San Antonio Kayak Company Makes Waves with Tiny Jazz Concerts


The Texas River Company spices things up in downtown San Antonio with something locals don’t see every day: jazz musicians kayaking their instruments.

Yes, that’s exactly it – and it’s beautiful.

On Wednesday morning, at the Mission Reach point in Roosevelt Park, joggers and nature enthusiasts stopped along their trail to record videos of Tiny Jazz artists John Spears (on trumpet) and Billy Ray Sheppard (on saxophone) alto). A moment of peace pervaded the area as they played their instruments in crisp tuxedo jackets with life jackets on top.

No, they are not paddling while they are playing. Texas River Company associate Erik Reynolds tied a rope to their kayaks to pull them while he was kayaking. It may seem heavy as it carries two men, instruments, equipment and kayaks. However, Reynolds appeared comfortable on the trip. He was in his element. It wasn’t tiring at all for him, Reynolds said.

Little jazz artist John Spears (on trumpet) and Billy Ray Sheppard (on alto saxophone) play their instruments while Erik Reynolds of the Texas River Company trains them.

Priscilla Aguirre, MySA.com

Victor Rivera, director of exploration for the Texas River Company, hosted the concert to give MySA a face-to-face experience of his new series at his company. It was just me, Rivera, the musicians and his two assistants Ken Rice and Reynolds. However, it was a glimpse of what the music sounds like along the roadblock that separates Mission Reach and Blue Star Complex roads.

Earlier this year, the kayaking service officially launched its public events. Rivera says they offer the best kayaking adventures on the San Antonio River – either a one-hour round trip to the Blue Star Arts complex or a two-hour trip to Mission Concepcion. Every weekend, the outdoor company takes place at Roosevelt Park.

Over the weekend of October 23, Rivera teamed up with Spears of Tiny Jazz to test the waters of a new service that the Texas River Company hopes to add to its lineup. Spears says he first raised his eyebrows when Rivera asked him about his concept. But the jazz musician is not the type to let a little experimentation pass.

Little jazz artist John Spears (on trumpet) and Billy Ray Sheppard (on alto saxophone) stand together in Roosevelt Park on Wednesday, October 27.

Little jazz artist John Spears (on trumpet) and Billy Ray Sheppard (on alto saxophone) stand together in Roosevelt Park on Wednesday, October 27.

Priscilla Aguirre, MySA.com

Eight years ago, Spears thought about Tiny Jazz as a way to get gigs and play with friends in larger duos, trios, or groups. It first started out as a hobby while working in cubicles. However, Spears officially launched it as a rotating band during the coronavirus pandemic to help musicians schedule concerts. Spears and Sheppard, who has been a professional musician for as long as he can remember, have a regular show every Wednesday night at Vine In The Village in Bulverde.

“The idea behind Tiny Jazz is to be able to travel anywhere and play jazz for people in places where they wouldn’t normally experience jazz,” says Spears. “In a kayak, this is one of the most unique places to do this.”

Musicians can come from out of town and join any concert Tiny Jazz might be having right now. That’s what happened with Sheppard, who had his first experience kayaking on the San Antonio River. He happened to also play the alto saxophone.

“I’ve known John (Spears) for a while now, and he always has some exciting opportunities,” Sheppard said. “The biggest obstacle was getting in the kayak, but after that it was very smooth. It was amazing.”

Victor Rivera, director of exploration for the Texas River Company, asked Tiny Jazz to be part of his new kayaking adventure on the San Antonio River.

Victor Rivera, director of exploration for the Texas River Company, asked Tiny Jazz to be part of his new kayaking adventure on the San Antonio River.

Priscilla Aguirre, MySA.com

Texas River Company will host the new series on a monthly basis, some of which are in preparation for the holiday season. Dates haven’t been set, but Rivera says you can follow the company on Facebook at TX River Company for the next announcements.


“We’re really trying to connect more residents to the kayak,” Rivera said. “This is our mission. I have so many ideas for this. Right now we are focusing on the San Antonio River, but more trips will come.”


Willie J. Johnson

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