"Take a walk in Yosemite National Park and you'll be changed forever," says solo pianist and composer Rick Erlien (ur' line). It was a journey through Yosemite in 1989 that Erlien says opened a door in his life and eventually inspired his album, The Music of Yosemite.
Born in Milwaukee in 1950, Erlien started playing piano as a four-year-old and began a ten-year study of classical piano by age seven. In his teens Erlien listened to a variety of artists whom he credits for influencing his work. These include Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie, Curtis Mayfield, The Temptations, Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne. As a student at Miami University in Ohio in the late ’60s, Erlien sharpened his concert skills and began performing in lecture halls and local clubs. Feeling the need to reach out to people in a field other than music, he moved to California where he earned a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from San Diego State University. Today he is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor.
While playing a concert in San Diego, California, Erlien performed among a display of Yosemite photographs taken by the late Ansel Adams. Deeply moved by the power of the images, he was determined to see these places for himself. With seven of Adams’ photos as his guide, Erlien traveled the backcountry of the park with a keyboard in his backpack. The adventure was truly magical as he attempted to musically interpret the staggering power and grandeur of Yosemite.
Erlien arranged the music in several segments that corresponded with his journey, including “High Country,” “Toulumne Meadows” and “Yosemite Valley.” The result is The Music of Yosemite, a dramatic and soaring composition that resonates with the compelling elements of nature. Listening to the music conjures up images of the rushing of waterfalls from huge granite peaks, the grace of a bird looming overhead and the gentle rain from passing clouds. Erlien’s experience has become an integral part of his life. He shared it publicly for the first time in 1990 when he was chosen from over a thousand applicants to perform his music as part of the Yosemite National Park Centennial Celebration.
Of his own interpretation of Yosemite, Erlien says, “I hope my music becomes a vehicle that helps people feel connected to their natural world, so much so that they will feel motivated to want to save it.” Both Erlien and Real Music donate 10% of the proceeds from sales of The Music of Yosemite to the Yosemite Association to assist in their efforts to preserve the Park.