top of page

Harvesting the Music Tree: Sustainable African Blackwood  

2024 Update: Now being presented either in-person (with exhibit) or via Zoom!

Nourishing and fertilizing the soil, inhibiting global warming, used for sculpture, medicine and more, African Blackwood is also the tree from which flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bagpipes are made. It's a commercially threatened species that grows almost exclusively in Tanzania and Mozambique. Conservation efforts currently underway are simultaneously helping to eradicate poverty while preserving this vitally important wood for the music industry.

Virtuoso oboist Brenda Schuman-Post has been studying and teaching about the music tree since 1992. In 2008 she won a Global Connections grant from Meet the Composer (funded by the Ford Foundation) to create, via improvisation, a new piece of music that would bond the people in whose forests African Blackwood (grenadilla, mpingo, pau preto) grows, with the people who play musical instruments made from that tree.

Performing for audiences who had never before seen nor heard any Western keyed woodwind instrument, sometimes as asoloist and sometimes with musicians from rural Northern Tanzania, in forests, at sawmills, celebrations, press conferences, in restaurants, villages and conservation projects in Tanzania, Mozambique and then in the UK, she also became the first musician in history to witness every detail from finding and harvesting an African Blackwood tree, to the making of a top of the line instrument.

Brenda will play the oboe, show slides and video, display authentic Makonde sculptures, and present a hands-on display of the wood. She will talk about the characteristics, uses, search for and harvesting of the tree, about the people and places where it grows, her experiences in East Africa, and about what's currently being done to lift destitute East Africans out of poverty by preserving, conserving, protecting, and replanting African Blackwood.

This Keynote presentation with exhibit is interdisciplinary and cross curricular, addressing environmental and sustainability issues, poverty eradication, social justice, conservation, global warming, green business, forestry, ethno-botany, African studies, wood carving and sculpture, dance, and all styles of western and world musics. It can be crafted to suit any audience and time frame. Please contact Brenda for more information and to book this significant presentation. Please watch videos at


In 2008, Brenda established The Mpingo Group with 5

Tanzanian musicians who play traditional instruments. With only an occasional translator, and mostly no language other than music, they created and performed two compositions: "Tree of Tanzania" and  Mpingo" at schools, celebrations, and night clubs throughout Tanzania.

bottom of page