A soundtrack to your outdoor experience

As a classically trained pianist, Hunter Noack never foresaw that combining his love of the outdoors with his musical career could be so fruitful.

Since 2016, Noack has traveled North America with his 9-foot Steinway grand piano, performing in some of America’s most stunning landscapes while concert-goers listen on wireless headphones. He has presented more than 250 concerts where attendees can explore the land and not be confined to seats.

Thanks to organizer Jared Lovejoy and fiscal sponsor Bowerbird Builders, “In a Landscape: Classical Music in the Wild” will be at Cascade Lake on Wednesday, July 17.

“This is our first time in the Puget Sound area so we are very excited to be here,” Noack said.

Check-in will begin at 5 p.m., and the performance will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 and available at https://www.inalandscape.org/2024schedule. A limited number of free tickets are also available online.

After graduate school, Noack was inspired to combine the two activities he loves most: playing classical music and being outside. In the spirit of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Music and Theatre Projects, which presented thousands of free concerts and plays in theaters, public spaces, and parks across the country during the Great Depression, In a Landscape events are offered primarily in rural communities for free or on a subsidized basis.

“I really liked the idea of a government-sponsored program. It signals to the American people that the arts are as important as roads and post offices,” Noack said. “I also really liked presenting music in public parks and land, which I believe are our most democratic places.”

Since its inception, In a Landscape, which is a nonprofit, has presented to more than 50,000 people in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, New York, Utah, Wyoming, and California. Guest artists have included poets, visual artists, dancers, and musicians playing everything from banjos to pianos.

Music is transmitted via wireless headphones to meet the acoustical challenges of performing outside. Attendees at the Orcas concert can listen on kayaks or paddleboards or hike around the lake.

“A football field area is a pretty normal range,” Noack said. “It depends on the landscape. In the open desert, people can wander half a mile or longer. In a dense forest or other terrain, it’s more limited.”

Noack says the most unusual place he’s performed was in the snow during a moonlight concert in Big Sky, Montana, where concert-goers went skiing and snowshoeing.

A total of 200 tickets will be sold for the Cascade Lake concert. Noack says typically, half of his audience is local to the area, and the other half travels an average of 50 miles.

“What’s awesome is having the mix of people from the place — there is pride in people sharing the place they know and love and people traveling and discovering the landscape for the first time,” he said.

Noack and the team load his piano on a flatbed and travel to State and National Parks, urban greenspaces, working ranches, farms, and historical sites for concerts that connect people with each landscape.

“Some of the audience is listening to classical music for the first time,” Noack said. “Part of what that has done for me is see and feel the power of the music and experiencing it in the outdoors. I started this project not thinking it would be a career. I wrote a grant to try it for three locations, and it just took off. Hearing stories from people about how the music and the landscape have affected them — it makes me want to keep doing it. I wasn’t certain that playing classical piano was the way to impact the world, but this has really made me believe.”