A NAV Top 100 Radio Airplay CD.
"A Walking Inspiration. Celebrate the Shawnee with Pianist Zola Van" ... Ken Seeber, The Southern Illinoisan
BACKPACKER MAGAZINE, August 2001, Rodale Press
"Rain trickles through the leaves, saturating the ground and releasing the warm musky scent of clean earth in Shawnee National Forest. I reach up to wipe the drizzle from my brow, but...it's dry. Really good rainjacket? Nope, really good CD. So good, in fact, are the piano solos on River to River Trail that they'll sweep you away to a lush forest even if you're sitting in a dingy office. The 176-mile southern Illinois trail inspired Zola Van to put her backpacking experience to music in a series of 11 original compositions. Van's talent and efforts help you feel an owl whooshing down at your head, or your heart beating in your ears on an uphill trek, only to crescendo at a glorious overlook." - Susan Newquist, Associate Editor, Backpacker.
"Lose Yourself! Haunting, transporting you beyond your world into hers, the music stays in your head even after the last strains have died away. Close your eyes and let her lead you down woodland paths to see what surprises await around the next bend"... a fan from Herrin, IL
Zola Van, pianist and composer, brings a unique blend to her listeners: the beauty of her original piano solos and that of scenic Southern Illinois, where she resides. Her music has made music lovers out of outdoorsmen and has inspired people to get out and see the actual spots that have inspired her musical creations.
Her first CD, River to River Trail: The Hike, has elicited an enthusiastic response from the public, tourism officials, trail societies, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the National Forest Service. The March/April 2001 issue of American Hiker contains a full-page article about Zola, the CD, and how it originated. Outdoor Illinois, a publication of the State of Illinois, will feature her in the August, 2001, issue. No other musician has ever enjoyed these two distinctions.
WDBX Radio in Carbondale, IL aired a two hour program titled "In Search of Trail Magic" on Jerry Nelms' Music from Beyond the Lakes based upon Zola's CD.
The Southern Illinoisan sponsored and promoted her CD release concert at the Herrin Civic Center.
Five Southern Illinois newspapers have printed articles about Zola and her music.
"Van plucks from the air and translates with clarity and grace rhythms and melodies of the natural world, music intuited and barely heard, movements that began long before any of us were born." - Barb Weyls, Southern Illinoisan
"I was reminded of Narada musicians...Her music is mellow, melodic and a little mystical ." - Cara Webster, Southern Illinoisan in a second article
"Charming, clever, it'll make you cry." - John O'Dell, River to River Trail Newsletter
"Cheers to Zola Van for creating a truly beautiful CD." - Cheryl Ranchino, The Herrin Spokesman
"Nature has always been inspirational for Zola.... Her music is an accumulation of these experiences and values." - Jennifer Wig, Daily Egyptian
Zola has a music degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She has taught music privately and in public schools. Having played since childhood, she has always heard and written music. A strong family background in the arts and love of nature has nurtured her appreciation of both.
Zola's music touches people, makes them feel something of what she felt when inspired by the beauty and the history of southern Illinois. An admirer says, "What I cannot do with the many inflections of voice, Zola can do with a piano key." Listen yourselves! It is Zola's wish that through her music, you may stand in the forest with her, no matter where you may be.
"Walk with me. Let me show you the trail as I see, feel and hear it. This is the way I heard the beauty and grandeur of the Shawnee National Forest in my days there. And on other days, at other times it may be completely different. It will always be new: somehow it will always be different, as nature shapes it as days, seasons and years endow it with an everchanging character, just as it makes its subtle changes in me. I invite you to come walk the trail, to truly experience the beauty of Southern Illinois. Perhaps you'll hear your own music as I have. Walk with me." ...from the CD insert River to River Trail: The Hike through Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois.
Some of the many reviews about Zola's music:
"Drawing inspiration from her walks along the 176-mile long River to River Trail in Southern Illinois, pianist Zola Van's album of solo piano tunes is perfect sunny day music. Most of the songs are upbeat and joyous, filled with a combination of breezy accessibility and strong melodies. Her playing sounds like a blend of Wayne Gratz and Jim Chappell, both of whom I hold in high regard. Her accomplished technique sounds effortless (which, as I well know, the opposite is usually the case) in that nothing feels forced or contrived. The warmth and friendliness of cuts like the opener, "Steps: Battery Rock to Rock Creek," and "Angels' Dance at Garden of the Gods" is grin-inducing and the cheer of the album always seemed to spread throughout the house when I played the CD.
Not everything on River to River Trail: The Hike is uptempo, although I prefer the songs that are (since so few pianists seem to capture this vibe successfully anymore). "Broken Wing at Lusk Creek" is softly wistful and romantic and "Walk by Here: Ferne Clyffe" is introspective and a bit sad. As you may have guessed by now, the songs are all named for spots along this lengthy trail, which as someone who enjoys hiking (when I can find the time) sounds like a wonderful trek. The liner notes are extensive and clearly paint vivid images of the Trail as well as aptly illustrating Zola's love of nature and her joy in walking through this wondrous landscape.
I don't know that I can single out one or two favorite songs. And while I like the faster-tempo jaunty numbers a little more, the slower and softer ballads are just as well done.
I consider River to River Trail: The Hike an excellent solo piano CD - filled with hummable and catchy hooks and also personal and reflective tone poems. Fans of the two artists I mentioned above and other similar pianists will, I'm sure, enjoy this hike through a variety of musical landscape portraits. I know I did. I can't wait to walk the real trail someday as well. Thanks for the "tour," Zola!"...Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire.
"I love the CD and it will receive heavy airplay. Lush and compelling. Congratulations on this beautiful disc. Keep my show in mind when Paint the Forest Winter is released." Jamey Osborne, KTFP/FM, El Paso, TX.
"The CD is absolutely beautiful! Thankyou!" - Karen Rakos, Glacier City Radio KEUL/FM, Alaska.
"Top 20 Playlists" - "Dreams of a New Age," Tani Chen, WMBR, Cambridge, MA.
"We have received your excellent CD and have added it to our playlist!" - David Shear, WSIA FM, Staten Island, NY.
"Top 20 for April 2001" - Mystical Moods with Rainstorm, WLJS Jacksonville, AL
Zola welcomes your comments and your stories of the forest. All the many listeners and fans who have loved her music have made it possible for Zola to share her own stories and the music. Zola reminds us during her performances, "When you visit our forests, remember they were made beautiful; leave no trace." She also adds at the end of every performance, "May all the trails you choose to walk take you where you want to go." Zola's warmth, creativity, and love of nature are clearly evident in her music; and her many fans have repaid her with enthusiastic devotion.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Steps: Battery Rock to Rock Creek
2. Heartbeat at High Knob
3. Angels' Dance at Garden of the Gods
4. Broken Wing at Lusk Creek
5. Flight of the Thunderbird at Mill Stone Bluff
6. Rain at Ghost Dance Canyon Trail: Dixon Springs
7. Walk by Here: Ferne Clyffe
8. Barred Owl at Panthers' Den
9. Trail Magic at Rocky Comfort
10. Shooting Stars on Trillium Trail: Giant City
11. Mighty River: Tower Rock
12. Trails Never End: Devil's Backbone