In the new feature documentary Hearing Is Believing, the extraordinary multi-talented musician/composer Rachel Flowers reveals what it’s like to have perfect pitch. Award-winning producer/director Lorenzo DeStefano introduces the world to the phenomenally talented Flowers, creating a dynamic and engaging portrait of a musical prodigy. The documentary follows Rachel, who is blind, and her single mother living paycheck to paycheck with two children. Underscored with Rachel’s stunning music as the soundtrack, Hearing Is Believing revels in Rachel’s joyous love of song, illuminating the bonds of family and the divine mysteries of creativity.
Rachel works primarily in the jazz, classical, soul, R&B, and progressive idioms and has shared the stage with Dweezil Zappa, Arturo Sandoval, Taylor Eigsti, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Marc Bonilla, Jordan Rudess, Steve Porcaro, Rick Wakeman, Burt Bacharach, Bob Reynolds, Cuban legends Bobby Carcassés, Bellita Y Jazztumbatá, Orlando “Maraca” Valle, and The Santa Barbara Youth Symphony.
In this one-on-one interview, Flowers and DeStefano reveal how their passions in music and filmmaking helped bring Hearing is Believing to the screen.
What inspired you to make this documentary?
Lorenzo: A friend of mine in Ventura said you have to come down and hear this woman. I went down in January of 2014 and it changed all our lives. After that initial meeting, a couple of months later we were filming. We filmed the story in about 52 days and we covered almost a two-year period. It was basically this little story, about this little person in this little house. We were looking for the great that exists in the small.
What’s your favorite instrument?
Rachel: The piano
Do you have a favorite song?
Rachel: Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock.
How do you create a song? What’s the process?
Rachel: It’s a mystery. From my emotions. One time I was at the beach, and I sort of got this musical idea in my head. Sometimes, I’ll have a dream about a song and then I’ll just write it out.
You involved the entire family in this documentary. What was your thinking behind that?
Lorenzo: Musical background is important here. Rachel was born premature. Getting to know the family, her parents Dan and Jeanie, and her brother Vaughan was important.
Why did you choose to expand your ability to play other instruments?
Rachel: I just like hearing the sounds of the flute when I was growing up. It took me awhile to find the right flute and someone to teach me how to play. I played guitar for a while and I just started exploring different instruments. I would listen to the Grateful Dead and other artists.
Do you often accompany your mother with an instrument when she sings?
Rachel: Yes. Sometimes the piano, sometimes the flute.
You have a beautiful voice. How often to do sing in church?
Rachel: That was a special instance. I sometimes accompany my mom and dad in church with the piano or flute.
What was it like performing at the Libby Bowl?
Rachel: It was fun, really exciting. Over 1,200 people showed up. I played 20 songs for two and a half hours.
What do you like about the Jazz workshop?
Rachel: That was a fun experience. I got to listen to a lot of people and some new concepts. I got to sit in and play in different combos; one was directed by another pianist. I learned all his songs by ear.
How has David Pinto helped you?
Rachel: A lot. He helps me with technology, recording music on the computer.
What’s it like hearing violinists play songs you composed?
Rachel: Exciting. Playing on the Steinway piano.
That guitar work you did with the Zappa band was amazing. What went through your mind when you were up there?
Rachel: One thing I enjoyed doing is when I studied Frank Zappa’s music, I did the solo and got into the vibe of what Frank was doing.
The ending of the film was emotionally powerful. How did you decide on what you wanted at that point?
Lorenzo: Well, you always need to go back to the house, the family. There’s a structure there. The events keep growing from the church, to the Libby Bowl, the jazz experience and to the Zappa performance. But you always come back to the house.
Is Hearing Is Believing only available online?
Lorenzo: It’s in select theaters now and we’re hoping to go to New York, Houston, San Diego, Santa Fe and Toronto.
Check out her virtuoso performance at the Libby Bowl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egX6szomB0M