By Louis Bockner
Bruce Hunter’s musical reach is incalculable. It isn’t so much the music he has made directly, for that personal piece is but a fraction of the whole, but rather his role as a music teacher that has affected the lives of many and brought countless melodies into the world.
The Osprey Community Foundation will honour Hunter at its fourth annual fundraising event and celebrate a life of community involvement, teaching, and of course, music on Oct. 18.
Hunter, 78, moved to Nelson in 1970 to take over the music department at L.V. Rogers Secondary.
He stayed in this role for 29 years before retiring in 1999 and now, sitting in his basement studio in Nelson, he looks back on those years with a reverent sense of joy. The passion that buoyed him for half a century is still evident.
“It was a joy to teach these kids and to stay friends with them because I was the same person after class as I was during it,” he says. “I don’t think I was a great teacher but I passionately love music. I worship at the altar of music.”
This reverence began as a child growing up in Salmon Arm where Hunter played trumpet in school. There, as he would do to many students in the future, the music teacher took him under her wing and encouraged him and his band mates to play dance gigs around town.
Despite this he pursued engineering at UBC because “it was the popular thing to do” and, as is often the case when right-brained people try to fit into left brain roles, he failed miserably.
After moving back to B.C.’s interior he got wind that UBC was starting a music program and immediately crammed two years of correspondence education into three months so he could apply. He was accepted and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music.
This led to jobs constructing high school music programs in Abbotsford, a marriage to his wife Barb, and ultimately to a master’s degree in musical education at Washington’s Central State University.
Despite the degrees and education Hunter has never felt he was a master of music. “I was a student of it,” he says, “and have great respect for it.”
He was also an inspired teacher with an ability to engage students simply by being himself. Michael Mayrhofer, owner of Nelson’s Vogue Studios, says that long ago, when he transferred from Trafalgar to LVR, he was ready to quit music but decided to give it one more year.
That’s when he met Hunter and now he still plays music with him in the local band, Playmor Junction.
“He’s just an encouraging and nurturing person,” says Mayrhofer. “He’s still that way and he has his own Bruce Hunter sense of humour which is always a joy to be around. It’s pretty special to play in a band with the guy who kept me in music.”
P’nina Shames, who sits on the board of the Osprey Foundation, says they chose Hunter as their fourth annual honouree because of his positive influence on multiple sectors of the community.
“We picked Bruce because he is very highly regarded as an educator in our community. He has been involved in musical events, the environmental movement, the restoration of The Capitol Theatre and more.”
It’s this drive to be to involved that has dictated much of Hunter’s time in Nelson. Always one to create momentum for a cause he believed in, Hunter also helped establish Nelson’s first recycling depot in the early ‘70s and worked to resurrect a faltering Kootenay School of the Arts.
“I like being in the nexus of something happening,” says Hunter. “I’ve always been a sucker for moving forward and having a project.”
Hunter was still working at LVR when Allison Girvan moved to Nelson 21 years ago and started directing choirs. This was Hunter’s territory, yet she says he was always supportive and encouraging of her efforts. When asked her thoughts on him being recognized by the Osprey Foundation for his life and art she says it feels like a natural thing.
“He’s been a member of this community for so long. He’s shaped so many lives and in turn those lives he’s shaped are now shaping others. He’s a musician but ultimately he’s just an amazing person who cares deeply about people. His effect transcends music.”
The foundation has raised $25,000 over the first three years of the fundraising event with all proceeds being invested by the Vancouver Community Foundation. The returns on these investments are then distributed to local Nelson charities.
The event will be held at the Adventure Hotel banquet room with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on the Osprey Foundation’s website, www.ospreycommunityfoundation.ca or at Otter Books on Baker Street.