Composing in the Wilderness: mslc logo
Denali and Yukon-Charley

July 8-21, 2015

Course Fee:   $1375

To Register:   Register through the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival website.

Music on Tundra

Now in its fourth year, the 2015 Composing in the Wilderness field course will take you to two spectacular regions of Northern Alaska: Denali National Park and Preserve and the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

Join adventurer-composer Stephen Lias for eight days exploring the stunning beauty of Denali’s wilderness and the mighty Yukon River, learning how the life of the region is reflected in the sounds you hear, interacting with scientists and interpretive rangers, and developing your creative skills through translating these ideas into original chamber music.

Yukon & Charley Rivers

Following your wilderness experiences you’ll travel back to Fairbanks where your new works will be rehearsed and performed by top performers from the faculty of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Encapsulating inspiration, composition, rehearsal, and performance, this field course is sure to be an intensive and exhilarating creative experience.  

Participants must be trained composers (professional, faculty, or students currently enrolled in a university composition program) with experience preparing their own manuscripts and writing chamber music for various instruments. Those without sufficient background may be ineligible. If in doubt, email Stephen Lias at with questions.

The Instructor and Partner OrganizationsStephen Lias
Composer Stephen Lias has been Artist-in-Residence at both Rocky Mountain and Gates of the Arctic National Parks.  His compositions have been performed throughout the world including recent premiers of “Mount Rainier Search and Rescue” in Taiwan, “Kings Canyon” in Australia, and “Denali” in Texas.  “The Timberline Sonata” was featured in the Fall 2011 issue of National Parks Magazine.  His passion for the outdoors, along with his engaging teaching style, makes him an ideal facilitator for this unusual seminar.

This course and the performances are a joint effort of the Fairbanks Summer Arts FestivalAlaska Geographic, Yukon-Charley Rivers National PreserveDenali National Park and Preserve, and the Denali Arts & Humanities Alliance. Alaska Geographic is the partner for public land agencies throughout Alaska and helps connect people with these lands. As part of this course all participants will receive a one-year membership to Alaska Geographic. The Murie Science and Learning Center is a cooperative of partners dedicated to disseminating park science through compelling education programs like this.  

Times and Location
The course begins at 1pm on July 10 at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali and ends with an evening performance on July 22 at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Some participants may wish to make arrangements to remain in Fairbanks longer in order to attend additional events of the festival. The sections of the field course are divided as follows:
         July 8 - 11  Denali National Park and Preserve
         July 12 - 16  Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
         July 17 - 21  Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival

Lodging and Meals
The Denali portion of this course is based out of the Murie Science and Learning Center Field Camp, located 29 miles inside Denali National Park along the Teklanika River. The Field Camp includes rustic tent cabins and a common dining tent. It is important that all participants are comfortable “roughing it” in close quarters for a few days. Visit our Field Camp Accommodations page for more information. Note that there is no electricity available at the field camp. While in Yukon-Charley our accommodations will be bunk rooms in the historic Coal Creek Mining Camp which include shower facilities and limited electricity. Food will be provided while in Denali and Yukon-Charley. Outside the park and during transit days food will be the participant's responsibility. At the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival housing and food are the participant's responsibility, yet affordable room and board options will be made available through the festival. Participants may wish to stay at the Festival past the July 21 course end date. 

Hiking Distances and Physical Fitness
SoundscaperOur courses are active learning experiences. Participants must be capable walkers, in good health, and equipped for sudden changes in weather. This course includes up to two miles of hiking and/or 500 foot elevation gain per day, over uneven terrain.

While at Denali, there will be no electricity available, so participants should be prepared to compose the old-fashioned way (imagination, pencil, and staff paper).  Once we relocate to the Coal Creek Facility, however, there will be electricity available in the common room and everyone will be able to transfer their ideas to notation software if desired.  Participants are responsible for bringing their own portable computers and notation software. When the group returns to Fairbanks, they will have access to printing facilities to prepare their scores and parts for the musicians.

If you have questions about this particular course, please contact the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival by email at or by calling (907) 474-8869. The Murie Science and Learning Center can be reached at or by calling (907) 683-6432. 


Course paperwork can be found here.

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