Zach Farley in his studio with some of his “From seed to song” instruments. Photo by Bob Brandt

Having spent virtually all his 46 years in Patagonia, Zach Farley, personifies the term “home grown.” The term also perfectly describes the musical instruments he creates from organic materials, as though the man and his creations were inseparable, which, in large measure, they are.

The story of Farley’s claim to fame (if not fortune) as the maker of unique “Home
Grown Instruments”
begins during his tenure as a tuner at High Spirits Flutes, a job involving “very delicate work” and one at which he rates himself one of the best
in the world.

While attending a Native American music festival in Phoenix, he became fascinated by a flute made from a gourd and decided to try his hand at making one himself. Pleased with the product and the fun he had making it, he began to produce gourd flutes in quantity. This required a steady supply of gourds, so he took to growing his own crop, an enterprise
so successful that his gourd patch became a local attraction of sorts.

While the gourd flute was his initial instrument, Farley’s experimented with ever more challenging projects. The flutes have since been joined by an impressive array of other instruments – guitars, ukuleles, dulcimers, drums, shakers, even a sax – made from bamboo, agave, sunflower, yucca, even PVC pipe and cigar boxes. (How’s that for thinking outside the box?)

A visit to his studio or his Facebook page gives you the feeling that Farley could make a legitimate musical instrument from just about anything you hand him. His gift for turning an ordinary commodity into a thing of extraordinary beauty and melodic utility was recognized by KUAZ TV when it featured him in a 2017 episode of “Arizona Illustrated.”

YouTube video

Music has been hugely important in Farley’s life since he picked up the guitar in his early teens, in part to help him cope with the loss of his father who died in a motorcycle accident. But musician would be a most inadequate way to describe this complex, creative and compassionate man. Yes, he plays wonderful music and produces instruments that enable others to do likewise, but there is so much more to Farley.

As well as musician, he considers himself an artist, inventor, farmer and teacher, the latter role one of his favorites as he gives music lessons in the public schools and other venues including the Creative Arts Center where his best friend and wife of 22 years, Cassina, directs arts programs for adults and children.

Farley has two CDs to his credit. The first, Southern Migration, is an original project inspired by the majesty and grace of the annual sandhill crane migration. The title of his new release, Repurposed, is a nod to the home grown instruments used in its production. Both are available, as are his instruments, at Creative Spirit Artists Gallery in Patagonia.

Throughout his life, Farley has sought to merge music with everyday life “because it offers so many ways to express yourself.” He finds his music’s most meaningful expression in working with individuals and groups at the extremes of the human life cycle. He loves working with kids because of their energy and enthusiasm but he feels especially honored and appreciated when invited to play at funerals, when music can be so comforting to
grieving loved ones.

Success is measured in many ways. In Farley’s case, he considers making money from his business to be secondary to the joy of making the instruments and the music and sharing that joy with others. “When it stops being fun,” he says, “I’ll quit doing it.”

That strikes a responsive chord with me.

“Musicians of Note” recognizes individuals and groups who have crafted the rich and vibrant musical tapestry of Eastern Santa Cruz County.