Guitarist plays on heartstrings

“Where words fail, music speaks,” is the quote Sean Thompson, 22, lives by.

Thompson, an SF State music major with an emphasis in composition, said he was excited about his career in music, and is constantly pushing himself any chance he has to be a better musician.

But life outside of performance halls and concerts was different for Thompson during his youth. He was raised an only child in the mountainous region of Yankee Hill, about 40 minutes away from Chico State, and growing up, he had a lot of time to himself, he said.

Before Thompson picked up the guitar at the age of 9, he struggled with being overweight and isolated himself with video games.

“Music taught me how to communicate better,” Thompson said. “Before, I was just an observer and a nerd. I loved playing an instrument because it gave me confidence and placement in social situations.”

Sean Thompson, SF State music major, preforms for a small crowd at  the Velo Rouge Cafe in the Outer Sunset Friday Aug. 28. (Imani Miller / Xpress)

Sean Thompson, SF State music major, preforms for a small crowd at the Velo Rouge Cafe in the Outer Sunset Friday Aug. 28. (Imani Miller / Xpress)

Thompson performed solo at Velo Rouge Cafe on Arguello Street Aug. 28 where he performed songs like “Satanic Bumblebee,” a song inspired by his animosity toward bees. Another crowd pleaser, “Mischief at a Jewish Wedding,” had the audience clapping in time to the rapid beat. In between sets, Thompson tuned his guitar and joked with the audience.

“My name is Sean, like Sean Connery,” he said to an approving crowd.

Thompson utilizes his instrument to his advantage, using his palms to knock on the front of the guitar for a drumbeat sound and slapping the strings with his fingertips. He said he has a code of conduct: Always play honestly.

“I always play fully and with my heart,” Thompson said. “You can mess up a few notes, but to play without passion is the worst.”

In addition to performing solo, Thompson plays the guitar in his six-piece folk-rock band, Deep River Valley.

Fellow guitarist Spenser Steinman, 21, has known Thompson for the past three years. He described Thompson as a caring person with the best intentions for people.

“Sean is like a little kid– he brings vigor to the table,” Steinman said. “There is no trepidation with him.”

Deep River Valley plans to create a new full-length album with more than 10 tracks. Thompson hopes to use this album to share his experience of living in San Francisco and his life at SF State.

“A working title would be ‘Ecclesiastes,'” Thompson said. “In the biblical sense, this chapter is about (how) the point of life is meaningless and how we should constantly search for wisdom, but at the same time be grateful and find happiness within simple things. This is the carpe diem, seize the moment kind of mentality that I have been practicing here in the city.”

His roommate, SF State student Julio Marcial, 21, said he was impressed by Thompson’s originality.

“He spends a lot of time translating his emotions from his day to day experiences into his music in such a way that it is clearly Sean playing the guitar,” Marcial said. “It had me by the ears– I have never heard anyone play guitar like that.”

After graduation, Thompson said he plans to audition for the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. He also said he wishes to continue his musical performances.

“I have hope for the future. I want to continue what I am doing now, but with a broader scope. I want to be performing both solo and with bands,” Thompson said. “ I hope to continue growing as a musician and help the music community inspire others to do the same.”

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