Jersey musicians in tune with nature for online Sourlands fundraiser

On Saturday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m., the Sourland Conservancy will present “Save the Sourlands Solofest,” a free, hourlong program combining nature documentary and music festival to raise public awareness and funds to address a serious threat to the Sourlands.

The third largest forested area in New Jersey, the Sourlands are home to several threatened and endangered species in central New Jersey.

“We are losing over 1 million trees. That’s devastating,” said Sourland Conservancy executive director Laurie Cleveland.  “Over 20% of the Sourland trees are ash, the highest concentration in New Jersey, and all these trees will be killed within the next few years by an invasive insect, the emerald ash borer.  We are working to develop a reforestation plan in partnership with local, state and national  organizations that recognize the ecological importance of  the Sourlands — and the impact of ash decline on our forest’s ability to clean our water and air, sequester carbon and provide critical habitat..”

The Sourland Conservancy’s Sourland Mountain Festival was canceled due to COVID-19, so conservancy staff, volunteers, sponsors, partner organizations and municipalities worked together to create the SoloFest to safely engage the community in the effort to restore the forest.

Musicians recorded original songs alone or with a household partner, outside surrounded by Sourland landscapes including St. Michaels Farm Preserve, Hunterdon County Sourland Mountain Preserve, Baldpate Mountain, Hidden Spring Lavender Farm, and Unionville Vineyards. Featured musicians include:

  • Hopewell native Danielia Cotton, who has appeared at previous Sourland Mountain festivals and recently released a new EP, “A Different Kind of War.”
  • Abbie Gardner and her husband Craig Akin of Jersey City, premiering a new song, “Cypress Tree.” Gardner has a solo career and is part of the Red Molly band.
  • Stacey and Alan Schulman, the As Is Jazz duo, of Llewellyn Park, who have released an album titled “Here’s to Life.”
  • Jonathan Tetelman, an operatic tenor who is a native of Titusville.
    A signature performance will feature an ensemble of more than a dozen musicians who were recorded performing alone in Sourland settings combined as one in the studio of music director Cliff Wilson of Princeton. Wilson also co-produced the documentary upon which the event is based, “The Sourlands: A New Jersey Treasure.”

Approximately half the program will be a documentary focusing on the beauty and ecology of the Sourlands, as well as the serious threats facing the forest, as described by nearly a dozen naturalists and scientists, including Jim Amon, Rush Holt, Sharyn Magee, Jennifer Rogers, Hannah Suthers and foresters from the New Jersey Forest Service.  They will focus on the importance of the Sourlands in terms of wildlife protection, water quality, climate, history and recreation.

The program will premiere for free on YouTube followed by an “after party” at 9 p.m. on Zoom. Visit to purchase event merchandise or after-party tickets, preview music performances or donate funds for planting native trees and shrubs in the Sourlands.

“The Sourlands are one of the great natural and recreation assets of New Jersey and it needs our help,” said SoloFest producer Brad Fay. “Regardless of your familiarity with the Sourlands, this event can serve to deepen your love for this region, or to help you make the first acquaintance.”

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