On Monday, legendary guitarist Carlos Santana for the first time returned to his alma mater, Mission High School in San Francisco. Joined on stage by student musicians playing guitars he had donated to the school, not to mention his pal actor Edward James Olmos on maracas, Santana and band performed a short set. The visit was meant to celebrate the school’s 85 percent college acceptance rate.
After participating in a roundtable discussion with students, Santana did a Q & A with the media, which KQED’s Cy Musiker attended. Here’s the audio of that session, in which the guitar legend effused on peace, love, and a general adherence to the hippie ethos, even after all these years.
The clip is followed by an edited transcript.
What kind of student were you?
With a lot of hunger to make a difference. When I grew up, on one hand it was BB King and Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker. On the other hand it was Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi, so I just thought both of those dimensions were one. To learn music to heal yourself, your family, and this planet.
Because this planet is sick with fear. We invest so much time and energy and money into the Pentagon, which is the place for fear. We made a difference with Vietnam, we were part of the Black Panthers, we were part of the hippie movement, questioning authority if it’s not enlightened by God.
And we’re still here, the people from Woodstock. We’re still here to ignite the youngest to say don’t be complacent and don’t be ho hum. Without brutality or being vulgar, make a difference. Go out and stop the war. War is not the answer. Only love can conquer hate.
When you were here was there music in the classroom?
The only music in the classroom was ROTC. And I wasn’t about to wear a uniform for any army.
Was it gratifying to you to see all the music the school has now?
Oh it’s incredible! My alma mater was the Fillmore. Hanging around with Bill Graham and all the other musicians. What I did learn from here was the principle of caring. Teachers had a lot of passion and were really present with the students. They looked you in the eye and everything else stopped, you mattered. That’s what I take from Mission High School, those teachers who taught me to be 150%, not 50 or 100.
You’ve given guitars to school, have been very generous. What did you hope to change here?
Fear, brutality, genocide, suicide. Music is harmony and unity. When a person’s not in harmony with themselves, then they do harmful things. If we can change Mission High School, then we can work on Richmond and Oakland and the other schools. If we can integrate spiritual values, without using the word religion, then you would not see so much violence from police to brown people here in San Francisco. Because I’m very aware of the brutality that happens between the police and the people. Trigger happy.
The more you educate people, the more they have a sense of self worth, of value, the more they value other people’s rights, and the more they embrace and feel oneness with their heart and with their light.
Do these kids remind you of yourself?
Absolutely. They’re the architects of tomorrow. It’ll change America to be what it’s supposed to be. America is a social experiment. Right now, we have a spiritual deprivation. We’re pretty good at arrogance. We’re number one at nothing. I don’t say it when I’m in another country but when I come home I can say it because it’s my house.
We need in schools not necessarily Buddha, Krishna, but we need spiritual values. Something that can uplift consciousness.
Here’s video of Santana’s appearance from KGO: