Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's NOT About The Music!!!

Usually, its all about the music. But sometimes, as surprising as it may sound coming from this music lover, sometimes it has nothing to do with the music. I came home from this special concert with copious notes as to who performed with whom and what songs were played. I had every intention of writing my usual concert review, attempting to give readers a little taste of what the music was like. But when I sat at my keyboard to begin typing, I realized that this was the wrong approach this time. Because on this evening in May, that brought so many of the best musicians, singers and songwriters in Southern California together to perform, the music, as great as it was, turned out to be merely a postscript to the gathering. This event was about community and about the love this music community has for one of its own.

Ron Sarfaty may be completely unknown to the casual music fan in SoCal, but among the singer/songwriter community here, he is much beloved. Some of this is the result of decades as a devoted fan and friend to many of the best talents this area has to offer. A great deal of this goodwill comes from Ron's immense talent as a videographer of live music, a service for which he will not accept any compensation. But the real reason he is held in such high esteem in these circles is because he is just a wonderful guy, always fun and cheerful and inspirational in the way he lives his life. Free videography for most of the singer/songwriters around here is but a reflection of the sweet generosity of spirit this man exudes! I am proud and delighted to call him a dear friend.

Life threw Ron a major curve ball about nine years ago when he suffered a stroke. Ever since, he has depended on a wheelchair or electric cart for mobility and he was left unable to work at a fairly young age. His hobby of taking videos of his friends' live music performances has helped fill some of the void created by his life challenges. His musical friends have found that these great videos were invaluable in helping promote their music and in helping them to find gigs. Many and probably most of these independent musicians would not financially be able to procure such professional videos and would either have to do without them or have an amateurish one done by a friend. It is impossible to fully quantify the influence his videos have had in furthering the careers of so many artists, but there is no doubt that is considerable.

It was inevitable that Ron and I would become friends. As I got more and more involved in the SoCal independent music scene, everywhere I went to see a show, there was this jovial man in an electric cart seated behind a tripod and video camera. Often he was accompanied by his lovely wife Jean, but very often he was alone. I noticed that many houseconcert venues kept a ramp handy presumably just so he, in particular, would always have access. I also found that many of the videos I was viewing online, trying to determine if I wanted to see an act I had never seen, were shot by Ron.

Then, about a month or so ago, in a matter of seconds, life again changed radically for Ron. A motor vehicle accident only banged Ron around a bit and really shook him up, but it totalled out his specially-equipped van that had let him be independent and mobile. This van was how he was able to get to so many of those music shows that he shot videos of, and now he had to be dependent on other people to get around. Of course, his insurance offered him a tiny fraction of what it would cost to replace the van and all the special equipment necesary for him to use it, so little that even haggling with them about it would leave him nowhere near what he needed. He worried he wouldn't be able to come up with the rest and was facing extended lack of mobility and the isolation that would entail.

Well, Ron had made a "few" friends over the years! The music community in Southern California rallied around him. A bunch of good friends, most notably Sandy Ross and Lee Hirsch among many others, organized a benefit concert on Ron's behalf. All of his musician friends who were at all available offered to donate their talents to appear at The Talking Stick Coffeehouse in Venice, who provided a free location.

So last month on a Sunday, dozens of the best singer/songwriters and musicians in the SoCal area and many dozens of supporters showed up for the benefit concert. It was over four hours of spectacular music, much of it done by performers I know and have written about before, but much of it by performers I had yet to hear. There certainly is a lot I could say about all this wonderful music, but, as I have previously stated, the night was more about the music community and less about the individuals and performances. Many of the songs held special messages for Ron or were actually chosen by him as a favorite from a particular artist. The only one song that I will mention specifically here was the only prerecorded tune we heard all night.  Legendary singer/songwriter Wendy Waldman is one of Ron's oldest and dearest of friends, but obligations left her unable to attend this tribute. Wendy wrote music for lyrics that Ron had written himself,  and together they created "My Island" for Ron and Jean's 20th wedding anniversary last year. It was an extremely special emotional moment in this night when we all listened to Wendy's recording of this beautiful and touching song! The evening was made all the more poignant by Ron not only being with his beloved Jean, but also surrounded by both of his sons and his sister and her family.

In addition to all of the songs and music, there were many donated things auctioned off that night, from things like studio time and instrumental lessons to custom designer clothing and restaurant meals. I was extremely impressed by how many folks there just gave and gave. Performers who were already donating their time were stuffing the donation jar with money, donating things to be auctioned and buying auction items from other donors. And this was from musicians who typically are not the most financially secure people around!

It has become common for many of us who are part of the independent music scene to refer to "the tribe", the loosely defined group of performers and their fans who tend to show up at their shows and often the reference is meant in a somewhat humorous vein. But when people in this community are faced with crisis, be it financial or health or something else, I have marvelled at how this informal network can mobilize and actually DO something special to help out. I think because very many musicians are forced to live without the "normal" safety nets like adequate health insurance or pensions or other retirement plans, a whole lot of them spend significant time worrying about what would happen to them in the case of crisis. I am sure many in attendance had unspoken questions in their mind that night, along the lines of "If I ever need this sort of help, would the 'community' rally to my aid like this?" My thought is that for anyone with anything approaching the generosity of spirit and sweetness of nature of a Ron Sarfaty, this answer is "Of course, we will take care of our own!"

This night was a rousing success! While the money raised still will not cover all of Ron's needs, he is much closer and contributions are still coming in! My biggest hope in writing about all of this is that, just maybe, I can help spur a few others to donate and help out. Here is a link where you can make a donation, any amount will help and be supremely appreciated.

Here is a list of all the performers who appeared (accompanists in parentheses):

Lauren Adams (Ed Tree, Mark "Pocket" Goldberg), Joyce Woodson, Ed Tree (Mark "Pocket" Goldberg, Meritt Evan Raff, Jaynee Thorne), Arlene and Bill Kole, John M. (Chad Watson, Elyse), Fur Dixon, Ken Holm and Tom Hubbard, Tim Tedrow and Terry Vreeland, John Zipperer and Friends (Jaynee Thorne, Tara Sitser, Jime Van Booven), Tara Sitser (John Zipperer), Lisa Johnson and Earl Grey, Suzie Glaze (Rob Carlson, Mark Indictor), Dave Morrison (Chad Watson, Meritt Evan Raff), John Batdorf, James Lee Stanley, Dave Tucker, Tracy Newman, Jeff Gold, Severin Browne (Jaynee Thorne), Lisa Nemzo, Michael Wesley Hughes, Chad Watson and Pam Loe, Gary Stockdale, Ric Taylor, Jaynee Thorne, Randall Kirby

I would LOVE to be writing about ALL these performers. They include some of my very favorites from way back, as well as some exciting performers who are new to me that I will be seeking out in the future. I urge you to seek out live performances and recordings by all of them. They are quite an amazing bunch of performers as well as being incredibly generous human beings!!

And then there were all the hard-working people who planned all this out and then made it all happen. Some of these tasks were not as glamorous as getting on the stage and performing, but without them there would have been no performances!  Here are all the people that were thanked from the stage that night:

Emcee Mentions May 5th
1. The Talking Stick Coffee Lounge – Downstairs venue donation
2. Tara Sitser & Tom Hubbard – Emcees
3. All the performers – Donated Performances
4. Sandy Ross – Performance coordinator & Event Producer
5. Diana Weynand – Production Assistant
6. Greg Grueger & Pam Loe  - Sound Engineers
7. Art Brickman – Stage Manager
8. John Zipperer – Stage Grip
9. Tom Hubbard – Upstairs coordinator
10. John M. – Upstairs song-circle host
11. Jeff Gold, Holly Goldsmith, Lee Hirsch, Linda Geleris, Lois Tedrow, Julie Zipperer – Donation Collection
12. Michael Wesley Hughes – Front Door Manager
13. Ken Holme – Backdoor Manager
14. Lee Hirsch – Auction coordinator
15. All people who made donations for auctions:  Severin Browne, Chad Watson, John & Julie Zipperer, Jeff Gold, Jaynee Thorne, Ed Tree, Darryl Purpose, Lois Tedrow, Paul Zollo, Performers who donated CDs, Coco’s, Denny’s, Las Fuente’s
16. Lee Hirsch – Parking coordinator
17. Bright Now Dental, Ralphs, Staples, Chase Bank – Approved Parking for just this event
18. Lee Hirsch & Sandy Ross – Publicity
19. Russell Paris – Webpage & Flyer creation
20. House concert/venue promoters who publizied the benefit to their audiences:  Jaynee Thorne (Stardust Concerts), Julie & John Zipperer (Julie’s Joint), Bob Stane (Coffee Gallery Backstage), Jeff & Holly Goldsmith (West Valley Music Center Concert Series), Russell & Julie Paris (Russ & Julie’s House Concerts), Lois Tedrow, and Lauri Reimer, Brandon & Nickie (The Talking Stick Coffee Lounge)
21. Leda & Steve Shapiro – FolkWorks front page story and calendar listing
22. Larry Wines – Acoustic Americana Music Guide feature story
23. Roz Larman – Folkscene calendar and on-air promotion (two shows)
24. Katie Bain – L.A. Weekly story
25. Dean Kay – ASCAP Dean’s List
26. Dan Kimpel – Music Connection event mention
27. Paul Zollo – Social Media

I'm sure in all this listing and thanking, someone is being left out and I apologize if my fears are realized! Anyone in the know can send me additions or corrections and I will remedy the slight!  And I urge any of the performers reading this, leave a comment with a link to your website, so my readers (both of them!) can find you! There are just too many for me to do all at once!!! I also want to note that the picture above was blatantly stolen by yours truly! It was by far the best shot of Ron I saw after the event, and I had every intention of asking for permission and crediting the photographer, but in the ensuing weeks, I forgot who I stole it from. If its yours, I apologize for my crime and ask forgiveness. If you let me know, I will give you credit or even take it down if for some reasons it was preferred not to be used!


  1. Peter- Thank you for your article on "It's Not About The Music" - about Ron Sarfaty's Benefit, for the acknowledgment of the music community coming together (which was so awesome) to help one of their own!! You did an amazing job reflecting the feel of the night. And it is wonderful that you have posted the link for donations to continue the intent of the whole night. Along with the love for Ron!!

  2. Thank you so much for your kind comments! Such a wonderful guy and such an uplifting event made writing this both a breeze and a pleasure! Please share the post and the site with your friends!!

  3. Fine review! May we republish it in the Acoustic Americana Music Guide?

  4. Thank you so much, Larry! I would be honored to have you republish, especially if you include a link so people so inclined can read more of my stuff!!!