean-going Steelhead Trout and Green Sturgeon, all species threatened with extinction from the San Francisco Bay Watershed. Yet preservation and restoration efforts are constantly threatened, limited by misinformation and lack of education beyond the politics of environment.

The Young Composers Project is an established cornerstone of Music in the Mountains education programs.  The curriculum serves to instill passion for classical music in the region’s youth, where they learn about composition, theory, music history, and performance. For the Prelude project, YCP students will be led through an environmental curriculum tailored by Sierra Streams Institute, participating in field studies and a local Native American Tribe’s “Calling Back the Salmon Ceremony”. Mentored by orchestra musicians, the students will compose music reflecting their experience and learning, with the advanced class composing a piece for orchestra to be premiered at the Music in the Mountains 2014 summer festival.  The resulting synthesis will seek to educate and inspire both participants and audiences about the importance of environmental health, and the capacity of classical music to be responsive to contemporary community issues.

This project will be documented in a 20-minute film following the young composers’ journey through their environmental curriculum, their workshops with orchestra musicians, and the premier of the Prelude, the musical work that results from the partnership. The music created will also serve as score for the film, which will be submitted to the juried 2015 Wild and Scenic Film Festival and regional public television stations.

The Prelude project is sparked by the notion that exploring a subject from the perspective of different disciplines will lead to greater imagination, and greater imagination leads to experimentation, innovation, and ultimately understanding. 

Music in the Mountains believes that classical music must pursue new paths to community relevance and has the capacity to act as a catalyst for social change. The Prelude project provides a vehicle for classical music to be directly responsive to contemporary social concerns and, in a sense, embody the force of nature.  The resulting synthesis of film, environment, education and music will seek to educate both participants and audiences about the importance of community and environment, and the capacity of classical music to be relevant to both.  For all stakeholders, the goal is that this symbiotic relationship inspires each to become engaged community citizens and thoughtful stewards of their environment, perhaps inspiring audience members to create such interdisciplinary projects in their own communities around issues of social relevance.