An old tree at Youth Music Project lives on - as art
Trees are greatly appreciated in West Linn, as witnessed by its inclusion on the Arbor Day Foundation's list of Tree Cities USA for more than a decade.
"Along 10th Street at the Youth Music Project building was an amazing 100+ year old maple tree," said Celeste Rose, Development Director for YMP. "It was getting dangerous for our staff, students and community members walking by on our sidewalk due to the fact of rot and pieces falling off near the student play area. After many, many attempts to help support the tree, a tree specialist said it was past saving."
So when Sally Bany, cofounder of Youth Music Project, learned that tree had to come down she contacted her sister, artist Kathy Deggendorfer, who connected her with chainsaw sculptor J. Chester "Skip" Armstrong of Sisters. The trio agreed they needed to honor the tree. After an initial conversation the tree trunk was loaded and moved to Armstrong's property near Sisters, where he spent about a year musing on the piece. He began carving in early September 2019, and completed the work in November.
The sculpture was unveiled Dec. 1 in Sisters.
"This old maple tree, which we were forced to remove from the property due to old age, has witnessed from a seedling to today, a change in the City of West Linn, formerly called Robin's Nest by the early pioneers," said Bany during the unveiling. "You can see the lovely singing robin, high above the country branch. Now this maple tree has a permanent music-filled, joyful home."
The sculpture titled "One Tree — Many Songs" has been installed indoors at Youth Music Project. The base of the sculpture is a bed of roses in honor of Bany's and Deggendorfer's grandmother, Marie, who loved roses. From there on up are dozens of carved musicians playing guitars, keyboards and other instruments, all singing from the tree. Armstrong captured the rhythm of music in motion along with the energy and rebellion of youth.
The sculpture depicts familiar figures including Elton John, wearing oversized glasses and playing keyboard, and Armstrong's great friend Zac Brown (of the Zac Brown Band) on lead guitar, with his trademark beard and black bowler hat. One arm of the tree depicts country music, acknowledging its roots in soul and Celtic tradition. The arm depicting pop music has graphic guitar-based carvings.
On the edge of the country branch, a carved red robin sits on a nest. This is a tribute to the history of West Linn, which was originally intended to be called Robin's Nest. Carved music notes rise up the entire sculpture, floating on the backs of butterflies.
"The butterflies represent imagination," Armstrong said in an interview with the Nugget News in Sisters.
Armstrong placed at the top of the tree his muses — Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul; top-selling pop and country artist Taylor Swift; and Hank Williams, the Father of Country. He said he placed them atop "One Tree — Many Songs" to inspire the thousands of youngsters who study now and will pursue and perform music in years to come.
"Over 900 students and families per week will now celebrate the roots of American music not only through sound but visually through this amazing representation of rock, pop and country music," Bany said. "Please visit this gift from Mother Nature and Skip in the lobby of Youth Music Project."
Youth Music Project's mission is to provide outstanding rock, pop and country music education for youth by offering tuition assistance, instrument rental and exceptional, and state-of-the-art performance opportunities.
They offer group classes, private lessons, early childhood art and music education, rock band experience, camps, field trips and other events for youth ages 1 to 18. They offer instruction in bass, piano, violin, ukulele, guitar, voice and percussion.
Bany and her staff believe children's lives are changed through the power of music.
Youth Music Project is located at 2015 8th Ave., West Linn. To learn more call 503-616-5967 or visit youthmusicproject.org.
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