Until three years ago, pianist Beau D. Flasher of Sebastopol was a fairly typical musician, quietly gigging at local clubs and wineries while teaching private lessons and giving workshops.
He grew up in Sebastopol, played baseball and golf, then graduated from Analy High School. After studying at Tulane University and Santa Rosa Junior College, he was given a scholarship to study jazz piano and composition at Sonoma State University with the late Mel Graves, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2003.
“In my 20s, I kept myself busy around music,” said Flasher, now 34. “I always liked teaching and guiding people ... I had a following. You do something for 30 years, you get good at it.”
But one fateful day in the fall of 2012, his musical career and right hand were nearly ripped away from him by a nasty fall.
“I was outside, walking on some logs above solar panels,” he recalled. “I slipped and fell a good six feet to the metal girder. I got up and looked, and blood was gushing, and you could see the bone and tendons flapping around, but I couldn’t feel any pain yet.”
His mother found him laying down with his wrist wrapped in his shirt and drove him to Palm Drive Hospital. That’s when the pain started to hit. His gash was temporarily stitched up, then later reopened by hand surgeon Dr. Kai-Uwe Mazu of Santa Rosa Orthopaedics, who put his tendons back together again.
“He said, ‘We’re going to fish out your tendons, grab them, then glue them to the bone,’” Flasher said. “Eventually, they grow into each other. Then you tear the tendons off the bone ... and hope they hold.”
Flasher was unable to use his right hand for three months and spent six months in rehabilitation. He was told he would never play the piano the same way again, which led him to undergo a spiritual “awakening.”
“I had no idea what to do, and I had no idea what to feel,” he said. “But for the first time, I had to feel, and it was a gift ... It was like someone took out the cork, and I started feeling things. I got front row seats for who I was.”
Now, three years into his recovery, Flasher has started to give back to others by sharing his journey of self-discovery. For an upcoming free concert at Sonoma State’s Warren Auditorium, Flasher has prepared a 90-minute, multi-media presentation that weaves together slides and piano music with a subjective narrative about the injury and how it has affected his life.
“Music is nice, but I always felt that the audience wanted to know who they are,” he said.
His best friend, professional pianist Max Cowan of Berkeley, will introduce Flasher, describing him as an “incredibly humble musician.”
“Over the years, Beau’s ego has gone away ... He’s fundamentally interested in the success of others, and his goals are that you achieve yours,” Cowan said. “It’s almost like it took this injury to draw the music out of him in a way he felt like he could share.”
Flasher’s keyboard style is similar to the free-flowing sound of pianist Keith Jarrett, with hints of classical and jazz with a soothing “New Age” feeling.
“When I play, I feel like I’m talking to the piano,” Flasher said. “I feel I’m connecting in a spontaneous style, even though there’s form, structure and harmony.”
In his June 20 show, Flasher decided to play the piano and talk about the injury to his wrist, then play some more and talk about the body and the mind, and how fear can stop people from living consciously.
“The mind is the fog,” he said. “You’re in the fog, and it’s hard to see who you are ... If we choose to allow ourselves to feel, and if we stop for a moment and feel it, we’ll understand the choices that we make.”
Change doesn’t necessarily require a radical realignment, Flasher believes. You can initiate changes with little tweaks to your perspective, such as changing the time you go to bed and or wake up, what road you take to work or where you go out to eat.
“As soon as you tweak that pattern, it opens up a window,” he said. “People think they want more money, a bigger house, a Ferrari ... You have to affect choices that you can make, then step out a little bit and look around.”
Since the accident, Flasher has stepped back to the piano bench to write “365,” a collection of 365 original songs that range from the melancholic “Echo” to the hopeful “Out.” He recorded them at his home studio on an acoustic Yamaha piano.
“In the second year (after the injury), I didn’t feel like I had it anymore,” he said. “But in 2014, I started feeling good, and I started to play and record. I wanted to do a song for every day it took me to come back.”
In the future, Flasher hopes to incorporate his personal narrative into his concerts as a way to inspire others.
“I’m passionate about it,” he said. “And people need to be inspired these days.”
Although his right wrist is slightly indented from the injury, he has stopped trying to cover up his scars.
“Embracing it has helped me feel less self-conscious,” Flasher said. “It was an accident, but it becomes who you are. As Miles Davis said, ‘There are no wrong notes.’”
Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or email@example.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.