Berklee Professor Named White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence

Tori Donahue
July 24, 2017
Press release
Steve Wilkes takes a field recording at Cape Cod National Seashore's Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham for his Hear Cape Cod project. Wilkes will conduct a similar project in the White Mountain National Forest as its 2017 Artist in Residence.
Photo by Lesley O'Connell

Steve Wilkes, Berklee percussion professor, has been announced as the White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence for 2017. For three weeks this summer (July 24-August 12), Wilkes will record the sounds of the forest and post them on a digital aural map. Wilkes will also offer public programs, including workshops for residents and visitors to learn how to contribute to the sound file collection of the White Mountain National Forest, which stretches through New Hampshire and Maine.

While at Berklee, Wilkes has developed a core curriculum in Native American drumming and studio drumming techniques and applications. He also teaches contemporary electronic percussion as well as percussion for music therapy. He has received a number of awards for his work, including a Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship, and is a three-time recipient of the Japan Foundation's Uchida Fellowship. Wilkes has performed at venues throughout the world, including Carnegie Hall, the National Cathedral, the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, the National Theater and Concert Hall in Taiwan, and at Petronas Filharmonik Hall in Malaysia, among others. He was also a cast member in Tubes, one of the Blue Man Group's first productions.

“As a musician, I listen for what intrigues my ear,” said Wilkes. “My work represents an artistic effort to document and archive geographical locations through sound. I’m excited about working with the Forest Service and interested individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage listening to—and recording—the world around us in a musical way.” He continued, “I cannot imagine a more diverse and inspiring soundscape than the White Mountains; I hope to be able to express and communicate to others this profound sense of inspiration, and to help everyone slow down a bit and really listen.”

After years of recording the sounds of Truro, Massachusetts while vacationing with his wife, Wilkes used the Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship to create the Hear Cape Cod Project, which ran from 2010 to 2013. During this project, Wilkes traveled from Bourne to Provincetown to capture the sounds of Cape Cod, including those of bird calls, trains, and the ocean. He hopes his audio records, be they in Cape Cod or New England's more mountainous terrain, will preserve the sounds of our ever-changing aural landscapes.