Where words leave off, music begins

I’ve been wondering how long before I started writing and thinking about the power of music; well, I guess this is it. I’m getting things around for Kelley’s celebration of life on Sunday, and tonight, I started pulling together a playlist to provide background music for the day. Of course that got me thinking. This is going to be a long, rambling, reflective one, folks.

I don’t remember a time when music was not important to me. Earliest memories are sitting around campfires singing folk songs like “If I had a hammer” with my parents, and listening to “The Ballad of John Henry” on the 8 track player. From earliest times, my life has been accompanied by a sound track.

In many ways, I’ve been exceptionally lucky in my musical journey. I would never be so arrogant to consider myself exactly talented in music, but I’ve always had the passion to want to learn, and was truly blessed by great teacher role models. From Mr. Evans in elementary school who showed so much passion for music, to Suzanne Murlin, who got my whole love of performance started in fourth grade, I certainly received a great foundation for a love of music performance, and, I guess, in music in general.

I could easily write a whole novel about what each of the next three gentlemen did for me: Dave Vantilburg, Bob and Boyd Loughrige. Essentially, what these three men taught me really shapes who I ended up being in my life. In short, Dave gave me the courage to perform. I put up a damn good facade, but just below the surface, I’m backwards, socially awkward and suffer from some pretty bad anxiety. Learning to perform on stage was one way to get beyond that, and in many ways, the Jud many of you see is a character I’m performing. It doesn’t ring as a good thing, but that character armor, let’s my true self come out more easily. Bob and Boyd, with the exception of my family, are probably two people I respect, and really love, more than anyone else. Had I not picked up the baritone in fifth grade, I honestly do not know where I would be, but with relative certainty, I can say it probably would not be a good place. Bob was the first to give me confidence that I really could do something and do it right. Yes, I’m a teacher now, but I can say much of my teaching style today comes from understanding what it’s like to be a very average student. Band was the first place I wasn’t that very average student.

Boyd Loughrige is still hard to talk about. (I literally just paused and thought how to go on for about 10 minutes) He taught me so very much, not just how to play the bass and use the circle of fifths to create a bass line, but an awful lot about life and how to live it. He ended up hiring me to work years and years of band camps, and that gave me so much valuable experience with kids as I worked through college. In the end, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I was more choked up and cried more at his viewing than my dad’s, although that was probably a gestalt moment where the grief was greater than the sum of its parts. To this day, I bawl like a baby when I hear “Leader of the Band,” thinking of what the Loughrige brothers meant in my life.

Today, I still have a soundtrack to my life, thanks to Dan Ruckman, who, besides being Kelley and my best man, allows me to help get the Pride of Coldwater on the field.

As I assembled Kelley’s playlist, I came to the realization that it would take a library of storage devices to hold all the music that holds special meaning to me. From “Night Train” and “Harlem Nocturne,” jazz tunes which I’ll never be able to forget on the bass, to “Come out and play” and “You’re gonna go far kid,” which I blast in the car to get my blood moving before announcing a football, music punctuates my life. (Now everyone is going to watch for my car on Friday nights) I condensed Kelley’s musical life into about 3 hours of music I knew she loved and enjoyed. I wish whomever has to do that for me the best of luck.

I do think music can be a salve for the soul. Listening to all these songs tonight brought back such a flood of memories of times Kelley and spent together. The music helps me picture the moment, and that kind of surprised me. Pondering it now, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because music reaches beyond our surface thoughts and grabs onto our souls, and I thank it for that.

I touched on a lot of genres in this post, so here are links to each song I mentioned:

If I Had a hammer

John Henry

Leader of the band

Night train

Harlem Nocturne

Come out and play

You’re gonna go far kid (language warning)


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