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Perspectives from Performing Artists on Music as a Tool for Environmental Education and Advocacy

Presented by
Jennifer Publicover, Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts (Nova Scotia)

Music can be used as a tool to complement other pedagogical approaches used in environmental education. The arts, including music, can experientially evoke emotion, spark dialogue, encourage innovative thinking, present diverse perspectives, cope with ambiguity and non-linearity, and influence the development of cultural norms. To explore some of the parameters of using music as an environmental education and advocacy tool, we interviewed musicians who contributed songs to the David Suzuki Foundation Playlist for the Planet about their experiences presenting environment-related music and advocating for environmental causes in their particular performing contexts. Their songs touched on scientific topics as well as values and social issues. Many interviewees, such as Bruce Cockburn, were full-time touring musicians; some, like Remy Rodden, were both environmental educators and performers. The results of our non-probabilistic study showed multivalent themes emerging around maintaining musical authenticity in both artistic output and off-stage pro-environmental behaviour, balancing environmental messaging with other components in a show, and the roles of time, place, and audiences. In an entertainment context, music fans can be turned off by messaging that seems contrived, preachy, or overwhelming. The efficacy of a musical pro-environmental message can be influenced by perceptions of its sincerity, relevance, and artistic quality.