Holly Arntzen and Kevin Wright are part of Vancouver’s Artist Response Team (ART) and introduces environmental and ecological messages through music and entertainment. (Photo contributed)

Voices of Nature reaches elementary students

By Barb Brouwer, Observer contributor

Music has the power to touch the soul and heart – and deliver a profound message.

That’s what Holly Arntzen and Kevin Wright are counting on when they “Rock the Salish Sea” with Bastion Elementary School students later this month.

Arntzen and Wright are Vancouver’s Artist Response Team (ART), an organization founded by Arntzen and her late husband Stephen Foster in the late 1990s.

Along with their band The Wilds, ART introduces environmental and ecological messages through music and entertainment in their programs Voices of Nature and Up Your Watershed.

The Voices of Nature (VON) School Music Program teaches young students about the environment.

“I have seen the (environmental) changes over several decades,” says Arntzen, who grew up on the Coast. “In the late ’80s, environmental concerts were popular and people realized how powerful songs are to carry messages that are difficult to hear.”

A decade later, Foster discovered there was a place for these environmental messages in schools and founded Voices of Nature, a program that culminates in students performing with Arntzen and Wright.

The “with” is important, says Arntzen of its power to help students develop a leadership role.

“When we’re in the school for four days (to rehearse), we encourage them to be stepping out and telling their families,” she says of encouraging children to speak of the profound importance of caring for the planet and its creatures. “Music touches people in deep places; when a child sings and speaks, it’s coming from a pure place and that resonates.”

Also important is the need for adults to understand that decisions made today are what children will live with well into the future.

“We sing with the children, not to them,” reiterates Wright, also a longtime musician who grew up on the Coast. “We are not singing kiddy songs – almost 100 per cent are what we would play in clubs or at concerts.”

Before Wright met Arntzen and Foster in 2003, he was conscious of the environment but not involved in its protection in the same way they were. But he says it didn’t take long for him to start to adopt the same values, a somewhat slow transformation from rocker to environmentalist.

“The kids and us give voices to creatures and the environment that don’t have a voice,” Wright says, noting this year’s program focuses on the ocean and the salmon, including those that return to the Shuswap to spawn.

But both Arntzen and Wright are quick to point out that while they share an important message, they don’t advocate or talk about politics.

They do talk about controversial issues, but the goal is to educate about problems and solutions.

“We’re all in this community together and have to get along,” says Arntzen, maintaining solutions to climate change, decimation of our oceans and other challenges will require co-operation on an unprecedented global scale.

“We are voicing a vision; we don’t own nature, we don’t control it, we are a part of it and we need to find ways to live within what nature can sustain,” she adds. “We are overstepping our bounds and we have a responsibility to live sustainably.”

Bastion teacher Ceren Caner says students were quick to grasp the vision.

Describing song lyrics as being “environmentally charged, Caner says they have sparked a lot of conversations, even among his Grade 3 students.

A member of the Shuswap Outdoor Learning Foundation that hosts summer wilderness camps, Caner notes the importance of connecting children with the outdoors in a meaningful and hopeful way.

His young students have already memorized all the songs and are excited to be singing with a professional band.

“Something happens emotionally when you deliver a message through music,” he says. “They’re singing from the heart and they’re telling adults to step it up.”

Bastion students will perform in concert on Friday, March 2.

Fundraising

dance

That evening, Arntzen, Wright and The Wilds will also perform at a dance at the Elks Hall sponsored by the Shuswap Environmental Action Society, Askew’s Foods and the Salmon Arm Observer to benefit the Outdoor Learning Foundation.

Doors open for the dance at 7:30 p.m. and The Wilds begin playing at 8 p.m.

Tickets are available at Acorn Music, 832-8669.

All funds raised from the event will go to support the work of the Shuswap Outdoor Learning Foundation, which provides summer camping experiences for young people and outdoor school programs that connect students meaningfully with the natural world.

Just Posted

Muralist on board for Revelstoke’s LUNA Nocturnal Wonder festival

One of Kris Kupskay’s next projects is a mural on a 22… Continue reading

Chance of showers may not be enough to rid Okanagan of smoke

Wind and chance of thunderstorms competing factors in this week’s forecast

Darke Lake residents under evacuation alert

Fire crews battling wildfire in rural community west of Summerland

Puppies picked up by BC Wildfire crew to be returned to family

They were just leaving the Monashee Complex of fires when they found the cutest creatures.

BC Wildfire crew rescues lost puppies

They were just leaving the Monashee Complex of fires when they found the cutest creatures.

Filmmaker captures the smoke that enveloped the Shuswap

Check out this video of the haze that blanketed the Salmon Arm

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark criticizes feds for buying pipeline

The $4.5 billion purchase of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline second worst decision, she said

Blaze near Olalla grows to 527 hectares

The Old Tom Creek fire that started Aug. 15 is burning near Keremeos

‘Takes more courage to fail’: B.C. ultra-marathon swimmer reflects on cancelled try at record

Susan Simmons halted her swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back because of hypothermia

Animals moved from B.C. Interior shelters to make way for pets displaced by wildfires

The Maple Ridge SPCA houses animals to make space for pets evacuated from B.C.’s burning interior.

$21.5 million medical pot plant to be built in B.C.

The facility is to be built in Princeton

Spokane man enlists 500,000+ box fans to blow wildfire smoke back to B.C.

Spokane man Caleb Moon says he’s had enough with smoky skies from B.C.’s forest fires blanketing his city

Feds agree to look at easing jury secrecy as part of review

At issue is a law that forbids jurors from talking about closed-door deliberations

Forest fuel work needed to slow wildfires, B.C. premier says

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan joins John Horgan for tour

Most Read