The Alaska Suite: a story of beauty, loss and hope

The Alaska Suite features a five-piece chamber jazz ensemble performing the original music of Seattle pianist and composer Nelda Swiggett. But this is not just a concert. Combining the emotional power of multiple mediums – live music, spoken words, images and poetry – the Alaska Suite seeks to inspire its audience to be proactive about addressing climate change.


The performance celebrates the beauty and majesty of Alaska; laments the rapid impacts of global warming in Alaska (and all of the Arctic); alerts the audience to similar impacts where they live; and last, and most importantly, uplifts spirits with reasons for hope and calls to action.

Alaska is our “canary in the coal mine,” and should be a wake up call for all of us.

“The combination of the music, your spoken words, and the images was magnificent. What a beautiful way to communicate many facets of climate change, and to draw people in.”  – Elizabeth Burton

“Congratulations on a powerful, unique, multi-sensory, beautiful and pioneering experience… this really is refreshing and arresting and it has limitless potential for other audiences…”  – George Lawson

“I was not prepared to cry, but yet I was so moved. Not by just what you said, but the entire performance. Wow!”  – Catherine

“When I attended your performance of the Alaska Suite … I wrote that one of my climate actions would be to buy a used Nissan Leaf to replace my old VW Passat. It was quite motivating to have written that down! Now reporting back that I bought it this weekend — a 2016 Leaf SV with just 11K miles — and am feeling very happy to be driving it.”  – Lisa Maynard

“… I went to hear the Alaska Suite on Sunday evening. I was not prepared for how the combination of an excellent jazz composition and a factual and emotional narrative about Alaskan climate change would both inform and move me. Compliments to the composer, Nelda Swiggett, and the talented and concerned musicians. Honored that my findings on guillemots and puffins responding to sea ice melt were part of the presentation.” — George Divoky, Friends of Cooper Island

“Alaska Suite” was absolutely brilliant! — Tim Hunt

All three congregations were buzzing yesterday with their response to your performance on Saturday evening.  I am … awed and inspired by the commitment of your group to getting this out there to touch and inspire others to action.  You have such a great voice — and narrative — for communicating facts and feelings — then amplified by the music — that immediately lets your audience sink into the moment and be present to the enormity of what they are witnessing and hearing. — Marcia Lagerloef, Bainbridge Island

“Thank you all for coming out on a busy Wednesday night to hear Nelda’s stirring composition—part love song, part sad ballad to Alaska, and part battle cry to reclaim the health of our planet. I guess we were moved by the music and the statistics and the images because we raised about $1500 for the Yes On 1631 campaign!”  — Mary Casey, house concert host

What have you done, could do, or will do to make a difference?
A small sampling of audience responses at Alaska Suite performances:

  • “Will convert to hybrid car.”
  • “Heat turned off at night”
  • “Minimal red meat”
  • “I can carpool to the church whenever possible (saving 70 miles round trip).”
  • “Make buses and trains my main mode of transportation.”
  • “Call representatives about promoting energy policies.”
  • “Buy LEDs.”
  • “Installed solar.”
  • “We recycle religiously.”
  • “Double-pane windows”
  • “Notify adult children of urgency of reducing carbon imprint.”
  • “Praise Metro for efforts to reduce carbon imprint on buses.”
  • “Before flying on an airplane, I will ask myself if this trip is important enough to justify the carbon emissions.”
  • “Work from home 2 days/week”
  • “Thermostat to 67”
  • “Combine errands in a single trip.”

More Ideas for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Booking the Alaska Suite

Contact Nelda Swiggett for information about booking the Alaska Suite. The standard performance is 90 minutes in length without an intermission. 75 or 60 minute programs also available. You are welcome to ask about customizing the Alaska Suite for a particular venue, audience or budget.

See Calendar for a list of Nelda’s past and upcoming performances.

Nelda Swiggett (piano, compositions) is a Seattle native, and spent much of her childhood hiking, climbing and skiing the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. She formed her first band, Room to Move, in 1990, and has since headlined her own group performing her original music at many of the Northwest’s top jazz venues. Nelda’s melodic originals draw from her long list of influences, from jazz to Afro-Cuban, to gospel, classical and more. The Alaska Suite combines her passion for music with her love and care for the natural world.  See also About Nelda Swiggett.

Julian Smedley (violin) started his music career as a choirboy in an English cathedral. As a violinist he performed regularly on BBC television and radio both as a soloist and an orchestral player. He co-founded the Bowles Brothers Band that recorded on Decca Records. Since moving to the West Coast of the U.S., he has performed with such artists as Art Lande, Ralph Towner, Gary Peacock and Gil Evans, and he was a member of the Bay Area’s Hot Club of San Francisco. Since his 2011 return to the Pacific Northwest, Julian has been performing with The Debutones, The Greg Ruby Quartet, and Julian and Alison, a jazz duo with his wife.


Clif Swiggett (trombone) grew up in New York and started playing trombone as a teenager. He toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, played with the Clem DeRosa All-Star Big Band, and played lead bone in the McDonald’s Tri-State Jazz Ensemble. Clif moved to Seattle in 1985, and has since performed and toured with a wide variety of bands, including Room To Move, Cambalache, Caribbean Roots, The Brian Waite Band, Megabopolis, and Clif & Nelda’s little BIG Band (with his wife, Nelda). Clif is also co-creator (along with grammy-nominated vibraphonist, Stefon Harris) of the revolutionary Harmony Cloud™ app, currently being used by music students and teachers around the world to develop a more intuitive understanding of harmony.

Chris Symer (bass) was well established in the LA jazz scene before moving to the Northwest in 2002. He’s since become one of Seattle’s top tier bass players, highly regarded for his versatile and sensitive musicianship. Chris has recorded, performed and toured with many of the world’s leading jazz musicians including Tierney Sutton, Ramsey Lewis, Roger Kellaway, Robben Ford and Bennie Maupin. Studies in jazz and classical performance have provided Chris with an ability to fit into almost any musical situation. His open minded approach has led him to the somewhat unusual practice of tuning his own double bass in fifths an octave below the cello, and he remains fascinated by the tonal palette this tuning provides.

Adam Kessler is a dedicated drummer, percussionist, and educator. He has performed in venues around the world, including Zimbabwe, China, Poland, Portugal, Cape Verde, Montreal, Mexico, and Israel. In 2006 he received a BA in Music from Cornish College of the Arts. While there he gained valuable experience through the study of jazz, Brazilian, electronic, middle eastern, and gamelan music. Adam performs regularly in Seattle, teaches privately as well as ensemble classes, and is an accompanist for Spectrum Dance Theater, and Pacific Northwest Ballet’s classes and outreach program.

Jill McGrath (poet) has been published in numerous journals, including The Seattle Review, The Hurricane Review, and Arnazella’s Reading List. She published a chapbook, The Rune of Salt Air, and is currently working on two poetry manuscripts.