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Music and conservation

Clarinets for Conservation teaches students in Tanzania about music, their local ecosystems, and also helps them plant trees. Michele Von Haugg, founder and director of Clarinets for Conservation, will perform at the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 13.

Clarinets for Conservation teaches students in Tanzania about music, their local ecosystems, and also helps them plant trees. Michele Von Haugg, founder and director of Clarinets for Conservation, will perform at the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 13.

PLATTSBURGH —  Sometimes, music speaks louder than words.

When Michele Von Haugg established Clarinets for Conservation in 2010, it was the idea of letting her clarinet be her voice that was partly responsible.

The rest of that responsibility lies in her childhood.

“I spent a lot of time in the woods, really just being, in a natural environment,” said Von Haugg, founder and director of Clarinets for Conservation.

When Von Haugg wasn’t busy being in the woods surrounding her childhood home in East Berne, New York, she was reading books about nature and conservation, and found the work of primatologist Jane Goodall to be particularly inspiring.

Upon entering college, she shifted gears and decided to chase music.

After obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education at Ithaca College, Von Haugg entered the Air Force, where she played clarinet in the Air Force Band of Liberty for ten years.

And then her past caught up to her present when she saw the film “Mpingo: The Tree That Makes Music.”

“I had a lightbulb moment,” Von Haugg said. “I figured there must be a way that I can combine this dream of mine of being a child and wanting to have some sort of involvement with conservation in Africa and my passion as a clarinetist.”

The culmination of that dream is Clarinets for Conservation, a non-profit organization that strives to educate people in the United States and Tanzania about music and its relation to the Mpingo, or African blackwood, tree, which is used to manufacture many instruments, including clarinets, guitars, oboes, piccolos and bagpipes.

The documentary follows the process of manufacturing clarinets, starting with the harvesting of the Mpingo tree, which is commercially endangered.

“The Mpingo tree takes 70-200 years to mature, so it has to be at least 70 years old to harvest,” Von Haugg said.

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