Music Up, Lights Down at the Blind Cafe


"By keeping it as local as possible, it becomes a very organic and authentic process rather than just having my whole team showing up in a city and knowing nobody and then leaving," Rosh said.

Fifty-eight-year-old Gerry Leary is one member of the Blind Cafe's permanent blind wait staff. Leary, who has been blind from birth, has been working with Rosh for two years now. One of the main servers, he helps to train new wait staff in every city.

"I bring [guests] in to the dark room and seat them at the table and get them oriented with their place setting and food," Leary said. "But we probably average one person per show that asks to be brought back out."

In those instances, Leary says a waiter will take the guest out to the light for a break, but he says those instances are rare.

"I want people to realize that you can function without one of your senses and that there are ways within yourself to adapt to a new situation," Leary said. "I'm hoping that people will use the other four senses and learn how to interpret them better."

Those four senses are no doubt used profusely during the dinner. Leary says patrons in past Blind Cafes have become so lost with using their utensils in the dark that they eventually use their hands to eat. Even throughout the concert, patrons are left to only imagine what the stage or the musicians look like.

At Blind Cafe, Musicians Learn To Play In The Dark

Though the band has seven band members, only two members travel with the Blind Cafe. Rosh, the main vocalist and guitarist, and cellist Phil Norman travel and hire local musicians in every new city.

"I want to build a community experience, and I want to create an opportunity for them to come into this context and share their personal gift," Rosh said. "And these string players, they have to learn to play in the dark and that can be a challenge."

With two local violinists and a violist accompanying the band at every new city, the band is a little bit different even though they play the same music at each Blind Cafe. However, music isn't always the main reason why many patrons seek the Blind Cafe.

"I've met people from all walks of life coming in here," Leary said.

Leary says some people have blind relatives or spouses and want to better understand what their lives are like, while others are just curious about how the Blind Cafe works. Regardless, Leary says they leave having experienced something unlike anything else.

Jodicus Prosser, a Blind Cafe patron and a retired military pilot, told, "This reminded me of when you're first taken into the cockpit and you're completely shielded from anything outside, so all you can do is use the instruments and trust this little needle telling you which way you're going and if you're going to land correctly. It's quite amazing when they take the hood back off and you realize that you've made the best landing you ever made."

Prosser said he hadn't experienced anything like the Blind Cafe since his work in the military. "The experience was much the same, you realize that there are other senses that are better than all that dependence we put on our eyes." contributor Suyun Hong is a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau in Austin, Texas.

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