The ultimate connection between sustainability and music: FGCU Food Forest collaborates with The Bower School of Music

Tori Foltz, Editor-in-Chief

Sustainability and music are two completely different things, but a few passionate students found a way to make them intertwined, complementing each other in a celebration that everyone can enjoy. And thus, the Music Forest was born.

The idea first came about when FGCU Sophomore Zeanna Graves, Music Forest Project Manager, came to Dr. Rafferty-Osakis of the Office of Competitive Fellowships to find ways to bolster her resume and get more involved on campus.

Graves herself was the perfect combination for the idea, as she was an environmental studies major passionate about sustainability and played music in her free time. Dr. Rafferty-Osakis put her in contact with FGCU Senior Fernando Lopez Flores, the Artistic Director, who had been wanting to put on an event where he played music in nature. From that first connection, the project bloomed.

“This project has lots of potential and the hope is to make it an annual event on campus,” Graves said. “I have learned so much working with so many people, being a part of a team and seeing all the different scenarios, and learning which one to use. I am excited to use this project as an example and make it even better for the future.”

The celebration took place in honor of Arbor Day on April 29, entailing first a botanical walk led by naturalists through the food forest between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., with musicians at different locations throughout the walk playing an excerpt and explaining how their music piece or instrument is related to nature. A concert followed in the U. Tobe Recital Hall, inside the Bower School of Music, where more students will perform and speak about the project and its different components with faculty members.

FGCU Junior and Music Therapy Coordinator Nadia Henneman is most excited to see all of the hard work put into this project pay off with seeing the great impact the celebration will have on people.

“Music is around us in every situation, it’s all about perspective,” Henneman said. “Connecting music with the food forest is just one way we as musicians can show the beauty of music and the connection of the nature we are surrounded by. Being vulnerable with music in an outdoor setting with each other will allow us to show how music truly had a power in it.”

FGCU Senior Matthew Vigil, one of the musicians who will be playing in the food forest, is a cellist and will be playing movements from the Bach Suite in C major.

“I am most excited to play what I feel is the most intimate music, Bach, in a setting where artistic perfection is not the goal,” Vigil said.

FGCU Junior Aubrey Garcia, the Food Forest Coordinator, was approached by Graves and Lopez Flores in February in hopes of collaborating with the Food Forest for this celebration. They recruited her to oversee the sustainability aspect of the project.

“As an environmental studies major I am so excited to share my passion for nature with others,” Garcia said. “I hope through this event visitors will find their personal connection with nature by leaving their busy lives at the entrance of the Food Forest and step in to relax and to enjoy an afternoon in nature.”

Although music and sustainability do not have an obvious connection, they are intertwined at their core. The Music Forest was created to show that undeniable connection and celebrate Arbor Day as a community simultaneously.

“I consider a project like this fundamental for our society because we are creating service opportunities,” Lopez Flores said. “In times of COVID and war, music should not be silent, and nature should be honored.”