Songscape: Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

April 24-27, 2018

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This April, Americana cellist, Ben Sollee, will be immersed in the Great Bay/Mullica River ecosystem of New Jersey. Under a unique Songscape partnership with Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and the Rutgers University Marine Field Station, Sollee will experience one of the most pristine estuaries in the entire northeast. 

Sollee will be visiting Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge from April 24-27, working to create a new song inspired by the forest, marshes, and waterways of this public land gem. We're incredibly lucky and grateful to work with Emmy Award-winning videographer, Mallory Cunningham, who will be collecting footage to craft a music video to accompany Ben's new song. With an expected release later this summer, we hope to generate new audiences for public lands through Ben's music and fans, to ensure that people value public lands and keep them public forever. These are OUR lands.


Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee is a KY cellist who plays like nothing you've heard before. His music is difficult to pin down. Following a performance at the Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, the New York Times remarked how Sollee’s “...meticulous, fluent arrangements continually morphed from one thing to another. Appalachian mountain music gave way to the blues, and one song was appended with a fragment from a Bach cello suite." You may have heard Sollee’s work in ABC’s Parenthood or HBO’s Weeds, or Killing Season, a film starring John Travolta and Robert De Niro.

He has played with trance bluesman Otis Taylor, with banjo virtuosos Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck (in the Sparrow Quartet, with Casey Driessen), and collaborated with DJs, acoustic musicians, visual artists, software specialists and environmentalists. He has composed ballets and music for films and for stage. He has helped raise his son and support his family with an ambitious tour schedule.

Working with Sollee is a natural choice for Sustain. Sollee and his rugged cello, Kay, have a history of telling unconventional stories and using music to bring awareness to sustainability and environmental issues. Seeking a deeper connection to communities on the road, Ben packed his touring life on to his bicycle in 2009. Since then he has ridden over 5,000 miles! He has been invited to perform and speak on sustainability at a number of festivals including South by Southwest Music (2011) and TEDx San Diego (2012). Closer to home, Ben has devoted a tremendous amount of energy to raising awareness about the practice of Mountain Top Removal Strip Mining in Central Appalachia. His 2010 collaborative album Dear Companion (Sub Pop) brought together fellow Kentucky artist Daniel Martin Moore with producer Jim James (My Morning Jacket) to shed light on the issue. In teaming up with international organizations such as Patagonia Clothing and Oxfam America, Ben has come to be known as a thoughtful activist and dedicated informer at shows.

Sollee describes his newest release, Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native (the name describing both the ensemble and the album) as a bluegrass record, fully aware that his is not the traditional view. “Bluegrass music is immigrant music,” he says, offering his expansive definition across the kitchen table. “It's the music of Irish and Scottish musicians bringing their fiddle tunes; it is gospel music; it is African music; it is gypsy jazz; it is rock 'n' roll. It is all these things. What makes it unique and of Kentucky is that it was distilled by the people who lived here in Kentucky, and turned into something else.”

To hear more of Ben Sollee's music and to check out his tour schedule, visit



Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats which is actively managed for migratory birds. The refuge’s location in one of the Atlantic Flyway’s most active flight paths makes it an important link in seasonal bird migration. Its value for the protection of water birds and their habitat continues to increase as people develop the New Jersey shore for our own use.

Forsythe is one of more than 555 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. Units of the system stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys, and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The character of the refuges is as diverse as the nation itself.

Learn more at


Rutgers University Marine Field Station

The Rutgers University Marine Field Station (RUMFS) is a remote outpost of the Rutgers University Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences (DMCS). It is a working research facility with ongoing graduate and postdoctoral level studies occurring year-round. RUMFS is uniquely situated, across from the Little Egg Inlet in the Mullica River-Great Bay estuary: one of the most pristine estuaries on the east coast.

The major goal of RUMFS, and the parent institution, the Rutgers University Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences (DMCS), is to create a corridor for research, from the upper reaches of the Mullica River drainage basin, down through the Great Bay estuary, to the inner continental shelf.

Much of the current activity by resident scientists at RUMFS is focused on the life history and ecology of fishes, with special emphasis on the role of habitat as it affects recruitment success for the dominant species in the estuary and on the continental shelf. Much of the emphasis is on the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JCNERR) at Mullica River-Great Bay.


The Songscape Project


Sollee will be immersed in all that the Great Bay has to offer- birding, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and more. We're also extremely fortunate to have partnered with the Rutgers University marine scientists! They'll accompany Sollee on a research vessel to learn the in and outs of the estuaries' fish, shellfish, and marine mammals. Sollee will turn those experiences into fodder for a new song, inspired by the refuge and the Great Bay.

Emmy Award-winning videographer, Mallory Cunningham, will collect footage to compile a music video. She's a longtime collaborator with Sollee, filming "Ditch the Van" about his cycle-powered tours. Once Sollee's song is recorded and the music video is complete, we will release the Songscape to the world!

Sales of the song help support Sustain, Sollee, and the Friends of Forsythe NWR. Songscape partners are working hard to get the word out about the beauty and value of the refuge. Public lands are threatened by movements to privatize ownership and by dismal funding, which we hope to combat by exposing audiences to their grandeur. Songscapes craft emotional connections between listeners and lands. By getting people to care about and value Forsythe NWR, we will help ensure it's public land forever, as it was meant to be.

You can make this Songscape happen! We've got a crowdfunder going right now with really fun perks. Check it out HERE.

  • $10  Virtual hug from one of the refuge's seahorses
  • $20 Early access to Sollee's Songscape song
  • $30  Early access to the music video!
  • $50 All of the above, and a recording of ambient sounds from the ocean/refuge recorded by co-founder, Harrison Goodale (Parsonsfield bassist)
  • $75 Copy of the song artwork signed by Ben Sollee (and the above)
  • $100  The Box Set! Lyrics sheet, signed song artwork, and a postcard from New Jersey. Plus above.
  • $250  Flash drive with exclusive photos, video and sounds from the Songscape. Two tickets to the kick off party on April 24 which includes a private concert by Ben Sollee (travel not included). Plus above.
  • $500  You get 4 tickets to the party, and a book of Teddy Roosevelt quotes dedicated to you by his great-great-grandson, Simon Roosevelt.

Our Sponsors

WE CURRENTLY ARE LOOKING FOR SPONSORS! Our last Songscape reached ~7 million people and we're looking for $500-$2,000 in sponsorship commitment levels. Please email if you are interested: