Ian Hesford – Photo by Philip Laubner

 Joanne Juskus – Photo by Philip Laubner

 Jason Sage – Photo by Philip Laubner

It was almost exactly three months ago that fans and friends of Telesma gathered at Ram’s Head Live for a concert that would go down in the history books. By now most reading this will recall, April 20th was the day that Ian Hesford died on stage just minutes into Telesma’s set. After being rushed to the hospital, he was brought back to life. This Friday Night, dreamers, revelers, mystics and magi will once again gather at Rams Head for The Resurrection Show.

Telesma have received much press regarding the unexpected death and miraculous recovery of their well-known and well-loved percussionist. Instead of simply re-stating the facts, I would like to share my personal experience with this bizarre, amazing, and perspective-changing event.


After working on their new album, Action in Inaction, for months, excitement levels were high at Ram’s Head as the crowd gathered for the Visionary Solstice Gathering. Around 11:00 PM, Telesma took the stage. After a chant to gather and ground the crowd, the set began. A few minutes later, the music suddenly stopped. Commotion ensued onstage.

Baffled onlookers began to realize that Ian was down. For whatever reason, my first thought was that a speaker had fallen from above and hit Ian on the head. As Tom Swiss and Sarah Saccoccio rushed the stage and began pounding on Ian’s chest, it became clear that the situation was serious.

Bryan Jones – Photo by Philip Laubner

Chris Mandra – Photo by Philip Laubner

Rob Houck – Photo by Philip Laubner

The scene seemed to unfold in slow-motion, made even more dreamlike with Saccoccio’s face painted as a skeleton and Ian donning his usual full body adornment. It seemed like forever until the paramedics arrived. And when they did, their entrance was casual, perhaps expecting a usual night club patron collapse. When they realized that their patient was on stage and not in the crowd, there was a palpable shift in attitude as they realized the weight of the situation.

Paramedics worked on Ian onstage before bringing him out to the ambulance, where they continued CPR for quite some time. The feeling inside Ram’s Head had shifted dramatically. Excitement and joy became fear and sadness. An announcement was made that the show was over and most people left as asked. Ian’s bandmates and closest friends remained, and a spontaneous prayer circle emerged. Through the tears of fear, a mildy calming sense of community and love emerged. As the ambulance departed, those remaining embraced each other, providing a momentary  glimmer of comfort.

That night, we drove Ian’s car back to our parking lot, where it would sit for the next month, as Ian lay in the hospital.

Telesma performing at Prequinox, 2011 – Photo by Theresa Keil

The Hospital

Over the following weeks, Ian fought for his life. Trips to the hospital were overwhelming, but this intensity was countered by an outpouring of support and love from the community that surrounds him and the band. I was amazed that upon all of my visits to the hospital several, if not all, of his band members were present. At one point we were told that only family and band members would be allowed in his room. For me, this solidified the notion that Telesma is much more than a band. They’re a true family working together to spread love and magic.

Often those working at the hospital knew who you were coming to see before speaking. Without saying a word, the receptionist would ask, “Are you here for Ian?” This was only the he first sign that even the hospital knew that his stay there would be different from most. Perhaps it was the rather unusual appearance of some of Ian’s friends that gave it away, but I think it was the substantial outpouring of concern and care that distinguished us from the crowd.

Over the first few days, upwards of 10 people at a time circled Ian’s bed. This was an obvious bending of hospital rules, but a blind eye was turned as a tribe gathered to heal its sick, and support each other.  In the mostly silent room, you could almost see the healing vibes and positive thoughts being sent directly to him. A harpists and didgeridoo player came to play for him while he was still unconscious and fellow band members played their new album continuously.

The first week had its ups and downs but come week two, things were looking up. A calming sensation emerged. He was going to make it.

By the middle of week 2, the TV in Ian’s hospital room displayed the hundreds of Facebook messages posted to the band’s fan page expressing, love, prayers, and support for Ian. It was intense for everyone to read. Ian was understandably overwhelmed by the outpouring of love pointed directly at him.

Ian was released from the hospital in mid-May.

Photo by Theresa Keil


Less than two weeks after Ian collapsed on stage, the 25th Annual Powwow took place. On the Facebook event page, we posted a message that we would be collecting donations for Ian’s trust at the festival. I was amazed at the number of people who responded to the post offering to help, and stating that they would bring donations to the event.

At the day-long festival, hundred of dollars were collected on Ian’s behalf, with the help of bucket-carriers Theresa Keil and Kaela Marie Land. A stand alone donation bucket was setup at the Proper Playground booth, which served as a place for people who had brought extra cash for the cause to drop it off. Someone even made magnets with Ian’s picture on it to offer to people in exchange for a donation.

Aside from the great success of individual contributions, Powwow organizer Kelly Richmond also donated a portion of the days proceeds to Ian’s trust. All in all, it was a day filled with love, giving, and true support for the fallen band member.

Tom Swiss (who save Ian’s life) with Ian at Sowebohemian Festival 2012 – Photo by Theresa Keil

Sowebohemian Festival

Throughout this whole time, I never fully allowed the emotion of the whole situation to really hit me. But that all changed at May 27th‘s Sowebohemian Festival, which I attended with Ian, his mother, and band mate Jason Sage. This was Ian’s first full-fledged public appearance since his heart attack, and it was rather difficult to ignore the intensity of the day.

Ian joked at one point that he could not walk 500 feet without someone stopping him, in mild disbelief. It was hard to walk even a block without someone approaching him for a long embrace, expression of love, and a short or long conversation. The most powerful moment was witnessing the reunion of Ian and Tom Swiss, one of the two responsible for saving Ian’s life. Tom, who had to leave the country on business shortly after 4/20, had yet to see Ian since that night. Their hug must have lasted several minutes. Everyone who saw this, myself included, had tears in their eyes.

To experience this day, with Ian, his mother, and his long-time friend and fellow band mate, felt like a privilege. The experience provided some closure to the chapter of uncertainty.

Photo by Theresa Keil


One month later, at KarmaFest, I saw Ian perform again with Telesma, the event’s featured peformers. It seemed all attendees gathered for the final concert of the day, as Patricia Hawse, organizer of KarmaFest, introduced the band with an excited and partly comical statement: “Ian is back from the dead!”

Watching Ian perform again held special importance for me, as it seemed like we had almost come completely full circle. The concert was intense, but the overwhelming feeling was total joy and happiness in seeing Ian back on stage, and Telesma back in business.

Photo by Theresa Keil

The Resurrection Show

For those who wish to experience Telesma back in action, this Friday night will see the redo of the 4/20 Visionary Solstice Gathering. It’s aptly called The Resurrection Show.

The event will feature Adam Scott Miller, as well as sculptor Sean. E Conroy, facepaint by Patricia Tamariz, performances by The Indra Lazul Bellydancers, Heather Joi, Jeramie Bellmay, Aerial Acrobat “Miss Prince”, myself, and many others.

This time around, fellow musical guests will be Baltimore’s favorite gypsy band, Balti Mare, along with Neil Kurland.

The event kicks off at 9PM, and for anyone who was in attendance at the last show, tickets will be honored for this one.

Click here to purchase tickets

After Friday’s show, there will be no doubt that Ian and Telesma are back, as the last three months slowly fade away into the past, and the band looks towards the future.

Photo by Theresa Keil

Final Thoughts

It is said that all shaman must go through a death and resurrection, be it real or metaphorical, in order to gain the true understanding of the universe. For anyone who has been in touch with Ian, it is clear that the last three months have changed him, and he now has a new understanding and appreciation for life.

This new understanding seems to have emerged in those close to Ian as well. He has provided us all with the chance to reflect on the fragility of our own lives and the power of love. Watching someone fight for their life can have no other effect than to respect your own, and your short time here on planet earth.

But to me, the greatest lesson I have learned from this all is the true power of community. Going through an ordeal such as this with friends and family strengthens those bonds that connect us all, and build relationships that will stand the test of time… through life, death, and resurrection.

The nurse that saved Ian’s life, Sarah Saccoccio, with Ian and Patricia Tamirez after Ian’s recovery – Photo by Philip Laubner.

Ian Hesford at Artscape, 2011 – Photo by Theresa Keil

  • Benshermanguitar

    Just beautiful David, thank you.