Sustainable Missoula: Project Earth fuses music, science, ethics and action

At first I felt uncomfortable when I was asked to write a column for the Missoula Current’s Sustainable Missoula. Who am I to write about the environment? I’m just a music teacher. That thought quickly turned into “Why not!” The climate crisis is global and affects us all. So as more of us speak out and share our voices, we can build momentum for action here in Missoula and beyond. And I want everyone to know about it project earthan event of April 22nd.

Over the past several years, I’ve been actively working to channel my own skills and passions to help address the climate crisis, and for this year’s Earth Day, I’m excited to share some of the fruits of those efforts with the Missoula community. On April 22nd, Earth Day, we introduce project earth, a combination of music, science, ethics and action, distilled in two hours. In three vignettes, nonprofit activists and UM professors in forestry and philosophy share presentations, each followed by related musical works.

The genesis of this event comes from three main sources of inspiration. First and foremost, I grew up in a family that values ​​nature very much. We spent our family vacations exploring washboard forest roads to the slippery, rusty tracks of abandoned railroad tracks (my father developed and patented a mountain bike that could also ride on abandoned railroad tracks). He attended church to connect with people, but he openly admitted that nature was his proof of a greater being. We prided ourselves on leaving no trace of our travels.

I’ve also always had a genuine interest in specialties outside of my own. This curiosity, which I also owe to my parents, prompted me to look for interdisciplinary collaborations wherever possible. These events have not only helped to deepen my understanding of other disciplines, but also my own. These kinds of cross-border, collaborative experiences have given me a greater understanding of the complexities of our world than if I had stayed in the comfortable yet closed domain of my own field.

After all, I’m a music teacher. It is my duty to ask questions, present ideas and seek beauty. With my students, I work to develop experiences that are purposeful; who comment non-verbally on contemporary life. Art is a critical avenue for individual and collective expression in a world that seems to have less time for it. I believe the pendulum will swing and we will begin to understand how important expression is to our social fabric. Music also inspires action. In 1957 American composer Aaron Copland conducted his own Lincoln portrait for narrator and symphony orchestra in a crowded arena in Caracas, Venezuela, in the presence of despotic ruler Marcos Peréz Jiménez. As the narrator spoke the words: “government of the people, for the people and by the people will not disappear from the face of the earth‘ the crowd cheered, shouting so loudly that Copland couldn’t hear the rest of the piece. An American field official later told Copland that the concert inspired the first public demonstration against Peréz Jiménez, which led to his overthrow shortly thereafter.

My goal in pairing climate change presentations with music for project earth is similar: information merges and Emotion, Creating an alloy of actionable resolve. At this point in history, we have the tools we need to address the climate crisis – we just have to step up and each do our part, bringing our own stories and skills to climate solutions. There is no denying that the challenge before us can be overwhelming, but the opportunities to get involved in visioning and building a future worth living are everywhere, and we all have a role to play.

project earth offers reflections on this message from different voices and perspectives. Bryan Kostors, a member of the UM composition faculty, taught me a lot about the connection between music, video and environmental activism. project earth features the world premiere of it standing dead for wind ensemble and video, a work dealing with the devastating wildfires in the American west. He and Los Angeles-based cameraman Danny Corey captured video of the charred remains in Montana fire zones. Abby Huseth and Amy Cilimburg of Climate Smart Missoula, Winona Bateman of Families for a Livable Climate, Solomon Dobrowski of the College of Forestry and Conservation, and UM philosophy professor Christopher Preston also generously donated their time and expertise to create engaging presentations . My colleagues from the music faculty will share their artistry during the event. Above all, however, the students of the UM School of Music will be presented. Not only did this next generation group work to prepare much of the music you will hear, they also worked behind the scenes to produce and market the event.

project earth combines science, music, ethics and local activism into one impactful evening. Inspired in part by UM’s mission to engage with our community and intersections between disciplines, faculty and students at the School of Music, College of Forestry, Faculty of Philosophy along with local non-profit organizations Climate Smart Missoula and Families for a Livable Exploring Climate present an evening of poignant talks punctuated by large-scale multimedia music performances. project earth seeks not only to provoke thought, but also to inspire action in tackling today’s climate crisis.

I hope you will join us on an evening of learning, listening, momentum building and lending your voice to the choir for climate action on this Earth Day and beyond.

James Smart is a music professor and band director at the University of Montana School of Music.

project earth is April 22, 7:30 p.m

Discussion before the concert at 6:30 p.m. with composer Bryan Kostors

Dennison Theater, University of Montana


Complete event information

Contact: James Smart,

Note: Some sudden lighting and music may be uncomfortable for some viewers.

This sustained Missoula column is brought to you most weeks, via the Missoula Stream Climate Smart Missoula and Home resource.

Sustainability Happenings – lots going on this Earth Month!

Here we offer ideas for sustainable ways to get involved in our community. To learn more, sign up for the Climate Smart eNewsletter via their homepage here and sign up for the Home ReSource eNews via their homepage here.

Takes place all month: Spring layer by Mountain Line. Prepare for spring in Missoula by making sustainability a part of your everyday life. Get rewarded for doing what you can, whenever you can, and make the sustainable change. Take on challenges, ride the amazing race-style bus, or join the family-friendly scavenger hunt. Entrants entered the draw for epic prize packages worth over $250 each. Find out more and join HERE.

Missoula’s WINTER Farmers’ Market continues at Southgate Mall, Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. Until 23.04.

April 18, 12 – 1:15 p.m.: Climate Conversations skills workshop hosted by Families for a Livingable Climate, via Zoom. Details and registration here.

April 18, 5:30 p.m.: Making sense of the latest IPCC report. UM Regents Professor Emeritus and Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist Steve Running will speak at the 350 Montana Action Committee meeting on the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment and NorthWestern Energy’s flawed “Net Zero” plan . public welcome. At the First United Methodist Church, 300 E. Main St.

April 19, 11am-1pm. Earth Day on the oval at UM. Local sustainability organizations will set up tables, garden games, free snacks and live music from 12pm to 1pm.

April 21, 6:30 p.m. “A conversation with John Kerry, the US President’s special envoy on climate.” Details via Griz Hub and registration via Zoom. Link to the Facebook event here.

April 21, 24, 28, 30 – Mt Jumbo Trail working days with Missoula Parks and Recreation. Sign up to help build new and improved trails in the Mt. Jumbo Saddle area, one of Missoula’s most popular and heavily used trail areas. Details about Volunteer Missoula.

April 21-24 – The Clark Fork Coalition’s Annual River Cleanup – This year is a four-day, do-it-yourself cleanup that covers over 30 miles of river. Choose the place, day and time that works best for you.

April 22nd. 19:30 o’clock – Project Earth, a multimedia fusion of art, science and community engagement around the climate crisis, featuring UM Music ensembles, TED-style presentations and inspiration for action. At the Dennison Theater on the UM campus. Tickets are pay as you can. Take part in this unique event!

April 22-23. The 53rd Kyiyo Pow Wow. At the Adam’s Center of the University of Montana.

April 23. 10 am. 30th annual run for the trees. Celebrate Missoula’s urban forests with Run Wild Missoula and Missoula Parks & Recreation at the 30th Annual Run for the Trees! 10K, 5K or FREE 1-mile untimed run for the whole family. There are also various opportunities for volunteers.

April 23. 12-4pm – MUD Earth Day celebrations at MUD/HomeResource website. The festival includes an environmental exhibition, activities and workshops for children and adults, educational programs, and food, drink and local music.

23 April 11am-2pm – WildWalk & Wildfest, in conjunction with the International Wildlife Film Festival.

April 23 – May 7 – International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula – both online and in person!

April 28th. 6:30 p.m – The right to a clean and healthy environment: a panel discussion with juvenile plaintiffs from Held v. Montana, the first juvenile climate case to go to court in the United States. Hosted by Montana Interfaith Power and Light and Families for a Liveable Climate. Via Zoom – register here.

1st-14th May. Missoula in Motion’s Annual Commuter Challenge – register your workplace team and compete by tracking sustainable commutes to win team and individual awards.

Missoula County Public Schools is embarking on a Zero Waste journey and would appreciate your support! Sign up here to get involved as a Zero Waste Cafeteria Coach.

Don’t forget – material donations to Home Resource keeps the wheels of reuse turning in our community; and remember, everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff is at

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