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Musician Deven Starr’s assistance from fellow performers after suffering serious injuries is indicative of the Siesta Key way, he says

By Hannah Wallace

Deven Starr had never been in a car accident. But on Dec. 30, as the Siesta Key musician drove home from a gig in Cape Coral, he collided head-on with a wrong-way driver.
The injuries were significant. In the hospital for days afterward, Starr felt lucky just to be alive. He needed physical therapy to walk again. “I couldn’t stand for quite a while. I ended up in a wheelchair for a while,” he said. “Things felt like borrowed time. I thought, ‘It’s pretty cool that I’m still here.’”

Deven Starr in the hospital, where a long road awaited him in terms of getting back in playing shape. (submitted photo)

Only later did he begin to think about his livelihood. In an ideal month, he played between 25 and 30 shows. But in 2022 he’d already been sidelined once in the summer with sinus surgery. Then his income took a hit again in September when Hurricane Ian devastated southwest Florida. And now Starr faced yet another setback going into 2023. His career was in jeopardy.
“I couldn’t even play a guitar. My hand was out of commission,” he said. “About a week after the accident, I started to think, ‘I need to figure out what I’m going to do.’”
Fortunately, his peers in the Siesta Key music community were already rallying their support.
Starr grew up in a musical environment in the Englewood/Fort Myers area. His father was an amateur guitarist and bassist, and the two even played in a band together.
But the seeds for Starr’s career as a professional performer were planted in Sarasota’s beachy music scene. When he was 14, his dad took him to Cha Cha Coconuts on St. Armands Circle, where Sarasota musician Rodney Shenk was playing.
“I saw money in his tip jar, and I was like, ‘Wait, you can actually do this?’” Starr remembered. “That was my first spark of interest in making it a career.”

After college, Starr stage managed some touring bands and even took a two-year stint as a cruise musician. Then, about nine years ago, he attended an-open-mic-night-turned-audition at Siesta Key Oyster Bar.
“Nick LeValley was hosting. I just showed up, and we jammed out a couple songs,” Starr said. “Now I’ve been playing there every other Wednesday for six or seven years.”
Starr has been a regular performer up and down the Village, including Blasé Café, Gilligan’s, Daiquiri Deck, and the Hub. He said his success has been as much about reliability as it has musical talent. “I’m not some classically trained, amazing musician. I’m self-taught, I go on vibes. You can be an OK musician, but if you’re consistent, you show up, you’re good to people, you can do it. Be better to people than you are at your job.”
It’s a mantra shared by his Siesta performing peers.
“I’ve seen a lot of cutthroat competition, like the seagulls in Finding Nemo — ‘Mine! Mine! Mine!’ It’s just not like that around here,” Starr said. “I think that’s why the vibes are so good here. I have not experienced anything like this anywhere else.”

Starr performs at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, a few months after being in a serious car accident. (photo by John Morton)

At least one of those peers agrees.
“It’s hard to put into words what makes the Siesta Key music scene so special,” said Bobby Schneck, another longtime southwest Florida musician. “There is a positive energy here that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country, to my knowledge. I lived in other parts of the country where the music scenes were kind of toxic. Lots of us [on Siesta] will run down the street on our gig breaks and cheer our buddies.”
But when his career seemed to be on the line after his injuries, Starr still was surprised by the fervent level of support he received from his peers. He was still in the hospital on Jan. 3, just four days after the accident, when he got a text from Schneck: “Hey, we’re going to put something together for you.”
“It’s kind of a family,” said Starr. “Bobby is like a big brother.”
Schneck worked with other musicians, as well as the owners and management at Pop’s Sunset Grill in Nokomis, to arrange a benefit.
“That Monday morning I started making a bunch of phone calls,” said Schneck. “We got a total of 12 acts together to play on the two stages throughout the day. It was remarkable how quickly and easily the whole thing came together.”
“A Day for Deven” took place at Pop’s on Jan. 17. One after the other, the musicians took the mic to perform and call attention to Starr’s situation. All together, they played for more than nine hours.
The funds they raised have made all the difference. Starr ultimately had to cancel more than two months of shows. And by May, he was still on an abbreviated schedule — about 18 shows a month. His arms still get tired playing or even holding the phone up.
“I could’ve really tanked. [The other musicians] kept me from being in a spot where I would have been really struggling,” said Starr. “People took time out of their day. That’s the most amazing thing. A musician donating their time is literally the most valuable thing we have. I wish I could do more for them.”
See Starr’s upcoming gig schedule at

Bobby Schneck (left) and Starr at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar. (photo by John Morton)
Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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