Remy Rodden has no plans to stop delivering his environmental message even as he gets set to give up his day job as the territory’s manager of environmental education and youth programs.
Rodden will officially retire from his 30-plus year gig with the Yukon government in the fall as his latest eco-music CD — Think About The Wild — is set to be released around the same time. He’s then set to take part in the Breakout West music industry conference in Whitehorse before hitting the road to tour schools throughout the western part of the country.
In a June 11 interview, he explained that as he approached that “magic age” where he could potentially retire from the Yukon government, he started looking at what he’d do next and thought “why not” move full-time into his musical career.
Rodden is already fairly well-known throughout the territory for his songs that focus on the importance of the environment and its protection. Over the years, his music has provided many Yukon kids with the basics on subjects like the Carcross caribou herd, fish and what exactly makes a habitat.
Ask him what came first — the environmental work or the music — and Rodden will tell you they’re pretty intertwined. His music took shape as he was delivering environmental programs in the territory, the two roles of educator and musician complimenting each other well.
With degrees in biology and education and a keen interest in the environment, Rodden said when his day job at Environment Yukon opened up 30-plus years ago, it seemed like perfect fit for him. As it turns out, he was right.
Over the years, he’s been pleased with the work his branch has been able to do in educating Yukoners about environmental matters and the initiatives that have been taken, including the establishment of the Yukon Youth Conservation Corps youth job program, the Conservation Action Team camps and more.
“It’s a job where you feel you make a difference,” he said.
Around the same time he took on his role with Environment Yukon, Rodden — who still praises his mom for giving him his first guitar when he was 16 — was also a founding member of the Whitehorse Folk Society and gaining more performing experience at the coffee houses the group hosted.
He eventually got the nerve to audition for the Frostbite Music Festival and was placed in a “new faces” workshop for up and coming performers.
A request from the CBC to record at the local station followed with the song — “Better Living Through Chemistry” — making its way to the national broadcaster, and eventually somehow to public radio in Switzerland, which provided Rodden with his first $100 royalty cheque for a song.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Over the years, Rodden has incorporated his music into his presentations to Yukon students and brought an environmental message to those who are taking in his local performances done outside of his day-to-day work — the children’s festival in May, Arts In The Park and more. He has also brought his music to education conferences and other events.
“It’s sort of a natural fit,” he said.
His songs have been featured in compilations (which may have made him one of the first Yukoners to have music available on iTunes) and he’s heard from a number of Yukoners who have told him his first CD, Think About the Planet, is a family favourite in the car.
Rodden’s second album, Into The Hills, was released in 2011 and aimed at a more adult audience.
His newest album to be released in the fall is described as a “not-for-kids-only” collection, which, he believes, can be enjoyed by a range of ages.
Think About The Wild features songs about being more bear-aware, bees and pollination, fish and a song about the impact of plastic.
He’s already had the chance to perform some of the pieces and has been pleased with the response.
A song called “Let Your Best Learning Be Wild” seems to be particularly popular among graduate students, he said with a laugh.
As Rodden gets set for focus on his music career full-time, he and coworker Morris Lamroch, the youth programs coordinator with Environment, are also being recognized for their work.
The pair were presented with the Premier’s Award for Excellence and Innovation on June 11.
Highlighted in a statement on the award were Rodden and Lamroch’s work with the Yukon Youth Conservation Corp as well as the Conservation Action Team camps.
“These programs have had an exceptionally positive impact on the lives of countless young Yukoners by revealing to them the interconnectedness of our territory’s ecosystems and communities, and the importance of the human role within them,” it noted. “It is a true testament to the impression that these programs have had on youth in that so many young people, who have been involved, have gone on to thriving careers related to the conservation and wise use of Yukon’s natural environment.”
Environment Yukon, the statement added, would not be the same without Rodden and Lamroch providing motivation to their colleagues “while also reminding them to laugh and take care of one another.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org