Jeff Wolin is already a rock star ranger at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Singer, songwriter and leader of the Jr. Rangers, Wolin was recently named regional winner of the Freeman Tilden Award for excellence in interpretation.
Tilden, an American novelist and playwright, wrote nonfiction works about the national parks including “Interpreting Our Heritage.” He died in 1980.
Wolin interprets nature through rhythm and catchy tunes, performing his first piece, “Explore, Learn and Protect,” in 2010 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The song is the theme for Wolin's first CD, “Songs for Jr. Rangers,” released last week. “This is the park's way of getting our message out there, trying to help connect kids to nature and history,” he said. “Music is the universal language.”
He wrote that first song as a tribute to his then-five-year-old son Brodie.
At the monument in Florissant, Wolin infuses life and vitality to fossils from 65 million years ago. What could be a ho-hum subject for children is instead the source of an awakened sense of the earth, a kind of educational victory achieved through a guitar and a song.
Wolin wrote 19 of the album's 20 songs, each one performed in a variety of styles from hip-hop, jazz and blues to reggae and a capella. The 20th was written by 16-year-old Krishel Augustine, a member of the Navajo Nation.
The album is a collaboration of musicians, including Kari Wilson of the local band, Ceol Ceili, who highlight the theme inherent to the nation's 397 national parks. “A key player in the project is the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park which was set aside to interpret jazz, the American style of music,” Wolin said. “New Orleans is rich with musical talent.”
Wolin performed two concerts last in that city with the park's jazz musicians who collaborated on the CD project along with the National Park Services, the National Park Foundation and Eastern National Cooperating Association.
Wolin credits the Florissant monument's superintendent, Keith Payne, and the staff of nine for supporting his performances around the nation, including to the award ceremony next month.
A portion of the proceeds of Wolin's CD, released this month, go back into the Jr. Ranger programs throughout the national park system. At $9.95, the CDs are available at the visitors' center at the park in Florissant.
“Jr. Rangers earn badges by participating in activities in the national parks while learning the importance of becoming stewards of the parks,” Wolin said.