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A Musician Creates an Americana Soundtrack for the Colorado River

With Confluence, indie folk strummer Benjamin Barron and his bandmates set a course to highlight environmental concerns in Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and other national parks.

The four members of the Infamous Flapjack Affair, an indie folk band started in Oxford, England, share a love of music as well as concern for the environment. So when cellist James Mitchell brought up his dream of playing Bach suites in a canyon along the Colorado River, the other members—guitarist David Carel, fiddle player Sarah Noyce, and banjo and guitar player Benjamin Barron—didn’t balk. Instead, they batted around ideas and came up with a plan.

Now, that plan is turning into action. This September, the group will embark on Confluence, a three-week trip designed to bring attention to environmental issues affecting national parks in the Colorado River Basin.

“We have this deep belief that if we go with a genuine intention to listen to the stories of the people and places that depend on this critical river system and then tell those stories through the medium of music and film, we can turn some heads and get people excited and talking about it,” says Barron, 25, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, and acts as the band’s stateside representative. “The whole idea is this is part call to action and part celebration.”

After a concert in Flagstaff, Arizona, the band will trace the brawny river to its headwaters, visiting Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, the proposed Bears Ears National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, and Rocky Mountain National Park. They’ll hike through canyons, deserts, and mountains and interview local farmers, ranchers, park rangers, Native American residents, and tourists about local environmental issues.

Along the way, they’ll compose original songs inspired by those issues in the parks, play at small brew houses, and, on September 23, perform a concert in Denver with some of their new works. At the same time, documentary filmmakers from the National Park Experience will produce a film about the project, which will debut in 2017.

“Music has this power of connecting to people on an emotional level,” says Barron. “As young artists, we wanted to push ourselves to consider whether music can involve people in important conversations around natural spaces in ways that haven’t happened before.”

Desired Superpower: “To speak every language. I’d love to be able to meet people where they’re at, linguistically.”

Essential Field Item: “A quick-dry backpacking-size towel. I love to swim when I’m in the backcountry.”

Stay tuned as we reveal one trailblazer each weekday leading up to the National Park Service centennial on August 25.

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