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GVSU music group providing soundtrack for national parks

ALLENDALE, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) A music group from Grand Valley State University has the rare opportunity to become part of the national landscape this week, providing a live soundtrack at five national parks.

The New Music Ensemble at GVSU commissioned five composers to create original songs, inspired by specific parks in Americas Southwest.
They are now performing those pieces in the national parks they were written for, putting West Michigan music on a national stage.

I think they really capture what the parks are about, says Bill Ryan, director of the New Music Ensemble and an associate professor of music at GVSU.

Ryan says the Music in the Parks project has been in the works for two years.

The songs they commissioned were tailor-made to suit the ambience of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park and Zion National Park in Utah.

Ashley Stanley, a senior music performance major at GVSU, composed one of those songs with Arches National Park in mind.

When I originally conceived the piece I thought, This is so blue. It reminds me of the night sky, Stanley explains. The skies in the national parks are beautiful. You can see every constellation and everything's completely clear.

Ryan says the group is excited to share years worth of work with park crowds.

One of the most interesting pieces we're going to perform is for amplified cactus, Ryan adds with a laugh. We actually have a cactus we're driving around with and we plug microphones into it. There's a performer that gets up there and pulls the spines out of it and it's this kind of wacky interesting piece, using as an instrument this plant that's important to these parks.

The ensemble will perform 13 concerts, over ten days, across 4,000 miles at both indoor and outdoor venues.

What I'm hoping is that these pieces help our audiences see these parks in a slightly different way, Ryan says.

Stanley adds, It gives great significance to why you're there and what the purpose of preserving these parks is and what the purpose of music is to relay that message.

All of the Music in the Parks concerts are free and open to the public:
April 29 - Arches National Park Visitor Center Auditorium, Moab, Utah
  1-3 p.m. (four 30-minute concerts)
April 30 - Capital Reef National Park amphitheater, Torrey, Utah
  4 p.m. and 5 p.m. (two 30-minute concerts)
May 1 - Zion National Park Zion Lodge, Springdale, Utah
  3:30-5 p.m. (three 30-minute concerts)
May 2 - Grand Canyon National Park Shrine of the Ages Auditorium, Arizona
  3-5 p.m. (two 60-minute concerts)
May 3 - Great Sand Dunes National Park Visitor Center, Mosca, Colorado
   2-4 p.m. (two 60-minute concerts)
May 4 - Colorado College Packard Hall, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  7:30-8:30 p.m. (performing with Bowed Piano Ensemble)