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Santa Rosa grocery store musician keeps the beat to keep the needy fed

  • Ron Schultz plays the drums Friday Dec. 14, 2012 in front of Oliver's Market on Montecito Boulevard in Rincon Valley. ((Kent Porter / Press Democrat))

One unusual thing about the Oliver's Market in Rincon Valley is that musician and retired businessman Ron Schultz plays year-round outside the front door, mostly because he believes the world needs more performing art that folks needn't pay for.

A second interesting thing about this particular grocery store is that it sells an extraordinary amount of Campbell's Pork & Beans.

A third is that that those first two factoids are related.

Although his routine has changed for the holidays, Schultz's regular practice is to go to the Montecito Boulevard market shortly before 1 p.m. every Wednesday.

Still boyish at 69, he sets up a little background-music amplifier, a stool and a snare drum or washtub bass. Beside him he places a donation jar with a sign that reads, "100% percent of your tips buys food for the hungry."

And for two hours, he plays mellow jazz for his own entertainment and, he hopes, that of passers-by. This has been going on for a year. He calls his mission Performers with a Heart.

"It's a serious program, but it's a lot of fun," he said outside the store the other day. He views it as "expanding the arts to a whole new area."

The shoppers who Schultz hopes will enjoy the musical interlude clearly do not have to pay for it. His central objective is to encourage musicians and other performers to make their art available to the public for free.

His tip jar provides a way for the music to produce an additional community benefit. He uses the cash to buy, at Oliver's, cans of Campbell Pork & Beans that he donates to the FISH food pantry.

The FISH volunteers like to have pork-and-beans to give to people in need because it's hearty and versatile. Schultz buys it by the case.

He said it's not uncommon for his tip jar to take in $25 an hour, quite good for a street musician. He was flabbergasted one Wednesday earlier this year to play for his usual two hours and count up $254 in tips.

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