Music Can Help Save the Planet.
(Part 1)

Stephan Crawford / Art Project Manager

Curiosity Drew Me into a World of Arts and Science.

How can we use music to alert people to the growing challenges that climate change brings? This was the question Stephan Crawford asked when he launched The ClimateMusic Project, his initiative to raise awareness about climate change through an integration of science and music. Stephan met with us to share how his journeys through the worlds of art, business, and academia inspired him to conceive the project.

A combination of classical music and academic study made me relentlessly curious.

I grew up in a family deeply dedicated to classical music. My earliest recollection of music was my father playing Chopin one Sunday morning. He was a physician by occupation and music aficionado by inclination. He played the piano, clarinet, oboe, and other musical instruments with the skill of a professional musician. He followed in the footsteps of my grandfather, an internationally successful opera singer. I developed a serious interest in the piano early, not long after my father started me on lessons at the age of 8. My parents always encouraged me to take an interest in many different things apart from music, and so I explored the arts, sciences, business, and so much more. So it never occurred to me to become an actual pianist.

As a student I was passionate about my studies. My family has its roots in Germany, which attracted me to the subjects of European history and culture. At university I majored in history, philosophy, and languages, then branched out to politics, law, and economics in graduate school. After my studies I found work in the Department of Commerce, opting for the stability of a government job at a time when the economy was uncertain and my parents’ health was declining. I had the great luck of landing in the international trade section, in just the field I had studied at university. I stayed there for 20 years, then resigned to focus on my musical project in 2017.

Stephan Crawford, age 6, looking for fish at Santa Catalina Island, where he would visit often with his family and where his interest and love for the natural world came through.

More than hobbies - arts and music are intrinsic parts of my life.

My fascination with music has never waned no matter how busy I have been in my adult life. I started learning the classical guitar at the age of 30. A few years later, the flamenco guitar captured my heart as I came across it in Spain. The exotic sound and unique style of Flamenco music collaboratively arranged by singers, dancers, and musicians has mesmerized me from the beginning. Playing classical music on the guitar or piano is usually a solitary affair, both when practicing and performing. Flamenco energizes me as form of musical creation enjoyed with others. I play the guitar as much as I can, whenever I have the time. Far more than just a hobby, music is an indelible part of my life.

Stephan after a performance with his flamenco group in San Francisco in 2015/16. He remembers that the audience was thrilled to be able to experience the music from across the world with his fellow dancers, singers, and guitarists!

At about the same age I also took up sculpture, something I had long wanted to do. I worked about 50 hours a week back then, devoting most of the 30 to 40 hours remaining to the creation of visual artworks. After a decade or so living by this schedule, I began to sell my artworks and opened a studio in downtown San Francisco. I’m creating visual artworks alongside my musical endeavors still today. My first juried national group show was held in May of 2018. Like music, visual art defies categories such as work or hobby for me. It feeds energy into my core, like a fountain of fresh ideas that keep the world in motion.

Back to graduate school to know our planet better.

Two years after opening my studio, I decided to return to school to study the environmental sciences. This seemed like an impulsive move for a person of my age at the time, 47, but it was a logical next step. My earlier studies in humanities and social sciences left gaps in the foundations I needed to gain knowledge of long forgotten interest: the natural world, our habitat, the global environment. The environmental sciences also tied in with the day job I was leaving, with the work I had been doing with corporations in the fields of solar power generation and water resources.

The knowledge I gained back at school marked a milestone in the evolution of my project linking climate change with music. More and more people in the United States were making statements by combining the expressions of the sciences and arts. This environment was just right for launching and promoting The ClimateMusic Project. The time was also ripe for me personally, as I now had all the necessary qualities under my belt: my career as an artist, knowledge of environmental sciences, passion for music, and experience in business at the Department of Commerce.

Stephan during his Master of Science Project at the University of San Francisco, presenting his project paper topic regarding the potential to enhance crop yields under dynamic climate conditions, along with his advising professor and his cohorts.

Read the Part 2

Stephan Crawford / Art Project Manager
San Francisco-based artist Stephan Crawford lived through a musically rich childhood and still plays guitar today. Stephan carried on with his musical endeavors for years alongside his career at the US Department of Commerce. When he returned to graduate school to study environmental sciences at the age of 47, his musical life was going as strong as ever. After grad school he founded The ClimateMusic Project, an initiative to combine music and science in creative ways that raise public awareness about global warming and other issues facing the planet.

Interview Date:

Recommended Stories