By: Sawyer Smith

“For me, it’s not just about ‘oh, we’ll do some music’. The Yampa Canyon has an incredible sound. It’s like playing in one of the world’s great concert halls… It’s elevating the music.” 

Del Sol QuartetThis was how Ben Kreith of the Del Sol Quartet described his experience facilitating and performing on a river rafting trip for Holiday. He and his bandmates, Hyeyung Sol Yoon, Charlton Lee, and Kathryn Bates, are based in San Francisco, and playing music is their full-time job. 

But even before he made connections with the dedicated guides at Holiday River Expeditions, Ben had an appreciation for playing music outdoors. 

“I had been doing Grand Canyon quartet trips with my friend, Steven Bryant,” he told me. He loved those trips, and his passion for playing music in the wildness shined through at the very start of our conversation. But when the pandemic hit, he had to get even more creative regarding concert venues. 

“I immediately suggested to the quartet that playing outdoors really is kind of an opportunity. Especially here in San Francisco, where it’s not snowing half the year… So we gathered some of our music writing friends, said we didn’t have a lot of money, but we promised to play your piece in parks and on street corners.” 

In doing so, Ben discovered a whole new audience of listeners—including dogs, children, and other individuals who don’t often have access to classical music performances for whatever reason. 

There’s a closeness, an intimacy, that comes from doing these sorts of small, free concerts in public spaces. But if you want to get even more acquainted with these musicians, there’s no better way than to join them on their river trip. 

Rivers, Rafting, and RhythmYampa River Del Sol Music Party Barge

While many river rafters are happy to just have good water flow and nice weather, Ben and his band have different criteria. It was their desire to find the best outdoor acoustics that led them to choose the Yampa River as their go-to location. “The music sounds better there. Everyone’s happy there.” 

“For me, it’s like a treasure hunt for good concert halls, these acoustic places. Some of them (guides and trip attendees) are musicians, and even the ones who aren’t, learn to love the excitement of hunting for these places… We don’t just keep our eyes out for good camping spots, but also good spots to play.” 

And it’s not just the trip attendees who are getting to experience these pieces for the first time. Because of the unique soundscapes, acoustics, and echos offered at the varied performance locations, the pieces sound different to the band members as well. As Ben puts it, “I’m playing the same piece I’ve played twenty times, but I’ve never played it in a cave before.” 

Yampa River Del Sol Music Camp GroupBuilding Bridges Between Rafters, Guides, and Musicians 

I asked Ben what was so special about being a musician on one of these trips, and he explained that it provided him with an experience to create a deeper connection with his audience. Spending time together on the river, talking between performances, and working as a team to stay afloat, is a “much more complete way of sharing than you can do in an hour and a half.” 

“Being a classical musician is a little bit like being a guide. There’s this stuff we love, that’s maybe a little intimidating and foreign to some people, but if you do a good job of showing them around and making things accessible, then it feels like a useful thing.” 

Really, the only downside to this trip, at least as I see it, is that the darn thing is already sold out. That said, there are still plenty of opportunities to experience the wonderful music of Del Sol live. They have a series of concerts in January at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and they recently put out an album—The Resonance Between

And if you had your heart set on attending the river rafting trip with Del Sol, you can always sign up for next year’s trip. Ben assured me that the band wasn’t stopping any time soon, noting how Holiday River Expeditions “purchased a cello-sized dry bag, so that means we’re going to keep on doing it.”

Sawyer Smith WriterSawyer Smith is a Utah native currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri. When she isn’t working as a freelance writer or hiking through sections of the Mark Twain National Forest, she is planning trips in her head back to her beloved state to once again climb on the red rocks and ski down the snowy mountains.