Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Middle Susquehanna RiverKeeper Songs Of The Susquehanna River Project Entries Due Jan. 31

In May of 2019, Luzerne County musician
Don Shappelle received an invitation to develop a river song aboard the Hiawatha Paddleboat near Williamsport for the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Floating Classroom series.​

“I went into it with a few ideas, but basically had about 45 minutes to write a song with about 40 to 50 kids and their parents,” he said. “We got a song out of it – ‘A Happy River is a Clean River’ – and it was so much fun.”

The excitement of the kids helped fuel the creative process for Shappelle.

“They were all so into it, and well aware of the situation with clean water and pollution. They all wanted to add something to this song,” he said. “I just thought it was really cool.”

Since then, Shappelle has shared the song at pretty much every one of his gigs, and inspired by the response he has received.

“We were doing a cafĂ© set at the Wegmans in Wilkes-Barre, and there were a bunch of college kids there,” he said. “We started playing this song, and by the time we hit the second chorus, all those college students were singing along and clapping. That’s the mark of a song that’s achieved what it set out to do – to get people singing along of all different age groups.”

Shappelle’s passion for the river started at a young age, playing along the banks of the Susquehanna just a few blocks away from where he grew up in Forty Fort. As his career blossomed, he found the importance of combining both his loves of music and the river.

“I learned how important river music can be in inspiring people to get involved and help clean up the river,” he said. “I’ve tried to create awareness of our river and its water quality through my music. At some gigs, I’m preaching to the choir, but I’ve also sang songs where people had no clue what was going on environmentally.”

The pandemic has obviously impacted his ability to play over the past year, which is why he is excited about the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper’s Songs of the Susquehanna project.

“This has been the first time in my career where I have not been able to go out and perform with people – like all musicians, I have never experienced this amount of time I couldn’t be out with others,” he said. “Having an outlet like this is very much appreciated.”

Musicians of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to enter their original songs inspired by the river and/or its tributaries throughout the 11,000-square-mile Middle Susquehanna watershed through Jan. 31. 

Songs will be shared at MiddleSusquehannaRiverkeeper.org and feedback provided by listeners will help the Riverkeeper develop a playlist of music to help inspire people to connect with our waterways and protect the recreational and therapeutic resources they provide. 

Also, businesses and individuals who may want to donate toward incentives for musicians who participate are encouraged to email Riverkeeper John Zaktansky as soon as possible.

“When I try to write a song about the river, I try to incorporate the rhythm of the river – the way I feel about its flowing. I try to get that into the beat of the song, whether I’m thinking about paddling on the river, sailing on the river or just walking along a riverbank, there’s so much you can get as an influence from the river,” Shappelle said. 

“I believe good river songs are those that are easy to pick up. They are songs people want to sing with you. You aren’t singing at people or to people, but with people. That’s the whole point of cleaning up a river and being aware of what’s around you in the environment – to do it together.”

Shappelle encourages everyone who shares a passion with our natural resources and with music to use their skills to inspire others to make a difference.

“I have learned that music provides a platform that can be used in such a positive way,” he said. “It can educate, it can create a spark. Regardless if they are five years old or 75, a song can help people realize how much they can get out of a clean river vs. a dirty, polluted river.”

Click Here to hear ‘A Happy River Is A Clean River’ by Don Shappelle and the entire Podcast interview.

For more information and how you can get involved, visit the Songs of the Susquehanna webpage.

Visit the Middle Susquehanna RiverKeeper website for more information on programs, initiatives, upcoming events and more. 

[How Clean Is Your Stream?

[DEP’s Interactive Report Viewer allows you to zoom in on your own stream or watershed to find out how clean your stream is or if it has impaired water quality using the latest information in the draft 2020 Water Quality Report.].

(Photo: Don Shappelle.)

(Reprinted from the Middle Susquehanna RiverKeeper Blog.)

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[Posted: January 19, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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