Titchner recognized by Pa Wilds for conservation efforts

Photo submitted - From left to right, band members Mark Titchner, Bekki Titchner, Don Strandberg, Matt Santaniello and Mark Santaniello on the set of their video for "The Factory Song."
Yelena Kisler
Staff Writer

Area champion for recycling and part-time musician Bekki Titchner has been named winner of the Pa. Wilds Conservation Stewardship (Individual) Award.

According to a release from the Pa. Wilds, she was chosen for the award for "her creation of 'The Factory Song,' and for her tireless commitment to conservation stewardship and recycling."

"I had no idea," said Titchner. "Deborah Pontzer calls and said 'I have good news for you, call me back.' and all I could think was 'what grant did I apply for?'" Titchner said, further explaining that this is since Pontzer is the Economic Development Work Force Specialist for Congressman Glenn Thompson’s office, and Titchner frequently applies for grants on behalf of the Elk County Solid Waste Authority.

"Then she told me that I won the conservation award," she said. "And I'm like 'are you kidding?' It was pretty humbling.

"It's a conservation award, so a lot of it is tied to what we do [at the Elk County Community Recycling Center]. The rural area that we're in, the services we're providing, a lot of places don't have access to what we were able to build in terms of providing the service and the conservation of the natural resources. So it got kind of all tied together."

The video for "The Factory Song" has been a long time in the making for Titchner. She wrote the song back in 2009 with her husband, Mark, but just this year, they were able to create a video to go with the song.

The song's creation was a direct response to a question.

"It was after the economic downturn, that was the inspiration for it," Titchner said. She explained that a metropolitan newspaper ran an article in reference to Elk County at the time of the downturn posing the question: why do people even live here?

"Elk County at the time had the highest unemployment rate in the state," she said. The question made her take a long look at what makes this area special and what gets people to stay.

"At first you're offended," she said, "and then you think, well, 'why do we live here?'" 

She explained that it made her look at the history of the area which is intrinsically tied to extraction industries.

"First it was lumbering, then it was mining, now we have all the carbon factories and powdered metal," said Titchner. "All these things really made this area and they're still vibrant industries. Except for mining. Mining, I think, really is very minimal at this point."

In 2011, she submitted the song to the Pa. Heritage Songwriting Contest and won second place. 

"I always thought it would make a great video, just because we have all these wonderful historic photos of Elk County and its industries, and we have all this wonderful current industry here," said Titchner. "So I applied for a Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Grant."

By the time she applied for the grant and received confirmation, she and Mark had joined with other area musicians and were performing more electric music. The additional members agreed to go along for the ride in making the music video.

"We got a couple of thousand bucks for the project (from the grant) and Kyle Yates, who is actually Artisan of the Year this year," said Titchner, "he is an incredible photographer as well as videographer, he did the video.

"He came up from Brookville and he was trying to get it all done in one day. He was trying to work with the very little budget that we had and do as much as he could, basically, with the money that we had.

"So we went to [Straub] Brewery, we went to Horizon Wood Products which does a lot of exporting of beautiful wood products all around the world, we went to Embassy Powdered Metals."

They were contacted by other industries as well after Titchner reached out to the Council and the Chamber with her idea for the video, several other industries invited her to film their locations as well.

"There was just no way to squeeze it all in in one day and then try to work around people's scheduling," she said. "So we did what we could and tried to put as much in  3 1/2 minutes as we could with historic stuff and new stuff.

"One of our band members and his son both work at Allegheny Coatings and part of their operation is in the old Elliott Building in Ridgway which is probably a 100-year-old building. It was the perfect setting for the band to do its part of the video," said Titchner. The building was also the Ridgway Manufacturing Company prior to World War II.

"It was a labor of love," she said. "It was something that I saw in my head for a long long time and it was nice to see it happen."

To see the video, check out video below, look up "Factory Song, Titchner Scott" on YouTube or on Facebook at Titchner Scott where you can listen to some of the band's other music. 

Titchner continues to show her passion for the region and conservation in her capacity as the Elk County Recycling/Solid Waste Coordinator. As the Pa. Wilds Center put it, "she and the team at the Recycling Center have taken the lessons learned from our rich industrial heritage and put them into practice with an aim towards conservation."