Utah street performer finds joy after battling homelessness

Scott Schwarz drums on a bucket for motorists Aug. 30 at a stoplight in Orem, Utah. Known as “The Road Drummer,” Schwarz has become a local celebrity for his energetic street performances.

OREM, Utah (AP) — A chorus of honking, braking and speeding vehicles in Orem is often supplanted by the sound of a drum echoing through downtown.

The source of the noise is a 6-foot-9 man wearing a “Free Hugs” shirt, drumming on a single construction bucket while riding his bike.

Scott Schwarz, 35, has become a local celebrity known as “The Road Drummer” for his energetic street performances, the Daily Herald reported.

Before his rise to fame, Schwarz battled alcoholism and homelessness. The turning point in his life came in his mid-20s when he lost his house and broke up with his girlfriend, he said.

“I continued to hit rock bottom. When you’re only familiar with digging, you just keep on digging. It’s incredibly, incredibly powerful,” Schwarz said of addiction.

Schwarz said he moved in with his sister in Washington state, where he tried to take his own life. The attempt, he said, was his wake-up call. He checked himself into a rehab facility in Orem soon after.

“A lot of people are forced in by the state, or they’re forced in by their families, or they’re forced in by all these other circumstances,” he said. “I think one of the only reasons I’m a success is because I checked myself in.”

He picked up his drumming hobby about two years ago while transitioning out of rehab. The street performers in Portland, Oregon, where Schwarz grew up had always fascinated him, he said.

So, he went to a hardware store for a bucket, got a pair of drumsticks and began practicing. The experiment wasn’t a success at first.

“I would ride by and people were like, ‘Dude, what’s wrong with you?’ Like, I look like a fool,” Schwarz said. “One of the beautiful things about it is it taught me to be OK with failing in public with great regularity.”

He didn’t quit, like he had in the past. Now, Schwarz’s performances draw small crowds of people dancing and cheering him on.

“I’m a party,” Schwarz said. “I bring so much joy to other people.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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