Sandy Harvey: El Gaucho Tacoma Pianist

Sandy’s life would make the perfect script for a movie. Born in Tacoma as the youngest of 6 children, music played a big role in his life from the start. Both of his parents enjoyed a variety of music and encouraged their children to play. His older brothers were in bands in high school, and his parents allowed “band” practice in their living room. They’d push all of the furniture to the sides and even bring in a drum set. “I was too young to play at the time, and was upset because we only had one TV in the house – in the living room. Band practice always coincided with “Combat,” my favorite show, so I couldn’t watch it,” he laughs.

Sandy’s talent and passion showed early on, and even though he was shy as a child, Sandy performed in talent shows at school and church, and joined the church choir at the age of 9. At choir practice one day during a lunch break, Sandy sat down at the piano and started to play. A choir member heard him from the hallway and quickly found the choir director to listen in. Sandy was only 9 years old when he became the church pianist and accompanied the choir.

He took formal lessons and played in a neighborhood band when he was in 6th grade; the other members were in high school. His parents said he was “too young” to play with them. It might have been his first band, but it certainly wasn’t his last.

After high school, Sandy played in bands and started playing with Benny Latimore, who at the time had a couple of hit singles. This led to concert tours, and they opened up for well-known acts such as The Temptations, Earth, Wind & Fire, Gladys Knight, BB King, Isaac Hayes, KC & The Sunshine Band, and The Ohio Players, to name a few. This led to one of his favorite times as a musician; hanging out with one of his musical idols, Stevie Wonder, and recording with “Wonderlove,” his band at the time. Stevie opened up his studio to Sandy for a month, and, for Sandy, working in that environment was tops.

After living a life on the road, Sandy decided to settle back in Tacoma, where he started a family. Never wanting to be the “starving artist,” he began working at Boeing, in addition to playing musical gigs. He would punch in a full day at work, then head to the club and play from 9 pm – 1 am. “I would get off work at 1:30am, be in bed by 2 am, the alarm would go off at 5 am, and it would start all over,” he explains. “I’ve been kind of busy,” he chuckles. “It’s taken a lot of balance and sacrifice.”

He took internal classes at Boeing while on the job, and today is a Systems Engineer, logging an impressive 33 years with the company (and still counting!).

Sandy has also created a home studio, complete with keyboards, computer, microphone, and a Petroff Grand Piano that he treated himself to a few years back. It was there he recorded a commercial jingle for Emerald Queen Casino, which received heavy play on local TV and radio.

After years of playing in bands, Sandy decided it was time to go solo. He reached out to El Gaucho Tacoma to see if there was any interest, since his genre of music, which he describes as “timeless,” seemed a good fit. After auditioning with owners Paul and Chad Mackay, he started on Friday and Saturday nights in November 2009; shortly thereafter he was asked to play two additional nights a week. Sandy is the only El Gaucho musician currently who both sings and plays the piano.

He laughs that the most challenging part of working at El Gaucho is when guests try to talk to him when he’s performing. “I just can’t play the piano, sing, listen, and carry conversation at the same time,” he says. “My mind can’t juggle all of that!” His favorite part, however, is when, at the end of the night, a guest will say to him with sincerity, “Thank you – you made my night.”

Sandy can make your night, too, every Wednesday – Saturday at El Gaucho Tacoma from 6pm – 10pm.

  1. Shontae Ramsey

    Sandy truly gifted and his music is of the highest caliber. I will come back to El Gaucho’s when he is playing whenever possible.

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