At the age of 11, ice-hockey loving Jared Hara lost his sight. He left the hockey rink and learned to play guitar by touch alone. Now guitarist in the LA band Symmetry, he says music saved his life. On World Sight Day, we spoke to Jared about performing live, going barefoot, and how venues need to modernise to accommodate disability.
How do you adapt your live performances as a blind artist?
“I lost my sight when I was 11, so the only bands I think I’d seen at that point were N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys. I’ve never seen anybody shredding a guitar in a rock band. I don’t really know what it means when someone says ‘get into the music’ or ‘look a certain way’. I probably looked afraid to begin with. I think the word that people used was that I looked ‘stoic’. I was in my own world. But it always made sense to me to groove with the music and evolve. I’m not self-conscious anymore. My big thing is to not wear shoes so I can feel the stage if there’s an accident or I fall off.”
What about when you’re watching other bands?
“I’m a pretty aware person and I don’t really stay in my shell. I always try and get out and push myself towards something that I’m uncomfortable with. If it ends up not working, then at least I tried. I’ve been in crazy moshpits before.”
Metal fans are notoriously the nicest guys in the business.
“I’ve been a metal musician for pretty much my entire career, and it’s true. Even if they’re in a moshpit getting their aggressions out, I think they’re there together, like a family. I truly believe that. The world’s pretty screwed up. When people get together in any art form, I really feel it’s a gathering of like-mindedness. In today’s world you need some form of escape.”
How could music venues adapt to better accommodate people with disabilities?
“Anything that’s wider is good. Don’t make it narrow! Just things like that. I think it’s simple. But then again, you could say that making every venue the same would be easier, and it can’t be that way.”
I know you went through a depressive period following your diagnosis. Did music contribute to your recovery?
“Music absolutely did save my life after I lost my sight. It gave me this creative outlet that I never even knew I had inside of me. And when I went through something as catastrophic as going blind, I had things to say. It’s purging in a way, it’s cleansing, it takes these toxins out of you when you write about depression or anything that feels powerful. That voice is mine, nobody else’s.”