PSO Musicians Grow Deep Roots

Two PSO musicians plant roots in the Pittsburgh community

by Susanne Park

For PSO bassist John Moore and bassoonist David Sogg, trees are especially important. As players of two of the largest wooden musical instruments, a lot of trees go into making their music possible.

But beyond that, John and David know how important trees are for a city. As official Tree Tenders, they have undergone training by Tree Pittsburgh in order to do basic tree work on city trees: planting, basic pruning, and care of tree pits. (“City trees” are those planted along the street or sidewalk, as opposed to the private trees in peoples’ front or back yards.) Together, they figure they have personally planted or helped plant some 200 trees. They have participated in dozens of community tree care events in their home neighborhoods of Lawrenceville and Highland Park, and beyond. Supported by the Tree Pittsburgh organization, such events typically engage 8 or 10 volunteers who get together in a specific area of their neighborhoods and spend a couple hours moving from tree to tree, weeding, trimming, watering, and spreading fresh mulch.

“Trees are incredibly good for a city,” says David. “They help clean the air, absorb huge amounts of rain runoff, and have even been shown to increase neighborhood safety and property values. Plus, they’re beautiful.” David participated in the very first Tree Tenders training course 10 years ago. John learned about Tree Tenders when then Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and County Executive Dan Onorato planted the very first Tree Pittsburgh trees quite coincidentally in front of his house in 2007.


Hornbeams being planted in front of John Moore’s and Susanne Park’s Lawrenceville house by Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl in their work clothes.

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In addition to running educational programs, Tree Pittsburgh teams up with other organizations such as TreeVitalize and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, as well as the Forestry Division of the City of Pittsburgh, to arrange for planting new trees on streets where people request them, as well as in city parks. The organization is responsible for planting 30,000 trees in the 10 years of its existence. With the collaboration of TreeVitalize, their work extends to greater Allegheny County.

John and David hope more Pittsburghers will get involved. Tree Pittsburgh’s website, http://www.treepittsburgh.org/, has a wealth of information on how to get involved, as well as the benefits of trees, the myriad events they sponsor, and much more. “You don’t have to do the Tree Tenders training to volunteer,” points out John. “Just find an event in your area, register online, and show up!” Materials, tools, basic instruction, and safety vests are provided.

Over the years, the two musicians have racked up roughly 2000 hours of volunteer time. “This is my favorite way to give back to the city I have called home for 27 years, a way to really put down roots,” says David. “Remember, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is today.”