A musical colleague lost, but a musical memory remains

At 7:30 Friday morning, as I was sitting in the lobby of UWM’s recital talking to friends about the upcoming day of the NATS auditions, I got a message on my phone.

A high school friend of mine, Bruce Adrian, had died. I don’t know all the details of his passing, but Bruce had battled diabetes for some time, and a mutual friend had expressed concern about him earlier in the week. Especially when Bruce, who I once referred to on Facebook as “liberal firebrand,” did not respond to the results of the midterm elections. There should’ve been at least 10 links on Wednesday decrying the GOP taking back the House! When there were none, we were all concerned.

Bruce sang with me in Milwaukee Hamilton High School’s swing choir and concert choir, and we were in all three musicals together – Music Man, South Pacific (I’ll never forget his coconuts in “Honey Bun”), and Guys and Dolls. He was, as someone else said, “Larger than life.” He could imitate a bicycle horn and often did ad nauseum. He made this sound — “Haugh!” — that bears a striking resemblance to the sound my dog has been making recently….

After high school, we went our separate ways, as I did pretty much with everyone in high school at that point. We really did not see each other again until our class reunion in 2001 and really reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago.

I remember him getting into a Facebook argument with a conservative ex-friend (long story, I didn’t really know the guy, he was married to someone from HS and was using her FB name to write stuff on other people’s walls and I unfriended him not because he was conservative, but because I didn’t really know him and he insulted my real friends). The two of them went back and forth debating a topic, with me interjecting a few things before I got tired and went to bed. When I finally did that, there were 16 comments to the original post… when I woke up the next morning, there were 64. All between Bruce and Larry.

Bruce apologized for cluttering up my wall. I said I felt like the hostess with the guests who wouldn’t leave, and I left them in the living room and went to bed, only to find them both passed out on the floor surrounded by overflowing ashtrays and empty beer cans. (Which kind of sounds like a swing choir party I remember way back when…) But I didn’t mind.

Today I taught a girl the song “All the things you are” by Jerome Kern. As she was singing it, I had a sudden flashback to singing it in swing choir and saw Bruce in my mind, at 17, dancing and singing and full of life.

I wish I’d gotten to see him one more time. I had told my husband how much he would like Bruce – they had the same taste in music and politicians – and I’m sad that neither of them had the opportunity to meet. They really would’ve liked each other.

Rest in Peace, Bruce Adrian… you are missed.

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