JOPLIN, Mo. —
Jan Syrigos used to keep music limited to a song or two. As a naturalist with a Jefferson City nature center, she'd sing a song at the end of a program to help kids recap what they just learned.
"After the program, I wanted to encapsulate facts for kids," Syrigos said. "So I started making up songs as conclusions for programs."
Officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation liked what they heard. In 1996, they worked with her to produce "CritterRock," an album of assorted songs about Missouri wildlife.
A companion DVD featuring videos to those songs was later made available. That album won an Emmy award for Best Children's Programming in 2002.
Syrigos and her husband, George, keep up that songwriting and performing tradition as WildHeart. The duo will perform in Joplin and Webb City Saturday.
Each show will feature a selection of their songs about Missouri wildlife -- from a reptile rap to amphibian blues.
Syrigos said the duo's music encompasses a wide variety of musical styles.
"When we write for children, we try to use a wide variety of genres," Syrigos said. "That reaches them a little better and also exposes them to more music."
They are both naturalists with degrees in forestry and fish and wildlife, and have worked in conservation education for a combined 20 years. The couple have been singing together for most of their 28 years together. While working at the Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City, they took jobs as children's pastors in a Jefferson City church.
But it was only a few years ago when the couple decided to pursue a full-time music career.
"That was in 2008, and it was taking off," Syrigos said. "That's when we decided to go full time."
They perform a number of songs that teach details about nature and encourage kids to go out and explore. The couple tours across Missouri and the Midwest, performing 30 concerts a month during busier summer months.
Syrigos said she and her husband collaborate on songwriting. George is an idea guy who comes up with funny phrases that spur further development of a song. The couple's 14-year-old daughter, Sophia, also provides creative sparks for songs.
Syrigos said she is inspired by a little bit of everything. She appreciates ballads and country-western story singers, and also listens to a lot of gospel and contemporary Christian music.
But talking about the environment is what really fuels the couple's ventures, she said.
"For me, it's about the message -- encapsulating a message in a song that we can deliver to kids in ways they take in more," Syrigos said. "Our mission is to share about nature and encourage kids to get out in nature."
Want to go?
WildHeart will perform two concerts on Saturday:
- 9 a.m. to noon at the Webb City Farmers Market. The concert is part of the market's Arts in the Park event, which features a number of family friendly activities. Cost: Free.
- 3 to 4 p.m. at Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center. Cost: $10, $5 for members.