DESPITE ALL THE YEARS I’ve worked in the not-for-profit sector, our current fundraising drive is the first time that I’ve been up close and personal with a program involving individual donors. It’s been a humbling experience. Looking through the list of donors, some of whom I know, but most with names previously unfamiliar, is as addictive for me as Facebook is for some. Nothing is as motivating as knowing that people value and respect what we do at Alternatives. Each donor and all of our subscribers motivate our team to try a little harder to bring you the best environmental journalism in the country. Thank you everyone for your generosity.

Which brings me to this very special music edition of the magazine. Marcia Ruby, our creative director who has worked with Alternatives for almost 25 years, is the driving force behind this issue. She is responsible not only for the gorgeous visuals and clean layout of the magazine, she is also the tie that binds, our nurturer and cheerleader. But much as she cares about Alternatives, Marcia loves music more. She is a consummate supporter of live music – especially Guelph’s Hillside Festival – and her holidays are generally built around some musical activity. For 15 years, Marcia has wanted Alternatives to publish a music issue. Finally, it is here.

So I dedicate this issue to Marcia, her perseverance with the magazine and her love for tunes and lyrics. Inside, you will find a chorus of articles about music, musicians and the role of both in helping raise awareness about all things green. Our managing editor Tenille Bonoguore sets the tone with her observations about how the environmental activities of today’s musicians have largely moved off stage. She writes, “Eschewing the lyric-based protests and paeans of earlier generations, green-hearted musicians are using their actions to inspire change.” They seem to be saying, “Heed what I do, not what I sing.”

Jarmo Jalava and his partner Alison Wearing – accomplished musicians and writers both – pick up the beat in their interviews with winners of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Playlist for the Planet contest. They tracked down performers ranging from Ontario’s Danny Michel to Keith MacPherson of the Manitoba duo Keith and Renée, discovering that, as MacPherson says, “[Music] is a powerful medium that speaks to people on a soul level.”

Its ability to get under one’s skin is why music is such a powerful part of the environmental movement. And few get deeper inside than famed composer R. Murray Schafer. In riveting prose, Rae Crossman takes you inside Schafer’s mythic 12-part music-theatre cycle called Patria. It takes place in the forest, on lakes and down trails, with a performance staged over several months.

Balladeer Bruce Cockburn, winner of Earth Day Canada’s Outstanding Commitment to the Environment Award in 2010, hits the highest of notes for Brian Walsh. Author of an upcoming book on this Canadian icon, Walsh illustrates how Cockburn ties our environmental crisis to our loss of spiritual imagination.

Returning to the chorus, our regular columnists take the stage as usual, as do our book reviews, comic, letters and notes. All in all, our much-anticipated music issue is a well-orchestrated and complex performance. For that, we ask Marcia Ruby to please take a bow.

Nicola Ross is the former Editor of Alternatives Journal, and is a member of the editorial board.

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