Recording session at Ocean Way NashvillePhoto via Instrumental Horizons

By the time Luke Putney graduated from Belmont University in 2017, he’d already won an Emmy and started his first business. That he was blind clearly hadn’t stopped the musician and civically minded organizer from achieving his goals so far, and he has set many more for himself — mainly tied to his nonprofit, Instrumental Horizons. 

The organization donates musical instruments and volunteers music-related services to help people in the U.S. and in other countries. These folks might not have access to instruments or music education because of socioeconomic challenges, or they might be coping with a medical issue and benefit from having music as a creative or therapeutic outlet. In just a few years, Instrumental Horizons has given out instruments and participated in workshop programs in Nashville; Atlanta; Punta Caliente, Honduras; and several cities in Colombia.

The big moves Putney and Instrumental Horizons were making came screeching to a halt in 2017. Not long after graduation, Putney suffered a stroke and a seizure, and upon being hospitalized, found out he had a brain tumor. Following nine surgeries and a stay of more than three months in the hospital, he went through a rehabilitation program that lasted more than a year-and-a-half, where he had to re-learn how to walk. 

Now that he no longer has to use a wheelchair, Putney is trying to push himself as far as he can. He’s walking a marathon (one mile each day for 26 days) to raise money for an organization called Music Works in Cape Town, South Africa, which will use the funds to support music education and music therapy programs for kids in underserved communities. 

To further entice you to help out, Putney has written a song called “Cape Town (I Miss Africa)” and recorded it with a parade of A-list musicians at the renowned Ocean Way Nashville studio on Music Row with bass legend Victor Wooten producing. On the recording, you’ll hear: Bakithi Kumalo, who plays bass and sings with Paul Simon; Bob Franceschini, who plays sax with George Benson and Chaka Khan among others; local sax luminary Jeff Coffin, who plays with Dave Matthews Band, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and more; Derico Watson, drummer for Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten; along with trumpeter Darren English and percussionist Brad Covington.

The song is mixed, mastered and ready for listening, but it’s not available on your typical streaming platforms. The only way to hear it is by visiting the Instrumental Horizons website to make a donation. 100 percent of donations will go to Music Works. 

Putney has written about his desire to change perceptions about people with disabilities. “I’ve tried to be successful in everything I do,” he writes on his website, “so people can see me and say: ‘Hey, he’s disabled and he’s still succeeding!’ ” His determination to make a difference with Instrumental Horizons shows a commitment to the power of music as a means of healing, motivation and community. You can see that for yourself in the video below, in which he explains the marathon project.