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billy jonas / bridging divides

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Comissioned by The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)


Music Video

Audio Only

Lyrics - "THE BIG IDEA"


Verse 1

Let me tell you 'bout the two new kids in town
Merrilee and Lu here’s what they found
A lot of empty lots with lots of needs
Piles of rubble and trash and weeds

So they wondered, “How’d it get so out of whack?”
“What’s the big idea?! Let’s bring it back!”
They plotted and they planned and sketched and schemed
Walked and talked it out, drew and dreamed
A big idea — make things right!
A big idea — where's the light?
What’s the big idea?! New design...
It’s a big idea — now’s the time!

Verse 2

Well they knew they had to get permission first
From the mayor, so they told their plan to her
The mayor shook her head and said, “Not yet,
We need a landscape architect!”

“Not a regular architect who draws up plans
Using glass and steel so buildings stand
No, you’ll be using rocks and plants and hills
We need a landscape architect to fulfill ...”

This big idea – make things right!
This big idea — where’s the light?
What’s the big idea?! New design!
It’s a big idea — now’s the time!

Time in! Time out! Time inside, outside, what it’s all about!
Time out! Time in! Time outside, inside, let’s begin!

Verse 3

Merrilee and Lu said, “What’s the fuss?
See the landscape architects are us!
We’ve got inspiration, strong and clear
Got the vision and the plans right here

For The Big Idea to wind it’s way
Through the world that’s found and the world that’s made
Let it harmonize through space and time
Take trees and buildings and make them rhyme (“Make them rhyme...?”)

Verse 4

Well, the mayor took a look and said, “Let’s start!”
Merrilee and Lu made a work of art
Gardens and a park with paths and lakes
And a solar roller coaster for goodness sake (“Solar roller coaster....?!?”)

Took The Big Idea across the land
Everybody dancing hand-in-hand
With the natural world in harmony
And peace and love and unity


THAT’S The Big Idea! Make things right!
THAT’S The Big Idea! Where's the light?
THAT'S The Big Idea! New design...
It’s a big idea! Now’s the time!

What's YOUR big idea?! Make things right!
What’s YOUR big idea?! Where’s the light?
What’s YOUR big idea?! New design!
It’s a big idea — now’s the time!


- - -

© 2022 by Billy Jonas / Bang-A-Bucket Music (BMI)


"As CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects, it was my absolute pleasure to work with Billy Jonas on the creation of our first song. Our professional association is committed to the design of outdoor spaces that are innovative, functional, and equitable. Billy came to ASLA, embraced our mission, engaged us in his creative process, and delivered the perfect song for our growing pre K-12 audience. We can’t wait to bring “The Big Idea” to the world so they can see why every community needs a landscape architect!"

- Torey Carter-Conneen, CEO, American Society of Landscape Architects

"In my 20 years of developing educational programming, this was my first opportunity to collaborate with an award-winning musician. In scaling our efforts, I knew I needed to incorporate new strategies to capture the attention of our growing community of students, families, and educators. Commissioning Billy to create our first song, "The Big Idea," not only fit the bill, it exceeded our expectations! The song has brought a new energy to our membership, and we can’t wait to use it to share the experience of outdoor design with the world.

"I learned about Billy while driving my son to elementary school each day and hearing his songs play in rotation on Kids Place Live/Sirius XM. His songs created some of the most fun car-riding memories that we still cherish today. As I was envisioning program content for the ASLA inaugural pre-k - 12 summit, DREAM BIG with Design, I knew I’d want to include Billy’s hit song "L-M-N-O-P Break." It turned out to be a tremendous asset during our 2-day virtual event and sparked my desire to continue working with Billy."

- Lisa J. Jennings, Senior Manager, Career Discovery and Diversity, for the American Society of Landscape Architects

THE STORY -- A Tale of Two Miracles:

It began with a bathroom break. Really -- and that was the first miracle. Lisa Jennings, an outreach director for the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), heard my song L-M-N-O-P Break on satellite radio. It's a playful family-oriented piece about adjectives that begin with the letter ‘P,’ which plays with the double entendre of the phrase "P break." On the one hand, in the song, we take a break to stop what we're doing and invoke words starting with the letter 'P.' On the other hand, well... you know. She reached out and said: “We love your song! Can we use it during our annual education conference, to signal to the audience when there’s an intermission, and it’s a good time for going to the washroom?”

Of course.

“And,” (several months later), “can we commission a song from you that would inspire young folks to consider becoming landscape architects?”

Absolutely! We brainstormed with the top leadership at ASLA (our 'alpha' group). I began to understand the incredible impact that landscape architects have on society: finding ways to link and harmonize the inside and outside worlds we inhabit, with the potential to profoundly alter our relationships with nature, civilization, and one another. This, I slowly realized, was big. Really big.

Then, a songwriting miracle happened (miracle #2): I had invited the video crew of John Kennedy and David Saich over to capture the beginning of the creative process, and about a minute into filiming, I got an idea: "THE BIG IDEA" (you can see this moment of inception in the mini-documentary posted here). I sketched it out, and presented a very rough draft to the ASLA committee. They loved it, but there was one crucial element missing: "We'd like it if you could add the words "landscape architect" in the lyrics, and define that." I had written around it, but not named it. Back to the drawing board.

Five drafts later, we took a sketch to their beta-testing group, got a thumbs up with a few minor revisions, began recording... and, voilà!