The Coast News Group
Tate Sanderson in his recording studio on F Street in Encinitas. He wrote and recorded “Will Power,” a song for a former student of his, to help raise money and awareness about muscular dystrophy. Photo by Tony Cagala
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Music leads to bond, song of friendship

ENCINITAS — Tate Sanderson has lived the life of the proverbial rock star, touring around the world, playing guitar on stage with iconic rock bands as Tesla and Black Flag and all in front of thousands of screaming fans.

But the rock star road took an unexpected — and maybe unorthodox — turn a little more than a decade ago, a turn that he credits for giving him a whole different outlook on life.

In 2004 Sanderson went from spending months on end on the road to putting down roots back in his hometown of Encinitas, all because, he said, he needed to take care of his young daughter.

Though with no longer being on tour, Sanderson needed to find a job.

“I couldn’t really go out and be doing the rock thing,” Sanderson said. “I had to be there for my daughter.”

Sanderson eventually landed a couple of new gigs: working as a teacher to special needs kids in local schools and opening a small studio in the building his parents own on F Street where he could record and teach guitar lessons.

“I’m kind of lucky to always have a place to come back to,” he said.

While music was always in Sanderson’s life (his parents made him take piano lessons at 3 years old, he said, to finally picking up a guitar at the age of 12) he started bringing music into the classroom.

About eight years ago, while teaching, Sanderson met Will Bennett, the son of former San Diego Chargers standout punter Darren Bennett. Will, who has muscular dystrophy, was one of the first students Sanderson had started to work with on music.

During that time, the pair formed a bond over music and bands, with Will becoming a seeming encyclopedia on the subjects.

Despite the continuing issues muscular dystrophy had on Will, Sanderson said that he always kept a positive attitude. That inspired Sanderson to want to do something for Will.

“Being a professional musician… all I knew was touring and playing around,” he said.

And so what Sanderson felt he could best do was write a song.

“Will Power” was the end result.  The song, which took Sanderson a year to write, working on it in little bits at a time, is heavy on the rock and blues — something out of the arena of ZZ Top — one of Will’s favorite bands.

Much of the song’s lyrics actually came from things Will would say, Sanderson explained.

Will is always looking on the bright side of life, Sanderson said. “So if you listen to the song, it’s about looking on the bright side of life,” he said.

This is the first song Sanderson’s written with the sole intent to raise money and awareness for a cause. All of the proceeds from the purchase of the song go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

He gave an early version of the song to Will for his birthday a couple of years ago, and an updated version was recorded at his home studio and at Oceanside’s No Mercy Studios, which is now available for the public to purchase or request on local radio stations.

Sanderson continues to work with other special needs kids, introducing them to music and instruments.

He said he thinks working with the music helps the kids become more social.

“Kids that like music, they want to help the other kids learn music, so they have this bond all of a sudden,” he said.

“Also, it just gets them to where either they’re thinking of things they wouldn’t normally think of, and they’re doing things they didn’t think they could use their hands for… but all of a sudden they’re playing chords — and they may be shaky but they’re making a chord and they’re making it sound good.”

Besides teaching, Sanderson has been back to working on new music and writing songs. He said now that his daughter is about to finish high school he’s ready to hit the road again.

The music he’s been writing is bluesy, with some country — but it’s all rock ‘n’ roll, he said. “I don’t ever veer too far from rock ‘n’ roll.”

While he might have missed the rock life he left behind years ago, Sanderson added that leaving it kind of saved his life.

“I’ve got a different whole outlook on life, so I think my songs maybe will have more clarity to them and more of a message. And I know I’m a helluva lot better guitar player, because I’ve been teaching the whole time.”

Visit for a link to the song “Will Power,” and more information.