R.I.P. Bruce

I received a Christmas Card this week from the widow of a close college friend of mine informing me that her husband passed away. I have known Bruce and his wife since high school.

Bruce and I were clarinet adversaries in high school. I was first chair at Holmes HS and he was first chair at Boone Co HS. Sophomore year he was 1st chair clarinet in District Band AND in the KY All-State Band. I was 9th in All-State that year. Senior year, I was 1st chair All-State.

Bruce was a very emotional musician, really getting into his music and emphasizing everything with body movement. I was a more technical player who didn’t see any reason for all the extra body movement. I didn’t like it …. and didn’t like him.

Then we BOTH went to the University of Kentucky. By Sophomore year, he was 1st chair in the Wind Ensemble and I was 1st chair in the University orchestra — and it stayed that way the rest of our time there. We were fierce competitors and I credit him for helping me gain in proficiency, because I knew that if I let up, he’d leave me in the dust…..and I think he felt similarly. The clarinet professor did a good job of ensuring that Bruce and I never played the same pieces.

Somewhere along the way, we became good friends and during junior and senior years, we shared a two room apartment on the third floor of an old mansion a couple blocks from campus.

My girlfriend, who I met at a summer music camp in high school and started dating freshman year at UK, was attending Eastern Kentucky University, about a half hour away. When she and I were having some turmoil, she would call Bruce for advice. THEY became friends and when she and I broke up, the two of them got together. They were married for about 33 years.

That was all good…..because then Joan and I started dating.

Because of the awkwardness of the triangular relationship, I didn’t have much contact with Bruce over the years. We would exchange Christmas cards, but that was it. We stopped receiving cards about three years ago and I didn’t know what that meant. Since I just got this card, I don’t know the details of his death, whether he was ill or anything….. I hope to learn that.

I regret that I didn’t do better at keeping in touch with my friend.

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