JGU Scotland HUB Fellow: Dr Jenny Sturgeon

JGU Scotland HUB Fellow: Dr Jenny Sturgeon

Dr Jenny Sturgeon as the first JGU Scotland HUB Fellow: A Laudatio (written by Priv.-Doz. Dr Sigrid Rieuwerts)

Jenny Sturgeon, born in Aberdeenshire, now lives in Shetland. She is a singer-songwriter-academic who focuses on nature and the connection people have with the wild. She is, as someone, so aptly, recently put it, "as close to an organic folksinger/songwriter as you can get."
What makes her unique as a singer-songwriter is her academic background in science. Having studied "Zoology" for her Bachelor of Science at the University of Edinburgh, she took a Master of Science in "Conservation and Biodiversity" at the University of Exeter. For her PhD she returned to the North East of Scotland: She took her PhD in Seabird Ecology at the University of Aberdeen.
Her record as a performer is just as impressive as her academic one. Not only is she an accomplished singer and performer herself, but she also teaches songwriting techniques and arrangement, focusing on lyrics, melody, ballad writing and collaborative working.
For our Research Focus on Scottish Nature Writing at the JGU Scotland HUB, Dr Jenny Sturgeon has a lot to offer, not least because she has been working on the defining book of Nature Writing in Scotland, namely Nan Shepherd's "The Living Mountain", that our students study. In her work, she reflects and interacts with the Cairngorms in the same way that Shepherd's book did. Her album "The Living Mountain" explores the book, the Cairngorm mountain range as well as human connections with the wild through lyrical, melodic and visual interpretation. The meditative experience of the combined audio and imagery are a soothing and poignant exploration of what it means to connect with a landscape and to find a sense of place. With her album "The Living Mountain", "Jenny Sturgeon pays homage to the natural world in an all-encompassing piece of creative art", one reviewer noted.
Other examples of her engagement with nature is her album "As Far North As Anything Grows", created during her artist residency with the National Library of Scotland and 'Saatbrack', written as a celebration of the sea for the 2023 Tall Ships Race.
Jenny's album "The Living Mountain" was nominated for the 2021 Scottish Album of the Year award and won Best Acoustic at the 2020 Scottish Alternative Music Awards. In 2018 she was nominated as Composer Of The Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards — to name only her most recent awards.
In her first interview with us, Jenny said that this link between nature and music had taken her on a journey to fascinating places and projects, including visiting St Kilda to write a collection of songs and tunes inspired by the archipelago, and devising and writing bird ecology, mythology and birdsong. "Much of my work is site specific and focuses on sonic interpretations of landscapes and the flora and fauna of these places," she said.
We are very pleased indeed, that Dr Sturgeon accepted our offer of a JGU Scotland HUB fellowship for 2023/24. This will add Rheinland-Pfalz, Scotland's very own partner in culture, education and science, to the places she explores and responds to in word and music. In her acceptance speech, Jenny Sturgeon said:

"For the JGU Scotland HUB Fellowship 2023/24 I am keen to explore connections between the German Wald and Scotland's Forest system. The extent of the natural woodland in Germany and resulting biodiversity is hugely aspirational to a nation like Scotland, whose own woodland habitats have receded over time. While I have spent some time in Germany, on tour in various guises (Salt House and touring solo), I have had little opportunity to be rooted in one place. This fellowship will allow me to immerse myself in the Wald and creatively explore its rich sonic environment and new writing inspired by these species diverse habitats. Through this fellowship I also plan to explore commonality shared by the German language and Scots/Doric dialect; a connection I've been aware of since studying German in secondary school."

The JGU Scotland HUB is very pleased that we can offer Jenny the space and means to travel with us from The Living Mountain in Scotland to The Living Forest in Rheinland-Pfalz. We are very much looking forward to her creative engagement with the natural landscape of Rheinland-Pfalz during her artist residency and will showcase her work at the Scot-t Fest 2024 at the end of June.

To find out more about Jenny, visit her website!