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Adirondacks Inspire Professorís Music

Jamie Savage sings about Ranger School's environs
7/20/2012

An affinity for the Adirondacks colors the lyrics of Jamie Savage's songs.

Savage, a professor at ESF's Ranger School in Wanakena, has been playing guitar since he was 16 but it wasn't until about 10 years ago that he began focusing on writing songs that depict life in the Adirondack Park.

When the town of Wanakena celebrated its centennial in 2002, Savage wrote a song about the town. "That kicked off my writing about the Adirondacks," he said. "People were receptive to it and I found myself writing more songs."

"There is music out there about the Adirondacks," Savage said, "but not much available about this, the northwest section of the park."

Many of his songs focus on the natural and cultural history of the Adi- rondacks - where he has spent summers since he was 9 and lived year- round for the last 20 years - and on his concern for the environment in an era of exponential human population growth, according to his website bio.

"I've written songs about experiences I've had in the Adirondacks ... A lot of other people are doing that stuff too and they can relate to the songs," he said.

But Savage doesn't limit himself to music about the Adirondacks. In 2011, at the request of the ESF Centennial Committee co-chaired by Bob French, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, Savage wrote a piece called the "ESF Centennial Song" to celebrate the College's 100-year anniversary.

"It was actually Bob French's idea for me to write a song that might someday be used as an alma mater-type song for the College," said Savage. While the Centennial Celebration was being planned, Savage and French discussed the fact that the College had no official alma mater. The song that came closest was the "Song of the Frosh Forester."

"That song seemed somewhat outdated and particular to a specific program (forestry), not the College as a whole, or as we know it today," said Savage.

French thinks the song could have some staying power. "Everyone who heard the song seems to like it so maybe our students and alumni will embrace it as ESF's unofficial alma mater," he said.

Cultural songs take longer to write and Savage said he researches the topic first. Even though he has been associated with ESF for more than 20 years, first as a graduate student then as a professor, Savage wanted to know more before he wrote the song. He attended the Centennial Convocation in January 2011 to "hear what's important to people, what they reflected on and what they want to remember." But mostly, he said, the song "came from the heart."

The song made its debut at the Centennial Celebration July 28, 2011. Afterward, he worked with nationally known musician Dan Duggan to add piano and bass to the song and tighten up the lyrics. "I've never worked so hard on lyrics before," said Savage. "Trying to think about 100 years of the institution and the future, it's challenging to get the right words."

The ESF Centennial Song is downloadable from the Inside ESF website. To go there, click the link at the top of this page.

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