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In early December, I had the good fortune of meeting with Gabriella Smith, a musical composer and environmentalist who was in Eugene for a composer residency with the Eugene Symphony. The December symphony concert featured a 10-minute piece she wrote called Field Guide. Hearing Field Guide, I felt transported out of the Hult Center into a wild tropical forest. The orchestral instruments made unique sounds that were evocative of being outdoors, and I was thrilled with that experience.
In March, Gabriella will be back in Eugene for the Eugene Symphony performance of the Pacific Northwest Premier of her Symphony No. 1,ONE, for Orchestra. Gabriella is a rising star in the musical world, inventing new sounds and voices for classical instruments, and composing works that explore a rich new vocabulary for creating music. As an environmentalist, her inspiration is in the natural world, and as her work is performed globally, she travels often and explores new places as she goes.
Other than creating new music, Gabriella has a mission of advocacy for local natural spaces wherever she is working. In December she met with folks at Green Island to arrange a restoration work party when she returns to Eugene in March. When I spoke with Gabriella, she told me that as a child she grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area playing and writing music, hiking, backpacking, and volunteering on a songbird research project. She idolized the avian researchers and thought she would pursue that career path. Birds are in her music and on her mind, and she has not lost that sense of wonder about wildlife.
In my conversation with Gabriella, I was struck by both her humanity and concern for our natural world. She is living a life that allows her to influence people throughout the world. Along with her incredible musical creativity, she is dedicated to connecting people to natural spaces wherever they live. When she comes in March, she will be putting shovel in the ground during a work party for habitat restoration, then the next day we will be hearing the Eugene Symphony perform her very first symphony! Gabriella’s incredible talents and passion for the environment and her work on a global scale can truly make a difference! She provides hope for the future through her commitment to our natural world and her ability to touch hearts and minds through her music. Some excerpts from her website: gabriellasmith.com
Many of Gabriella’s works address the climate crisis and participation in climate solutions. Her first full-length album, Lost Coast, deals with the grief, loss, rage, and fear experienced as a result of climate change, as well as the exhilaration, beauty, and wonder she has felt in the world’s last wild places, and the joy and hope in getting to work on climate solutions.
Gabriella has also written many works inspired by field recordings she has made of terrestrial and underwater soundscapes, including the sounds of dawn choruses, trees, cacti, tide pools, and coral reefs.
When not composing, she can be found hiking, backpacking, birding, recording underwater soundscapes with her hydrophone, and volunteering on ecosystem restorations.
FMI: Green Island, MRT work party and tour details – TBD.
Thank you to Katy Vizdal for setting up our meeting. Katy is the Eugene Symphony’s Education & Community Engagement Director, as well as an active LCAS member.