The Nature Conservancy has partnered with Metro Parks Nashville and some of the biggest names in music to launch If Trees Could Sing. This interactive and educational program in Nashville's Centennial Park features 18 singers – like Reba McEntire, Big Kenny, Ben Folds, Rodney Atkins and Jim Lauderdale, among others – speaking out about their favorite trees and raising awareness for their conservation.
The artists participating in If Trees Could Sing so far represent a diverse range of musical genres, all speaking on behalf of several different trees — Photo courtesy of Katherine Upton / The Nature Conservancy
“Trees are an important part of our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not," says Gina Hancock, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. "That is the key message these generous artists are delivering. If Trees Could Sing is a fresh and innovative way to communicate the vital role trees play in keeping our communities healthy, clean and enjoyable –and the critical need to protect them.”
Trees included in the project have been outfitted with signs, each with an artist’s photo and a QR code that, when scanned with a smartphone, takes park visitors to a video of the artist talking about that specific tree. The participating artists represent a diverse range of musical genres, all speaking on behalf of several different trees.
The artists participating in the project include Rodney Atkins, Big Kenny, Suzy Bogguss, Jerry Douglas, Mike Farris, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ben Folds, Giancarlo Guerrero of the Nashville Symphony, Will Hoge, Taylor Hicks, Jim Lauderdale, Reba McEntire, Tim O’Brien, Kim Richey, Jason Ringenberg, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, Webb Wilder and Victor Wooten.
The tree signs in Centennial Park provide a compelling entry point for the public to learn about trees — Photo courtesy of Katherine Upton / The Nature Conservancy
The videos were made with help from Music City Roots, Nashville’s weekly Americana music radio and stage show, and artists were encouraged to share personal stories about the trees.
For example, McEntire tells how her driveway is lined with pin oaks, so that tree always reminds her of coming home. And Secor shares that where he grew up in Virginia, osage orange trees are known as “bodocks.”
The Nature Conservancy hopes its website, which includes all the videos, provides a valuable resource for anyone curious about Nashville's tree varieties and their benefits. Plus, they hope to continue adding artist videos and to expand the program to other parks outside of Nashville.
"We tend to take the natural world around us for granted,” says Americana and bluegrass artist O’Brien, who features the traditional fiddle tune “Chinquapin Hunting” in his video about the chinquapin oak. “So we're lucky that The Nature Conservancy is there to remind us of the incredible riches right there at our fingertips. They urge us to look out our window and witness the beauty, the logic and the creative life force embodied in a tree."
The project features videos of 18 musicians talking about their favorite tree — Photo courtesy of Katherine Upton / The Nature Conservancy