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Spotlight On ... Bernie Dalton
A Musical Legacy of Love

May 4, 2018 - Santa Cruz, California

Bernie Dalton is a man who has always been driven by love. His love for surfing drove him from his bed at 4am to watch the sunrise over the surf in his hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. His love for his daughter, Nicole, drove him to be a nurturing and devoted single father, and his love for music and writing songs drove him to seek out the vocal coach, Essence Goldman, in January of 2016. Bernie wanted to strengthen his voice and gain the confidence to perform his songs publicly. Two months into the lessons, Bernie mysteriously lost his voice.

The loss of his voice and other symptoms compelled Bernie to seek the advice of a neurologist. After rounds of testing, Bernie was diagnosed with bulbar onset ALS-the most aggressive form of ALS- and was told he would have 1-3 years to live. He was 47 years old.


Bernie Dalton pictured with Essence Goldman and a friend.


Bernie resolved to create a lasting legacy for Nicole and his future generations. As Essence writes on their website, “He wanted them to know who he is, he wanted them to know his views of the world, and convey his advice for living in the lyrics he wrote.”  So, he asked if Essence would collaborate with him to create music for his lyrics and record an album.

"I could no longer speak or sing,” Bernie says through an Eye Gaze device,“so I asked my singing teacher, Essence, to become my voice."

Backed by the generous support of family and friends, Essence and Bernie began their journey to create the songs that would eventually become the album, “Connection.” Essence contacted a group of talented musicians and the band, Bernie and the Believers, was born. The creative journey they embarked on together was filled with joy, frustration, laughter and tears. Bernie’s health rapidly deteriorated over the 6 months since they started writing and recording, so much so that the band had to share the final recordings with Bernie at a nursing home. “Bernie's is a story of courage and creativity despite crushing hardship,” says Essence. “Making this album has allowed Bernie to focus on music and creativity instead of the devastating disease he is facing.”


Bernie and the Believers' premier album, Connection, featuring essence.


Elevated by the positive response they have received for their music and story, Bernie and Essence have been able to build awareness about ALS care with local and national media.  As part of their journey, Bernie and The Believers created a video submission for the NPR Tiny Desk Contest. This deeply moving performance can be viewed here:

Upcoming Performace: See Bernie and The Believers on June 15, at The Reel Fish Shop & Grill in Sonoma. Visit

The ALS Association Golden West Chapter salutes Bernie and the Believers for raising their voices and sharing their beautiful work with the world.   Download their album, “Connection,” on iTunes to enjoy Bernie’s inspiration.