Three years ago this week, longtime musician and music producer Steve Anderson suffered a major stroke that caused him to lose 95% of his eyesight.
While in rehab, Anderson says he began to take inventory of his life. He asked himself one simple question: “Well, what can I do now?”
“I started reaching out to all sorts of music people in the Monterey and Santa Cruz area,” he said. “I found that there wasn’t a lot for adults with disabilities—almost nothing. There are quite a few programs for students, and that’s great, but not a lot for adults. And there are not many people who have worked with blind musicians in particular.”
Anderson brainstormed and eventually came up with the idea of creating Hear See Play (HSP), a new nonprofit focusing on live performance. The organization aims to bring people together—those with disabilities and those without—to play and enjoy music.
He launched a series of live performances, first on the deck outside his home and now at the VFW Hall (post 7263) in Santa Cruz. A free summer concert series will start at the VFW on June 5.
“I’m trying to create this new kind of a community and build something fun that is all-inclusive, that keeps us on a level playing field,” Anderson said. “Whether it’s playing music, singing, dancing, or just enjoying. So all of us can feel equal.”
The upcoming series will include local talent and regional and national musicians as they pass through the area. Things kick off June 5 with rockers, El Camino Revival Band. On June 19, the jazz group Los Improviders will perform, followed by Burnin Vernon and the Ted Welty Trio on July 3. John Michael and Nomad will round things out on July 17.
Live music will begin each day at 2, except on July 3 when the performance kicks off at 1pm. HSP will feature the Brothers Taco truck at every event, and the VFW will run a cash-only bar.
“Some of those closet musicians that have been pent up for two or three years,” Anderson said, “we invite to come and enjoy and not worry if they’re blind or have a bum limb. I believe music is a universal language. If we come into new events like these, with that mindset, the world is our oyster.”
Anderson says that HSP is looking to expand its reach. In the Fall, they hope to hold intermediate and professional music workshops, including individual and group lessons with top teachers and musicians worldwide.
“I’m a 10-year plan guy, not a one-year plan guy,” he said. “I hope to make this into a world-class organization.”
Creating a new organization from the ground up hasn’t been easy. Anderson thanked everyone who has supported him, especially the VFW, who he called “integral” to HSP’s mission. He encouraged anyone interested to get involved.
“We’re a nonprofit and a startup,” he said. “So, anyone who wants to volunteer their time, money, or even their dancing skills, we’d love to have them.”
VFW Hall, 2259 7th Ave., Santa Cruz. For information and updates, follow Hear See Play on Facebook.