Working with the Carlsbad music video crew from New Mexico was a pleasure. We had a lot of Zoom meetings in the months leading up to filming at Carlsbad Caverns in October of 2021. During those meetings, we went through a bunch of different ideas, came up with a story script to follow, and went through a great deal of outfit iterations before we settled on the final outfits. We didn’t overlook a detail when it came to visually representing this music inspired by nature.

When I arrived at Carlsbad Caverns National Park for filming it was the first time I had been to that park! It’s a beautiful place – hushed (because everyone has to speak in whispers or not at all), and awe-inspiring.

Here’s how we combined two of my favorite things – music and nature – while filming “Carlsbad” by Lon Chaffin.

Two Days in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

How did filming at Carlsbad Caverns National Park go? We filmed everything in two very fun but long days. As a professional violinist, it came with some unique challenges.

On the first day, we planned to eat lunch at the park but discovered that it required 30 minutes of walking each way to the eating area. In other words, an hour of wasted time and having to schlepp all of our stuff.

So, we decided to skip lunch. Man, were we hungry by the time we made it out in the evening to the closest BBQ place we could find, 40 minutes into town! The next day, we were smart and packed a lunch, taking the time to eat it.

During the first day of filming, I wore a long emerald (looks blue in the photo!) evening gown. I remember thinking when I bought it that the slit going all the way up to my waist was a bit unnecessary. But as the video crew strapped the little audio box to my leg, I realized the slit was a godsend. Honestly, it would have been a pain without it.

With the slit in the dress, I was able to take the audio box on and off without lifting the entire voluminous skirt (yards and yards of material). I could just “open the curtain” and close it back up … like I planned it or something! Actually, I think I would have cut a slit if it wasn’t there already.

The Technical Difficulties of Outdoor Filming

Imagine with me for a minute having the little black box/audio player strapped to my upper leg, a cord running from the box under my dress, up my back to my ear so I could play along with the audio.

Then another cord connected from the box to the camera that Luis was carrying and then a cord to the phone that Alex was using to control starting, stopping, and volume.

We were all three connected to the little box on my leg (there’s a fancy word for it I’m sure … maybe transmitter …? Don’t quote me on that one … I learned and forgot a lot of new words on our filming adventure).

And of course, having to play the violin without knocking any of the cords out of place was an adventure, too!

Nature Sounds

In terms of the technical side of things, this is how our first day went. The video crew would pick a spot, we would set up, and then we’d film a couple of minutes in each spot.

Most of the time was spent trying to stay out of the way of people passing us. This could be surprisingly tricky in some of the smaller pathway areas.

Then we’d pack everything and move. For me, this involved taking off my heels, putting on walking shoes, putting my violin back in its case (to keep it safe from my klutziness in a long dress and uneven path) and putting on a hoodie … because it was cold.

Next, we’d walk to the next spot, sometimes not far from the last. I’d put my heels back on, take off the hoodie, get the violin out, wait for people to pass, and start filming again. And all of this was done VERY quietly because no noise was allowed … only nature sounds.

The Quietest Music Video … Ever!

Thinking back, it was quite possibly the quietest music video filming that’s ever been done, haha! But I guess that’s fitting when you’re filming nature music? My violin didn’t make any sound when I played! (Find out more about how I played without making a sound.)

And check out social media for some pics and videos of the whole process. If you’re really excited about the project, you can also become a patron and have access to some serious behind-the-scenes exclusive pictures and videos, among other perks.

The second day in my “explorer” outfit was sooo much easier – no cords, no heels, and no violin to worry about. I did notice, however, that the people we bumped into who were visiting the caverns weren’t thrilled and sometimes downright annoyed (even though we were bending over backward to stay out of everyone’s way). I personally think the outfit made the difference.

The day before, in the dress with the violin, everyone thought the project/music video thing was cool, and we had a bunch of good (if quiet) interactions.

But in the explorer outfit without the violin? I’m not sure what the park visitors thought we were doing, but some definitely felt that we were in the way. The vibe from the visitors was not the greatest on the second day. But the park rangers remained amazing the whole time. They told us that it was the first time there’d been a film crew down there since the park opened!

Music and Nature: Post-Editing in Los Angeles

Later, in 2022, I flew to Los Angeles for post-editing of this National Park Compositions video with Jacob Donohue. Everything was set and ready to go except the bow and audio didn’t match like I wanted them to. I wasn’t really going for the old-school movies where the violinist plays with their bow two inches above the strings, haha!

Jacob was extremely patient with me as I made sure, as much as possible, that the bows matched. An added perk of my two days in Los Angeles? Hanging out with my cousin Desiree!

And then, voila, the video was done and ready to share … or was it?! It’s been quite the process…

Let’s do a quick recap here. In 2015, I had a brand-new piece and a brand-new vision and I took it and ran … well almost … More like hobbled since I was funding the whole project on my own.

Professionally recording the piece, hiring a video crew, and filming in the park turned out to be a lot pricier than I could have imagined! But I made it happen. Six years later, it was finished from beginning to end. And then it took me another two years to package it all up and present it to you as I am so happy to do now!

“Carlsbad” by Lon Chaffin

Although to be fair, (I’ve been recently working on giving myself more credit instead of focusing on everything I haven’t finished yet), because in that same eight-year period (2015 until now), I also finished the Indiana Dunes National Park from start to finish. Glacier is almost done, and Sequoia has begun. Clearly, I can’t get enough of music and nature.

Not to mention teaching a full studio of violin students, performing and recording two fiddle albums with Holly in our group Fiddlers2, playing orchestra gigs with the Reno Philharmonic and Reno Chamber Orchestra, performing the 16 Mozart Sonatas at my house for friends and students, and driving the scenic roads in six different states.

And I believe there was a worldwide pandemic somewhere in there too, haha. Wow…reading this makes me think that maybe all the people who call me crazy aren’t necessarily off the mark! What do you think?

Carlsbad was the first park to be finished from beginning to end, and I’m so excited to share the details with you. This includes sheet music, audio recording, behind-the-scenes pictures, and video. Of course, we’ll finish up with the final national park music video, all in the weeks ahead … stay tuned! Get the news before it’s news by becoming a Patron today!

Carlsbad Caverns national park

Back in 2014, I mailed postcards to composition professors in music departments across the United States and Canada. These postcards announced a competition I was running — a competition for composers to write a piece for violin and piano. This piece had to tell a musical story of a beautiful, scenic place that meant a lot to them personally.

Lon Chaffin, the composition professor, and Music Department chair at New Mexico State in Las Cruces found one such postcard on his desk. But the deadline to submit a composition had already passed. (Oops, on my part!) Not to be deterred, he contacted me and asked if he could write a piece regardless. I was just starting to cook up the National Parks project, and he got really excited about writing a piece about Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

Keep reading to learn more about this very special national park music and how it marks the first of many National Park Compositions projects.

New Mexico: My National Park Music Premiere

In 2015, Lon invited me to premiere his piece at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He also invited me to present a couple of workshops at New Mexico State University.

Click here to see a part of the performance and here to become a patron and see the whole thing! (Wink wink.)

It was a wonderful trip. I managed to squeeze in a Santa Fe house concert (love house concerts!) for the parents of my neighbors in Reno. The program included winning compositions from the competition I held in 2014.

New Mexico is a stunningly gorgeous state. And yes, I did a ton of scenic road driving while I was there …

Those of you who know me (and, now, you, too) understand that I LOVE to drive beautiful backroads. I’ll even be adding another tier soon to my Patreon to share all my road trip adventures across North America. (And there have been some serious ADVENTURES … let me tell you!)

Recording Lon Chaffin’s “Carlsbad”

Later in 2021, pianist Eric Kao, recording engineer Michael Eardley, and I joined forces to record Lon’s Carlsbad at Tanglewood Studios in Reno, Nevada. It was fun to see it come together and fun for me to make it “perfect.”

Michael had fun adding reverb for the version used when filming at Carlsbad Caverns later that year. He was like a little boy in a candy shop with the reverb, which is normally used sparingly.

But for this, he figured out the points during the music video where I was inside the caverns and the points where I was playing outside the caverns and tweaked the reverb accordingly.

It’s kind of ironic because when the video crew and I were in touch with the park rangers in the preparation phase, we were told that we could do whatever we needed.

The caveat? We couldn’t make any noise for the bats. Considering sound travels for miles, playing in the caverns proved impossible. (How cool would it to have been to actually play in there!?!)

Playing Without Playing?!?!

So, how did playing without playing work for the music video? Fantastic question! I used a bow with absolutely no rosin on it so that I could “play” with the recording but not make a sound. Easier said than done!

I realized the great importance of rosin! It took every ounce of my concentration to keep the bow from sliding around all over the place, and if you look closely when the music video is released in a couple of weeks, you’ll spot the points where I wasn’t entirely successful, haha.

I was so incredibly happy to have my regular, rosined bow for the filming that we did outside the cavern!

Carlsbad was the first park to be finished from beginning to end, and I’m so excited to share the details with you. This includes the sheet music, audio recording, behind-the-scenes pictures, and video. Of course, we’ll finish up with the final national park music video, all in the weeks ahead … stay tuned! Get the news before it’s news by becoming a Patron today!

Zoom session with Chromatic Stories Film Crew based out of Las Cruces, NM

The very first video of the National Parks project is coming up the end of October at Carlsbad Caverns National Park!

I spent a week in New Mexico in 2015 to perform Lon’s beautiful piece Carlsbad but didn’t make it to the Caverns. They look absolutely gorgeous in pictures…can’t wait to see them in person!

I plan to always hire a film crew from the state that the park is in and I hit on a gold mine with Chromatic Stories, a group based out Las Cruces. From the short films I’ve seen them do, they are incredibly creative and master storytellers. I don’t want to give away too many details but the story they are painting for the Carlsbad video looks amazing…so excited to be a part of the process and to watch it all come together.

I am happy with the amount of time I’ve given myself to memorize the piece. I’m not feeling rushed and that’s good because I’ve found out that I’ll need to continue preparing in a whole new way. While talking with the video crew at one of our zoom sessions I discovered that we aren’t, according to Park regulations, allowed to “emit sound” which of course makes a music video a tad difficult!

I am going out today to pick up a bow that has zero rosin on it and then will need to learn how to control it (it slides all over the place with no rosin) so that the bow will be on the string but there will be no sound coming out.

When I get my bow rehaired a couple times a year the person I get it from has already put a bunch of rosin on so I didn’t even know what it was like to play with no rosin until several different students over the years have come into lessons with a violin they purchased online that had zero rosin and therefore zero sound.

I’ll be putting up little videos on how it goes on Facebook if you’re interested in following along. It’ll be an adventure for sure!

I’ve learned one very important lesson in the process of preparing for this video shoot (I think that’s what you call it…or maybe filming session…?) I don’t know but they all sound cool 😉

… and that’s to not buy my outfits too early! I was so proud of myself for having the dresses lined up and ready to go a year in advance. Of course, I didn’t have much else to do a year ago… Much to my chagrin, I discovered that they are too small now, when I need to actually wear them. Rather than stress about losing pounds I decided to get new ones. They are so pretty…I love and will create any excuse to dress up 😉

I do believe you’ve been all caught up! Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter and follow on Facebook to get the latest stories and random behind the scenes videos at the shoot in October! is up and running!

Website is ready!!! This website has been a long time in coming. I was totally gung-ho in 2014 with the Green Dot Journey Project which involved the composer competition and driving scenic (road atlas green dot) roads across the US while doing house concerts.

The composer competition was a complete success and I’m so happy I did it. The driving, house concert tour….not so much. I’ve learned a lot since then about planning vs. preparing and not counting my chickens before they hatch and that sort of thing.

Even though I’ll always have a soft spot for the Green Dot project I am happy to finally be letting it go, quite literally since my domain just expired!

This time, instead of trying to combine my love of music and my love of road trips, I am replacing the Green Dot Project with 2 different projects/websites. The first is the National Parks commissioning and video project as you see here, and the second is a road trip travel blog which I hope to have up and running in 2022.

I’ll be sharing all my driving adventures separate from my music adventures. Although, I’m sure there will be overlap since I’ll be visiting National Parks for the music videos and for the road trip blog as well.

Yep, so there it is in a nutshell. The new me that actually hasn’t changed all that much. I’ve just given myself more room to breathe and enjoy all the wonderful things that life has to offer. There is no rush, I have a life time to discover composers, learn new music, visit all the National Parks, and have a ton of scenic road trip adventures!

You can sign up for the newsletter here if you’re interested in coming along for the ride!

Just for fun, here is a screen shot from the Green Dot Journey website, 2014 courtesy of artists and web designers Sara & Rob Zimmerman.

I am really excited to learn, record, and do the video of  this beautiful piece  in 2021.  I am originally from  IN, as well as Jeffrey, and having gone to the Indiana Dunes State Park several times as a kid it was great to see it become our newest National Park in 2019. 

Here is a bit of back ground on the composition in the composer Jeffrey Hoover’s words. “To paraphrase an idea from Leo Tolstoy’s book What is Art?, I believe that true art can not only emerge from “native soil” but also from “native sand.” Although I grew up in Northern Indiana, I didn’t experience the Indiana Dunes for myself until I was an adult. ‘Such an opportunity I missed in my youth, but later I was able to take in this marvelous and unique place where the northern edge of State of Indiana and Lake Michigan caress each other. To consider the wildlife, human inhabitation, and the natural landscape and geology leaves one with a sense of awe.

To be honest, it wasn’t an easy to write this music, as the features and history of the Indiana Dunes presented a great and wonderful challenge for musical representation. After all, I’m a Hoosier. I was born in Indiana and grew up in Indiana. I wrote and re-wrote this music. You see, it’s not easy to funnel our experiences into just what we can hear. To help with all this, I did come up with an idea that seemed natural. I presented each movement as a “picture postcard,” with the concept of a single thought being scrawled rapidly in my tight handwriting on the back of it. I know this “dates me” and reveals where I fall on a larger timeline of popular cultural history, (who talks about “picture postcards” these days) but again, I have to be honest.

Part memory and part imagination, the vivid images in my mind suggested what had to be composed, and how it would be composed:

• “i ran the dunes” with feet plowing through shifting sand, centering around the pitch “A 440” (the common tuning note of the violin and the full symphony orchestra), while the interval of the minor second (a half-step) keeps shifting and twisting the melody;

• Drones and undulating passages, with musical fountains erupting, mimicking how “the crashing breakers look cold to me”;

• Standing on the Lake Michigan shore, one can see “the old paper mill” on the shoreline, in this music representing the presence of contemporary Man. The mechanical rhythms and the occasional waspishness of the music reminds us of the process used to create paper.

• “a great Blue Heron” stands proud, portraying the wildlife of the Indiana Dunes;

• “i saw heat lightning over the lake” is a personal sharing of the visual experience of the pyrotechnics of heat lightning in Northern Indiana in the summer;

• “you should have seen the sugar dance” shares the energy felt when seeing a preserved cultural dance by First Nations peoples of Northern Indiana (I personally grew up in a town – Kewanna, Indiana – named after an important Pottawatomie Chief, Chief Key-wan-nay);

• “the sky was on fire from the sunset” in some respects is a bookend to “i ran the dunes.” Long, linear musical gestures reflect the waves of the water and the sunset over Lake Michigan.”


Composer Biography:

Jeffrey Hoover’s works – ranging from soloist to symphony orchestra – have received recognition through the Premio Musicale Città di Trieste (symphonic composition), the 2° Concorso Internazionale L. Russolo (electro-acoustic music), Mu Phi Epsilon, the Lancaster Fine Arts Festival, Universal Edition / SMP Press Contemporary Music award, grants, publications fellowships and more than 25 commissions. He is a member of the ACME roster of Mu Phi Epsilon, recognized for distinguished achievement as a composer.

One unique aspect of Hoover’s creative output is the joining of his compositions with his paintings, creating synergetic works that intrigue and captivate audiences and performers. His work is seen in exhibitions and in concerts where his paintings are projected while musicians perform his music. Hoover’s experience as a performer includes both classical and jazz music, as saxophonist and conductor. His book The Arts and Society: Making New Worlds is published by Kendall Hunt Publishing.

Jeffrey Hoover was born on September 11, 1959, in Anderson, Indiana. He holds a Ph.D. in Fine Arts (Composition and Interdisciplinary Fine Arts) from Texas Tech University, as well as a M.M. and Bch.Sc. from Ball State University. His career in higher education has included both faculty and administrative appointments.

Contacting the Composer Directly

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I still remember the day when my very first house concert was booked for the Green Dot Journey tour. It was by 2 of my closest friends, the kind of friends that are with you through thick and thin. In my particular case, friends that stay constant and supportive through all of my crazy ideas, best listeners ever, and have the best advice ever. Jen, Jim and I have spent hours over the last decade, cooking, drinking, and chatting together until the wee hours of the morning.

They sadly moved away a couple years ago and I really miss hanging out and shootin’ the breeze with them. On the bright side (pre covid anyway) I was seeing them several times a year (and will again) at their beautiful home on Vashon Island (they have the best cider tastings ever on Vashon!) and at their cabin on the river (have such good memories of sitting in the river with a beer watching the sun set and talking…always talking…pulling the world apart and putting it back together again). I am truly fortunate to have friends such as these and am counting the days to when covid is over and I can see them again…

Wow, I got totally (and happily) off track. Yeah, so they were the first to book a concert on the new fangled booking system on my new fangled website. I was soooo excited back then. You had to scrape me off the ceiling to get me to sit still. Anyway, I performed the concert for Jen & Jim, Jen’s dad Mal, and their family and friends in Connecticut. The beautiful, old home was full of history and stories which Jen was able to fill me in on, with her vast store of historical knowledge.

It was a great concert with wonderful people and beautiful music, thanks to Jen, Jim, and Mal and the Green Dot Competition winners.

House Concert in Connecticut at the Holloway House
Visiting Jen and Jim at their home in Vashon, Washington