Cellist Russick Smith

Naturally Musical

Cellist Russick Smith Plays in Rivers, Trees

Fort Collins, Colorado

Courtesy of Russick Smith

Fort Collins, Colorado-based cellist Russick Smith has been redefining the conventional idea of a performance stage.

During an arts festival in 2016, Smith walked into the frigid waters of Breckenridge, Colorado’s Blue River wearing a pair of fly fishing waders and raising his cello over his head to play. He then gave an impromptu concert from a tiny island in the middle of the river, saying he felt like he was playing “a duet” with the sound of the water flowing and lapping around him.

People stopped to listen, enjoying the music—of the cellist and the water—from the riverbanks.

Continuing to think outside of the symphony and into nature, Smith headed to the woods. Soon after, he decided to climb, with the help of a ladder, 15 feet into a tree among a grove of aspen trees. From a modified tree stand, he played music, catching the attention of surprised passersby.

The idea flourished, and Smith and two other musicians began putting on concerts in groves of aspens, or groves of dead pine trees, calling themselves “Tree-o.”

Smith says he’s constantly thinking of new landscapes where he can play his cello.
As of early 2020, the musician said he was mulling over a cliff-face concert. “I’d like to find a box canyon and get up on the wall,” he explains, “but a belay point on a climbing harness isn’t conducive to playing.” Other creative performances he’s considering? A collaboration with an aerial dance company and a performance on the yardarm of a tall ship.

“I used to be a professional tall ship sailor,” says Smith. “My time on those boats is what gave me my love of working in high places.”

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