Music and nature are two things known to soothe the soul.

It’s only natural the two have come together for Pickin’ at the Garden, an interactive workshop and concert series produced by the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music, the Terry College of Business and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Assisted by students in the Music Business Program at the Terry College, with local musicians selected through the Athens Music Project at the School of Music, the event brings people into the garden who might not have been there before, says William Tonks, director of facilities and services at the State Botanical Garden. 

It is “exposing the community to music and exposing them to this resource,” Tonks said. It’s the beginning of a relationship with the garden.”

The first Pickin’ at the Garden took place on Jan. 25 and featured banjo player Art Rosenbaum, and Tommy Jordan, who plays guitar, banjo and mandolin. Both Rosenbaum and Jordan are regulars in Athens. A second event was held in February and featured Atlanta-based artist Tomi Martin. Martin is a rhythm and blues guitarist who has recorded music with Outkast, Mick Jagger, Madonna and others.

The event begins with a workshop that includes demonstrations of the instruments and provides an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of the artists. The musicians then play an acoustic concert.

“The goal is to make people aware of the kind of music around Athens,” said Susan Thomas, professor of music and women’s studies at UGA, and co-director of the Athens Music Project (AMP). “It’s a great way for the university to recognize Athens, its current music scene and not just its history.

Supported by the UGA Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, AMP is a research, outreach and teaching initiative. Thomas believes Pickin’ at the Garden raises awareness of music diversity in Athens among not only students, but the Athens-Clarke County community at large. One of AMP’s goals is to incorporate the rich Athens music scene into the classroom.

Thomas and David Barbe, director of the Music Business Program, have both incorporated Pickin at the Garden into their curriculum.  

Kate Anderson, a junior studying finance and music business, volunteered to help plan Pickin’ at the Garden when Barbe mentioned it in class. She assisted with the January event, advertising it through social media and helping set up the Day Chapel for the workshop and performance.

“It gave me a real world, behind-the-scenes look at what goes into getting people together around music,” said Anderson, who hopes to become a business manager for bands and song writers after graduating from UGA.

Art Rosenbaum and Tommy Jordan/Photo by Daniel Borremans


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Contact: William Tonks,, 706-542-8717