Composer Andre Corea on the Natural World and Art as Activism

TreePeople is interviewing artists that are actively trying to bring people into the environmental movement through their art. This series includes musicians, visual artists, poets and more.

Andre Corea is a composer, music producer, and multi-instrumentalist whose passion for environmental action is at the heart of his music. He has composed music for films showcased on HBO Latino, Shudder and the United Nations Climate Summit COP22. TreePeople talked to Andre about his connection with the natural world, his creative process, and how art can play a pivotal role in activism.

How did your connection with nature develop? Are there any key moments in your life where that connection really was at the forefront?

There are three main ‘seeds’, nurtured by my upbringing and my life experiences, that are the roots of my dedication towards the intersection of music and environmental activism.

Growing up in Los Angeles, my family had a big sycamore tree in our front yard and I fondly remember playing next to it throughout my childhood. In autumn, all the leaves would turn into a range of yellow, orange and red and 7-year-old me would just stare at them with fascination and amazement. Around that same time, we took a trip up to Sequoia National Forest and I was blown away by the trees there and experienced, for the first time, a sense of peace being surrounded by the forest. That trip expanded my concept of what nature is and I discovered how precious it is to me. That sycamore tree in my front yard was the seed for my affinity with nature.

Then I lived in Miami, Florida for my teenage and early college years, which was close to Puerto Rico – a place that has a profound role in my connection with nature. I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and my extended family lives there so we would visit the island as often as we could. Whenever I stayed at my grandmother’s home you could always hear the coqui’s, Puerto Rico’s national frog, at night and they make a collective “musical” sound. Being engulfed in that sound and falling in love with it was definitely an influence that led to my love of ambient music and soundscapes, the first instance where my love of nature and music intersected.

My commitment towards climate activism started when I attended Berklee College of Music from 2015 to 2017. While I was growing in my musical endeavors, I became aware of the magnitude of environmental issues and felt a calling towards supporting environmental efforts. So I began learning about climate change and climate justice and volunteered for non-profits to get involved in environmental initiatives. But it was recently, last year in 2022, that I decided to bring my passions of music and nature together. I realized that these two passions of mine, music and climate justice, should not be separated – in fact, they can be integrated. Being on this journey of finding and creating the spaces where music and the environment meet has been extremely fulfilling, meaningful and exciting!

How does that connection with the natural world show up in your work? 

On a conceptual level, I’m exploring what it means to have an ecocentric approach towards a music career. In any project I am asking myself; how does this serve both the planet and myself as a creative? If I can work on projects that interest me, creatively, and serve our planet in some form, then I will consider them worthwhile pursuits. I also know the way I approach this will always be evolving and, just like creating art, will have no definitive end.

On a more practical note: one of the ways that my passion for nature has shown up in my work is by partnering with environmental organizations to benefit their work and empower others to support them as well. 

I recently became one of Earth Percent’s pioneer artists in their “Earth as a Co-Writer” initiative. A program where the “Earth” can be credited as a writer and collect royalty payments that go towards impactful environmental organizations. This can activate the music industry to provide financial support towards initiatives that need it most. With the crowdfunding campaign for my debut album, “Alinea”, I’ve partnered with TreePeople and Conservation Opportunity by giving them a portion of the funds raised towards their causes. I’m also providing them with a license to use the music from the album within their visual media in hopes that it can increase the impact of their messaging. The Eyes & Ears Agency, founded by Sammy Steiner, is aiding artists develop these kinds of partnerships and I’m working with them to develop new creative avenues in which music and environmental groups can collaborate. 

Creatively, what was the place that birthed your new release? 

This crowdfunded album, “Alinea”, is the beginning of utilizing my passion for music towards my concern for the planet. The word Alinea means the start of a new train of thought. This album represents all my passions coming together into one project for the first time on a public level. 

My music is a way to express the feeling of being surrounded by nature with its serenity, wonder and healing. Whether it be my memories, emotions, current surroundings, recent hikes or how I felt in the middle of nature; all of this is consistently influencing and shifting my creative output.

I usually don’t make music with any specific place or subject in mind. I can never pinpoint what inspired any single piece of music I create because the inspiration comes from everywhere all at once. Ultimately, I am inspired by my overall personal and emotional connection with nature. 

When it comes to protecting and nurturing the natural world, what do you think art’s role is in that? What impact can art have?

Art can inform, uplift, heal, strengthen communities, ease, provide joy, spread awareness, be a space where people can safely navigate new ideas, and so much more. Art is vital for empowering people to take action for our planet, because there are so many avenues for creativity to serve the natural world – and it depends on the artist’s intention and passions in which direction they would like to take.

Artists can help people connect closer to nature, uplift the spirits of those fighting for nature, ease the anxiety of those concerned for our future, bring people together under a united cause – simply and naturally, with our art. Our art can make a difference in the life of an activist, community leader or a passive supporter. The cultural power of art can invite more people into the climate movement and empower them to take action. That’s one of the many ways art can contribute towards the climate movement, strengthen its roots and give it a stronger foundation to grow upon. 

What change do you want to inspire people to? 

I hope that my music can be used as a space for others to develop an emotional and empathetic relationship towards nature. If I can get others to care more about nature, then maybe they’ll be more inclined to take action. I also hope that my actions inspire other artists to take on a role within the climate movement and use their art for the earth. Collectively, we can have an impact on the climate movement and our planet’s future. 

We, as artists, need to make the decision about where we want our attention to be placed. When we’re talking about climate change we are talking about many different sectors, like climate justice, urban planning, conservation, energy, transportation, wildlife preservation, climate education, etc… Art can relate and provide for all of these efforts in some form. It’s up to us to discover what we’re passionate about, what brings us joy and fulfillment and what our own intersection of art with activism looks like. I am just excited to be a part of inspiring audiences to grow closer to nature and encourage other creatives to be a part of the climate movement.

By Adam Thomas

As Events and Community Partnerships Manager Adam works to create unique experiences and events that bring people and organizations together to connect with the natural world.