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Students create a feast for your ears at the FGCU Food Forest

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Samantha Romero
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Joshua Snelling, an FGCU student studying music performance, plays his viola at the Food Forest on Sunday, March 27, 2022.

A piano among trees and musicians playing duets with chirping birds—that’s the vision a group of students at Florida Gulf Coast University want to share, exposing their musical talent with others and honor our environment at the same time.

Joshua Snelling plays viola for the Music Forest group performing in April, and he thinks that the forest is the perfect place to create beautiful melodies.

"I can't imagine a more beautiful setting and a scenario in which all this have taken place,” said Snelling.

The 2022 Music Forest strives to educate the public about FGCU’s history of sustainability, celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the university. The MForest was created by Fernando López Flores, a senior at FGCU majoring in piano performance.

As a little boy, López Flores watched his dad make music. Now, a classical pianist, Flores is pioneering the celebration by blending his love for music and nature. Flores said that once this idea sprouted, he was determined to help students learn about the botanical garden.

"What if we actually make not not only a music video, not only the experience of putting a piano in the middle of the rock nature, but creating the experience for people to learn about the Botanical Garden, the sustainability component of FGCU?" said López Flores. "[It's] giving the chance for people to experience that, while they are learning about everything that is surrounding them."

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The Music Forest is a project blending the FGCU Food Forest and the Bower School of Music and the Arts. The student-run botanical garden highlights edible species that grow well in South Florida, enhancing awareness of sustainable food production and whole food nutrition. This event not only hosts musical performances, but also brings awareness to environmental matters. Marco Acosta, the Food Forest manager said events like this help shed light on issues with the SWFL food system.

“Whether it's through music or through any other means, it’s just a great way to get the word out and help alleviate the issues of our food system here and in Southwest Florida,” said Acosta.

The celebration promises four hours of non-stop musical performance, where students can take a tour through the trails while listening to different musicians. There will be a total of 30 individual performers, and the performers will be taking 30 to 45 minutes shift. Musicians prepared pieces inspired by nature. Some of the musicians, like senior Matthew Vigil, say that this interactive experience is brand new for them. Vigil is playing his cello for the event.

“I think here is it's a really good exercise, to just play music without trying to be perfect,” said Vigil. “Instead of preparing like a 45 to an hour program, you get to just play music you enjoy and not worry whether it's legitimate or not all music is good music. But it's exciting to not be perfect.”

Kristen Jarvis recently graduated from FGCU with a Bachelor's of Music Performance in violin. She said this event is a ray of light.

“And amidst all of the conflict that's going on, in addition to the pandemic, it's it's nice to be able to reimagine what music and what concerts could look like in the future. This definitely feels a lot more down to earth, and a lot more grounding,” said Jarvis.

“You see scenarios where musicians are, in most cases, even annoyed when there's a phone ringing and when there's a baby crying," said López Flores. "Here a tree can break and fall down and you will keep playing and a bird will sing and you can imitate him. I think that is the magic of bringing music outside and bringing yourself outside as a performer."

The music team chose certain songs to shed light on cultures and world issues. They chose a repertoire from a community living in the region of the Amazon rainforest called the Moxos in Bolivia. The musicians will be performing three from a collection of manuscripts kept in the Moxos archive.

“I find particularly important to share this music and to explore these manuscripts that have been lost for centuries that were found, thanks to a hard work of musicologists and the Moxos archive, the musical Moxos archive in Bolivia,” said López Flores. “We're honoring a culture that is truly beautiful.”

López Flores hopes that students will take this experience, feel inspired, and make something new out of it.

“Feelings can be added to nature, music can be added to nature, painting can be added to nature. And the same thing. All art can be inspired, inspired by nature,” said López Flores. “I want people to come here and discover something new.

Students can enjoy the musical guided tours on April 29th from 3-7pm.