By STACEY VREEKEN
You may have never met Marty Collins, but chances are pretty high that his work has touched your life in some way. That’s why a who’s who of Santa Cruz singer/songwriters, including Lacy J. Dalton, Mary McCaslin, Jim Lewin, Patti Maxine, Sherry Austin, Steve Palazzo, Sharon Allen and the Coffis Brothers, will turn out for at a benefit concert Sunday at Don Quixote’s in Felton to help defray the filmmaker’s considerable medical expenses while recovering from complications from treatment of lymphoma and esophageal cancer.
Collins is the co-founder of Santa Cruz Digital Media Factory on the Westside of Santa Cruz, and, as a filmmaker and producer of the TV and Internet series “Santa Cruz Live,” has supported some of the town’s top musicians. He also filmed the PBS documentary “Girls from Santa Cruz,” featuring Dalton, Mary McCaslin and Ginny Mitchell, who also happens to be his wife.
Now it’s time for them to return the favor.
In an “intimate evening of song, stories and laughter,” performers will trade turns in an acoustic song circle, says organizer and performer Sharon Allen. Dalton will come on for the last set and finish the night.
“It’s an unusual and refreshing format for a show,” says Dalton who compares it to “Austin City Limits.” “It’s mostly old friends and some folks I haven’t heard before. I’m looking forward to hearing the show as much as the audience.”
Longtime friend Dalton calls Collins a dreamer. “Not just a dreamer. He actually actualizes his dream. He’s got some big dreams that are inspiring and wonderful.”
This is the second benefit for Collins; the first was held in September at the Digital Media Factory while Collins was in an acute long-term care center in MarinCounty after his bowel was perforated while treating the esophagus cancer. Now that he is back in Santa Cruz, medical expenses during recovery continue.
“We’ve been really blessed that the community stepped up in big way. It’s been a hell of a journey, and we never would haven gotten this far without everybody,” says Mitchell, who will perform while Collins watches Sunday’s show via Skype.
“I just want to be there with my friends and playing music. It’s good for me and just good all the way around,” she says. Mitchell expects Collins to recover though it may take a year of nutritional and physical therapy after healing from a ventilator and feeding tube.
“I wanted (Collins) to see how much he’s loved and admired, and this is a way of showing him just what a community does,” says Allen who was a benefit recipient herself when her guitar and PA were stolen. “It’s really overwhelming when a community comes together and rallies around you to help. This is my way of saying thank you, and let’s get together for Marty now.”
Collins is part of a tight circle of artists and musicians who have lived and performed in Santa Cruz for more than 30 years. A simple video of Collins speaking for the first time in months has been zipping around the Internet in the last week.
Singer and guitarist Steve Palazzo remembers when Collins married his high school friend, Ginny Mitchell, and that “they had both met in each other, the partner that they would go the distance with,” he says, describing, as do many of Collins’ friends, his quiet strength.
Collins and Mitchell were there for Palazzo, offering the Digital Media Factory as the venue for a concert and fundraiser for Palazzo’s longtime partner Amy Haberman, when she was ill.
“We’ve never forgotten the selflessness, generosity and outpouring of love that we received from them and the community of folks that came to our aid in the most dire time of need,” says Palazzo. “It’s going to be a heartfelt gathering of talented musicians that all share a common love for Marty Collins and wish to help in the ways that they best can.”
Palazzo introduced the youngest performers of the evening, the Coffis Brothers, to the group as their teacher, and they taped a Santa Cruz Live performance before Collins entered the hospital.
“We would be going to this show whether we were playing at it or not. The lineup is excellent,” says Kellen Coffis. “Jim Lewin and Steve Palazzo are two of our favorite guitarists so seeing them on the same stage is really cool. Intimate acoustic shows always seem to have a certain spontaneity that make for special nights of music.”
Sherry Austin talked about the special connection forged by musicians in Santa Cruz, singing on each other’s albums, camping together at music festivals, loaning equipment.
“Marty is a decent guy. He’s the quiet lion who doesn’t need to roar about his work. The quality speaks for itself,” she says, noting that Collins probably has filmed everyone on the bill. “He’s usually quiet and introspective until you ask him about his craft. Then he becomes animated and speaks with passion about what he does, and does so well.”
Patti Maxine remarked on Collins’ “warrior spirit,” while Mary McCaslin called him “a great and talented person with a huge heart.”
Lewin describes Mitchell and Collins as “tireless and prolific creative spirits on a grand scale. Individually and as a team they pour their entire lives into major creative undertakings, involving large communities of talented collaborators and turning their dreams in to big entertainment marvels for our town and for the world at large.”
When this group of musicians turns out to give back, it should be a pretty good show.