Your Ah Haa Moment: Telluride Jazz, Youth Music & Nature Workshop

Uniquely combining music, art and nature, the Telluride Jazz Festival and the Ah Haa School for the Arts are joining forces to offer a workshop for youth 13-years old and up titled: Where Music and Nature Meet: A Special Workshop with Jazz Musician Bob Hemenger on Friday, August 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bob Hemenger offers youth workshop at Ah Haa thanks to Telluride Jazz.

Bob Hemenger offers youth workshop at Ah Haa thanks to Telluride Jazz.

For musician and Pagosa Springs High School teacher Bob Hemenger, the connection between the three – music, art and nature – are not only obvious, but also inherently intertwined. In the late ’80s and early ‘90s, Hemenger, a musician and biologist, was teaching wilderness and survival skills at Tom Brown Jr. Tracker School in New Jersey.

“It’s funny that the world’s largest wilderness survival school is in New Jersey,” Hemenger quipped.

But it was also at Tom Brown Jr., where Hemenger met bassist, composer, author, and five-time Grammy Award winner Victor Wooten (best known for playing bass in Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and in the Victor Wooten Band). The two had a lot in common, most importantly, an interest in wilderness survival and music.

“He [Wooton] saw what we taught as music,” Hemenger said, illustrating the connection between music and the wilderness with an anecdote about fox prints.

“When you track a fox, the animal moves quicker and the track pattern changes. There is a series of four prints, almost like sixteenth notes; it means it’s [the animal] speeding up and in music [when there are 16th notes], it’s speeding up.”

Through teaching wilderness survival and with common backgrounds as musicians, Wooten and Hemenger both saw music as a metaphor to slow down and really listen to each other, and they saw the natural world as the perfect place to do it.

“Music let’s you get out of the way,” Hemenger said. “You let music speak through you and by doing so, then you create something much bigger and profound than something you could have done yourself.”

Wooten and Hemenger have taught their workshops to people of all ages and stages in life, from the teenagers Hemenger will teach in Telluride to freshmen at Stanford University and CEOs from around the nation.

In the workshop at the Ah Haa School this Friday, Hemenger will engage participants in discussion and guide them through exercises and activities that require them to rely on senses other than sight. He will ask them to observe and will listen to their insights about the relationships between the two.

“If people play music great, but if not, that’s okay too,” Hemenger said. “We take an alternative look at music.”

During the Jazz Festival, Hemenger will also work with the Telluride All Stars, a group of students selected from around the western United States to play together at different venues during the festival. The All Stars will also participate in the workshop’s final activity; something Hemenger calls a blindfold drum stalk.

During this activity, Hemenger will take the group to the Town Park and give everyone a blindfold. Then a drum will play somewhere in the woods and the participants will have to stalk through the woods and find the drum.

“We’re so visually oriented, it’s a great activity,” Hemenger said. “You get to a place where you slow down and feel your way. The world goes fast, but when you spend time in the natural world there is a different pace. You spend time there, you feel a greater awareness.”

Youth under age 13 can be considered for the workshop if there is interest.

For more information about the workshop or to register, go here or contact the Ah Haa School at 970-728-3886. The registration cut off will take place Thursday afternoon.

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Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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