A musician active in the Philadelphia folk music scene passed away over the weekend while hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland.
Jason Parish, 36, was in an overnight shelter on Sunday morning when a dead tree fell on it due to heavy winds, according to the National Park Service.
“All his friends are completely in shock right now,” said Ernie Tokay, who helped Parish record his new album “A Mountain and a Hill,” released in January, at his studio. “He was a revered, loved member of the Philadelphia music community and he had just made his breakout project. It’s a life cut tragically short. It’s a shame. We’re all gonna miss him.”
Parish, a Delaware native, was a musician who worked as an environmental engineer.
“He was a little bit shy around the edges but always quick with a smile, very personable … not a Kurt Cobain type,” said friend Valentine Gorski. “He was just a real warm, genuine human being, someone you wanted to be around.”
He got the time to go into the studio with Tokay after he broke his ankle playing soccer and couldn’t work for six weeks, Tokay said.
“It was a really good time working on the record and I was really looking forward to doing another with him. It was clear to me that that wasn’t where it ended, that was the beginning,” he said. “He was very passionate about music in general and, this particular record, he was clearly on a mission to get out what he had been tooling around with for quite some time.”
Parish was the son of a mechanic and a classical musician who studied classical music and jazz before teaching himself the guitar and becoming a folk musician, according to an online profile.
“It’s a tragic loss,” Gorski said. “He was so young, he was so talented, I think he was just beginning to find his voice as a songwriter. It’s just so sad that his life was cut short that way. There are no good words for a senseless loss like that.”
Tokay said Parish loved to hike and would sometimes just take off for trips.
“I understand second-hand that the night before he passed, they had made it to a shelter and they hung out with a bunch of people there, and they had a makeshift banjo, and Jason kept the fire going and played all night long,” Tokay said. “While the rest of us were home in dry houses, they were sitting on the Appalachian Trail soaking wet having a blast.”
He leaves behind an extended family, Tokay said.