Paul Danicic is about as outdoorsy as you get. He arrived at MPR for our taping in a down Patagonia jacket, wool cap and wicking trousers looking like he might at any moment set off down a portage with a canoe on his head.
But he has a very special connection to classical music, a relationship that started when as a boy chorister singing in services filled with the wonder of nature, just as the sun was rising.
Music continued to find its way into his life and imagination when he came across a cassette tape of Ferde Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite." he would pop this is the car stereo on long drives with young city kids as they headed towards a first adventure in wilderness, and watched as their excitement grew with the soundtrack.
Paul Danicic (pronounced dan-a-sek) is the Executive Director of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, a non-profit advocacy organization created a few years before our beloved corner of heaven in Minnesota was set aside by an act of congress. Their mission is to protect, preserve, and restore the wild character of the region through advocacy and education.
Before Friends, Paul was a guide, introducing people — often for the first time — to the enchantment of wilderness, a place he says like music, grabs our imaginations and stirs our curiosity. How can one not be moved by seeing billions of stars, or being forced to slow down, focus on just our basic needs and on our surroundings?
We can't help being inspired by wilderness — or inspired by music either.
Paul sang lots of chant as a youngster and feels a pull to the austerity of Arvo Part, telling me that even in the silences — like a completely still lake — there is incredible beauty.
As an advocate for what is intangible and fragile in our world, Paul connects to two scores, Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts" and John William's Theme from "Schindler's List." In wilderness, we see how simple we are, how small in the large scheme of life. But as humans, we also have a great capacity for care and for destruction.
Paul's playlist finishes with a more personal kind of wonder, that for great guitar playing. He's worked to master the instrument since the age of seventeen and is always amazed at the incredible virtuosity of a professional.
Paul Danicic's playlist: