Meet One of Our Beloved Basses, Bruce

How and when did you discover The Choral Project and what prompted you to join? Shortly after moving to San Jose in the fall of 2000, my wife and I saw an ad for a…

How and when did you discover The Choral Project and what prompted you to join?

Shortly after moving to San Jose in the fall of 2000, my wife and I saw an ad for a performance by The Choral Project in The Mercury News. We drove to Saratoga [where The Choral Project was performing] and were transfixed by what we heard. A year or so later, I unsuccessfully auditioned for The Choral Project. Fortunately, one of my qualities is tenacity. I wanted to be a part of this group, so I spent the next few years honing my vocal skills with The Choral Project’s Founder, Artistic Director, and Conductor Daniel and voice instructor Mary Linduska before a friend told me about a new men’s choir that Daniel was forming. That group came to be called Menharmonics. Three years later, when Menharmonics disbanded, I took the opportunity to audition for TCP a second time, and that time I became a member. 

There are some wonderful choral groups in the Bay Area, but I believe that The Choral Project is the total package. Great singing and cool people. What else is there?

What skills have you learned as a singer that have helped you in your profession?

This summer I retired after more than 30 years as a middle school educator. Vocal training and conditioning from singing definitely strengthened my voice for those long and sometimes challenging teaching days. Singing also taught me to be observant of what was going on around me and that is very valuable in a classroom of sixth graders!

Have you always been a bass?

I’d say I’ve been a bass since I graduated from college. From junior high through high school, I was considered a baritone. Although my Mt. Whitney High School Choir Director, Ivan Hershey, needed 2nd tenors for our performance at the Western Regional American Choral Directors Association, I think, and I was enlisted to move up the range ladder as a junior.

What is the most useless talent you have?

I have lots of those. I’d say the most truly useless talent that I have would be to scratch the end of my nose by curling my upper lip. Try it, you might be able to do it too!

If you had to describe the sound of your voice to someone who listens only to mainstream or pop music, what artist or band would you say best exemplify characteristics of your sound?

Hmm. I’ll turn to a cappella singing for an answer to that one. I feel it’s presumptuous to mention my name in the same sentence with him, but the artist and fellow bass who I admire and who has good range—a blending sort of voice that also has lead quality—is Avi Kaplan, formerly of Pentatonix. He’s also from my hometown of Visalia, CA! Maybe you can call Visalia “Bass Town.”

If you had to choose one album by one of your favorite musicians, what album would that be and why?

I very seldom listen to entire albums, but one that I could listen to from start to finish is A Pentatonix Christmas. Their rendition of “Hallelujah” takes me to vocal heaven. The why part would be because I love vocal music and a cappella to me is the purest form of it. There is nothing, in my humble opinion, that is more beautiful than human voices joined together in harmony.

With most of the world in lockdown, public performances have come to a standstill, which, of course, has had a debilitating effect on musicians. How has quarantine affected you, your ability or need to perform, or maybe how you now appreciate music?

The biggest impact that the stay-at-home order has had on me has been not being able to be with my fellow singers and make beautiful music together. I have done some “virtual choir singing” with my church choir and that has been partially satisfying, but there is simply nothing like choral singing in a room full of vocally talented people. The rest of my life has been pretty livable. But singing together has not been replaced during this time.

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

In the summer of 1985, I set out on my bicycle to ride from Visalia to New Orleans. The trip ended successfully, but while riding across Nevada on I-50, I ran out of water. I managed to find a rest stop in the middle of hot and isolated nowhere. I got off my bike and laid in the shade wondering just what I was going to do next. Out of seemingly nowhere appeared a motorhome. Seeing my predicament, they quenched my thirst with lemonade, filled my water bottles, and probably saved my life.

What’s the story behind the vest you chose to wear for your socially distant photo session with Nada?

Ah, the vest. As soon as I heard about Nada’s photo project, I knew that vest was what I wanted to wear. The vest was a gift from my mother-in-law. I haven’t had many opportunities to wear it, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to show it off.

Does your cat, featured in some of Nada’s photos, have a music-inspired name?

That is Smokey. He is gregarious, but his name is based only on his coloring. Smokey came into our lives when one of my school colleagues brought three kittens to school hoping that they would be adopted. I fell for Smokey and brought him home.

Photos were taken by The Choral Project Board Member, Nada Marriott, who observed all rules of social distancing while using a long-distance camera lens. | © 2020 Nada Marriott