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Bright Spot: A man and his cello aim to canoe the whole Mississippi River

A man plays a cello next to his canoe at the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park.
Zak Rivers
Zak Rivers plays his cello at the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park.

Zak Rivers shares his quest to canoe the length of the Mississippi River with an unlikely passenger: his cello. Each Monday morning, KAXE brings you Bright Spot, a story or song to lift your spirits.

Sometimes, we can all use something positive in our lives. A bright spot.

"Bright Spot" is our new segment on the Monday KAXE Morning Show, where we bring you a story to get your week off to a great start.

Our inaugural "Bright Spot" is an introduction to Zak Rivers. He is canoeing the length of the Mississippi River this summer, along with his trusty carbon fiber cello.

“I had stopped playing cello in the middle of my life due to work,” Rivers told Jim Gallagher, an independent KAXE producer. “I didn’t like that. As I think back about what really mattered to me in my early years, my cello was my rosebud.”

Gallagher caught up with Rivers in early June on the windy shore of Lake Winnibigoshish.

A man outside his canoe plays his cello.
Zak Rivers
Zak Rivers sits next to his canoe playing his cello.

Rivers explained music made him happy as a kid, and in this new quest in his life, cello music is a way to meet people along the river. He'll perform impromptu concerts along the way.

A filmmaker and photographer from Mankato, Rivers met Dale “Greybeard" Sanders, an 87-year-old man on a quest himself. Sanders' sought to achieve a Guinness World Record as the oldest person to paddle the entirety of the Mississippi River. The award-winning documentary The Man, the Myth, the Mississippi shows the reality of the 2,340-mile canoe trip.

“Making that film was huge in getting my ball rolling for my own trip. And you know, I just started thinking, this river has been in my backyard the whole time.”

Rivers may film his expedition, but not in the traditional sense of a documentary. “I would let maybe the music do more of the talking. It would be the voice, and I would just try and film beautiful things and put it against the backdrop of cello music.”

Listen to Rivers’ full conversation above.

Have a Bright Spot story to share? Let us know!

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