Erica Wheeler is an award-winning songwriter and a sense-of-place speaker, educator and advocate. She combines her skills as a performer and educator to provide unique sense-of place programs that inspire personal connection to places. Both her performances and educational programs help to enrich lives, engage communities, inspire stewardship, and evoke a sense of place and belonging that is deeply needed in our world today.
Speaker, Songwriter, Educator & Sense of Place Advocate
Erica specializes in working with parks, conservation organizations, educators, and others whose work involves connecting people and place. Her experience includes keynoting at events from the American Horticultural Youth and Garden Symposium to the National Association for Interpretation and offering professional development trainings for the National Park Service, state parks, museums and other sites across the country.
Connecting People and Place
Her work connecting people and place has been featured in Orion,Yes! and Yankee magazines, and Legacy, the Journal for the National Association for Interpretation.
Erica's songwriting has been described as “cinematic” and “poetic.” With six CD's to her credit, her music has charted in the top-ten on Billboard's "Gavin Americana" chart and she has been a featured interview syndicated radio programs such as NPR's "All Things Considered." and "Voice of America."
Her most recent CD, "Good Summer Rain" was sponsored in part by the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization. The album was also the winner of the 2008 National Association for Interpretation Media Award for “Best Interpretive Music."
Erica's sense-of-place work began 30 years ago when she entered Hampshire College as an aspiring wildlife biologist. It was there she discovered the power of story as well as science, to inspire conservation and stewardship. She titled her self-designed course of study "A Sense of Self, a Sense of Place," which explored the relationships between people and place.
Erica went on to become an award-winning singer/songwriter whose songs were rooted in her own sense of place and passion for protecting the places she loves.
In 2001 her work came full circle when she was asked to teach a workshop at the Murie Center in Jackson, WY. Based on it's success, she started to expand her performing career to include teaching, speaking and advocating for the land, its history, and our connection to it.
This became the foundation of The Soulful Stewardship Method, a professional development training she created, and has now offered for interpreters at parks, museums and historic sites across the country.
Her work helps cultivate connections not just to the natural landscape, but to the layers of history, story, facts and feelings that make up the places we visit and inhabit.
Raised in Chevy Chase, Maryland Erica was exposed to traditional folk and bluegrass music through family escapades to the surrounding regions of rural Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. In college, when she began writing songs in earnest, Erica was inspired by contemporary singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Erica has also been deeply inspired by writers such as Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams and the poet Mary Oliver.
At a local club of national fame, (The Iron Horse Music Hall,) Erica quickly developed from an opening act into a headliner. She honed her skills there, watching artists like Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Suzanne Vega in the 170-seat room.
Erica was also a frequent participant in the Northampton Songwriter Group, which then included fellow songwriters Dar Williams, Cliff Eberhardt, Annie Gallup, Jim Henry and more.
In 2001 she offered her first "Soulful Sense of Place" workshop, for the Spring Earth Festival at the Murie Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The site was home to Mardy Murie, who is often referred to the as the mother of conservation. It was there she back to bring her work full circle.
After a decade of touring on the 90's, and in response to witnessing the growing sprawl that was changing many of her favorite places, she decided to more actively offer work that helped to connect people and place. In 2008 she release a CD in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization.
Over the last decade, her message and mission has become a keynote program and a training that helps people find their personal connections to places, inspiring the care and stewardship needed to take care of places for today, and the future.
Her extensive experience and expertise includes keynotes at national events such as the National Association of State Park Directors and the National Association for Interpretation, as welll as training the interpretive staff from Acadia National Park to the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Today she is a well established sense of place expert, known for offering unique, powerful programs that inspire caring and stewardship.
She lives 'almost in Vermont', in the tiny Massachusetts hilltown of Colrain, in a 100-year-old little house beside a rushing brook, surrounded by her neighbor's 750-acre dairy and maple sugar farm.