If you come out to Belwin this August, you might be surprised by what you find. Walking up the trail to the Hilltop Classroom, the first thing you’ll notice will be the music filtering down through the pines. This music won’t be coming from any stage you can see, but rather from perches overhead. Looking up, you’ll see musicians playing in the trees above you. They will be improvising, responding to each other and the environment that surrounds them. This is Music in the Trees: a two-day event on August 13th and 14th, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, where visitors can learn about Belwin’s ongoing restoration and witness firsthand the creativity the natural world inspires. 

Strengthening a Historic Site

For over five decades, school children have been coming to Belwin’s Education Site for immersive experiences in nature. The red pine grove near the Hilltop Classroom is one of the first features they encounter upon arrival and it leaves a lasting impression. By the time the children leave, part of what they take away is a deeper connection to the natural world. 

Native to the northern third of Minnesota, the red pines were planted at the Education Site in 1933 as an erosion control measure; but time has shown us that red pines are not as well suited to this part of Minnesota as previously thought. 

To strengthen the forest, Belwin is working to diversify these woods, slowly adding more appropriate white pines,bur oaks, and other complementary plant species over time. This makes the site of the red pine restoration not only one of beauty, but carefully sustained growth. It is a complex story, one that is particularly well fitted to the complexity and beauty of improvisational music.

A Wide Array of Musicians

Now in its third year, Music in the Trees’ 2022 roster features something new. Both days will feature an array of talents, but slightly different aims. Saturday will focus on family-friendly performers who will engage with audiences, while Sunday will be focused on meditative, atmospheric programming.

Please see our exciting lineup below.

Barrel Flash

Julia Brown and Ross Johnson are bluegrass/folk, singer songwriters who create songs with their audiences. They have been making music together as Barrel Flash since 2017 and are commonly seen around town at taprooms, bars, and community events. Their first full-length album, A Guide to Dancing Alone will be released in 2022. Find out more at barrelflashband.com or @barrelflashband on Facebook and Instagram.

Colton Warren

Colton Warren plays guitar improvisation inspired by Irish, Blues, and Folk. He is a Lake Elmo resident who specializes in music that blends with and fills the world around it. With roots in Traditional Irish Music, Americana, and Blues he creates soundscapes on his 12-string guitar that are constantly and subtly changing. This is great music for sitting and wondering at the natural world.

Jayanthi Rajasa and David Crittenden

Jayanthi Rajasa and David Crittenden practice song, storytelling and jazz improvisation. Jayanthi Rajasa (She/Her/They) (Jaya) is a griot specializing in arrivals and departures and other celebrations and struggles in life. In recent years, David Crittenden has collaborated with musicians in various genres including Celtic and North American folk,  jazz, gospel, and pop.  Performances with Jayanthi Rajasa include the Fitzgerald Theatre, O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, Jazz Central, and the opening of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ tribute to Philando Castile. David teaches music at several colleges in the Twin Cities.


Julia & Joe Peterson (Heartstrings) perform classical improvisation with cello and guitar. They were each accomplished musicians in their own fields, until they met, fell in love, and were married in 2018. Julia is a classically trained cellist with degrees from Dartmouth College and Boston University. Joe started playing professionally in Minneapolis clubs at 13 and has since toured internationally as a multi-instrumentalist.

Keng Chris Yang

Keng Chris Yang plays electric guitar improvisation, sometimes inspired by traditional Hmong music. “I was born and raised in MN. I graduated from Minneapolis Business College with an AAS in Graphic Design and from McNally Smith College of Music with a BM in Music Business. Before graduation, I used to perform in a guitar and acapella group with my brother and cousins. We called ourselves Y5. There was 5 of us and all our last names were Yang. We performed mainly acoustic pop and love songs. After graduation; I started teaching at CHAT (The Center for Hmong Arts and Talent), Park Center High School, Prairie Seeds Academy, and SSMT (Street Stops and Mountain Tops). The most notable of these teaching times were with SSMT. I got the chance to teach music directly to Hmong students overseas. We taught in the Hmong village community centers, junior high schools, high schools, orphanages, and colleges. I do all of the teaching above all the while I do performances all over the twin cities and I also help organize community events with CHAT and SSMT.”

Sarah Larsson & Julia Hobart

Larsson & Hobart play vocal improvisation with Eastern European songs. They are vocalists with training in a variety of musical traditions — from Slavic folklore to American folk, to a cappella harmony to musical theater. The pair explore and arrange songs from personal and community histories, especially those stories less frequently shared on the public stage. Julia is a Cedar Commissions recipient from the Cedar Cultural Center, where she wrote the folk opera To Spill my Husband’s Blood, based on American murder ballads. Sarah is a member of Nanilo and The Nightingale Trio, and uses music from Eastern European immigrant traditions to illuminate lived experiences of women in the Old Country and North America.

Munir Kahar and Drew Kellum

Munir Kahar and Drew Kellum perform improvised percussion, vocalization, and guitar. Munir Kahar is a Javanese American Artist born in Malang; East ~Java, Indonesia. He has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 19 years. His art forms explored include theater, puppetry, experimental music, poetry performance, and dance, with a focus on visual arts. Drew Kellum (sometimes stylized as Drew d’Lakes) is a multi-instrumentalist who explores the nooks of pop, classical, and free improvised music. This will be Drew’s second year performing in the trees at Belwin Conservancy.

Titambe Drum and Dance Ensemble

Titambe Drum and Dance Ensemble perform song and dance with audience participation. Titambe Drum and Dance Ensemble was established in February 2001 in Copenhagen, Denmark as a multicultural performing arts organization. They have performed all over Denmark, in Amsterdam, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and various islands in Europe.

Tricky Position

Tricky Position are performance artists who perform interactive sound performance. Tricky Position is an interdisciplinary creative collaboration between Michael Legan and Naomi E. Crocker. Michael Legan is a musician and artist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Naomi E. Crocker is a Minneapolis-based artist, whose work explores the boundaries between seemingly-disparate disciplines.

Young Dance

Young Dance will put on a fully accessible, interactive performance with improvised music. Young Dance encourages peer-to-peer mentorship and collaboration in the making of dances. Through engagement of youth of all abilities, body types, and economic, social, and cultural backgrounds, Young Dance creates an environment where diversity is authentically embraced and celebrated.

A fully accessible hour-long performance will be held during the final hour of each day.

This event will take place, rain or shine. Parking will be $10 per car (cash or check). We ask attendees to bring their own chairs, picnics, or hammocks. No alcohol or dogs are permitted. Handicap restrooms will be available.

Music in the Trees is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

Logos for Metro Regional Arts Council

Arts, Culture, and Ecology Education Events Seasonal

Stay up-to-date with Belwin

Why Belwin Matters

We spark passion for wild places through conservation, education, and immersive experiences on more than 1,500 acres in Minnesota’s Saint Croix Valley.


Main Office

1553 Stagecoach Trail South
Afton, MN 55001

Copyright © 2019 - 2024 Belwin Conservancy