The co-founder and executive director of San Francisco's renowned Blue Bear School of Music, Steve Savage, reflects on the organization's 50-year anniversary and Bob Marley's wise words.
Fifty years is a long time to make music, much less teach it to more than 40,000 students. But that’s been Steve Savage’s big rhythmic picture since the early 1970s at San Francisco’s Blue Bear School of Music, which still enrolls 850 students per quarter. The school also has enrolled 4,000 children in free classes through 62 community partnerships. This year, Blue Bear teams up with Mission Bay’s Mercy Housing, a national developer of affordable housing, to off er free music programming for residents and other low-income housing tenants in the neighborhood.
“In the words of the great neurologist and humanist Oliver Sacks, music has the power to induce brain states, thoughts, moods, mental landscapes, visions and transcendences, which are without precedent, without parallel and cannot be evoked by anything else,” says Savage, who’s also a musician, producer, engineer and, of course, teacher of many.
You’ve worked with so many talented musicians, but who changed your perspective about music? I met Bonnie Hayes when she was 16, and we ended up working together for many decades. She was always inspirational and uncompromising.
Best concerts you’ve ever seen in SF? Jimi Hendrix at Winterland with the original trio in 1968. Miles Davis with Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette at Basin Street West in 1970. X at the Deaf Club in 1979. Trombone Shorty at Bimbo’s for the Blue Bear School of Music benefit show in 2010.
Book you love so much you often recommend or give it to friends? How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh. This is my guide to mindful meditation. He just passed, but his influence remains. My kids made fun of the title, of course, but mindful sitting requires guidance and practice.
What would you say to your 21-year-old self? Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be alright… Bob Marley, of course.
Best advice you ever received about your career? When the newly hired mix engineer, Brian Risner, came in to mix the first Bonnie Hayes record, the first thing he said was ‘Let’s make a record.’ That taught me to bring confidence into recording sessions, in order to put everyone at ease.