[Smt-talk] Bruce Campbell

Patrick McCreless patrick.mccreless at yale.edu
Thu Jan 5 08:42:46 PST 2012

Dear smt-talk Colleagues,

I'm writing to mourn the sudden passing of my friend and colleague Bruce 
Campbell, and to honor his memory.  Bruce and I met as very young 
members of the theory faculty of the Eastman School of Music in the late 
1970's--he working on his Yale dissertation on Beethoven's Op. 59 
Quartets, I working on my Eastman dissertation on Wagner's /Siegfried. 
/Our offices were across the hall from one another on the seventh floor 
of the Annex Building at Eastman.  As we got to know each other better, 
we discovered that we had much in common--not the least of which was 
that we shared the same birthday.  Or, actually, the same birth night:  
Bruce was born just before midnight on the night of October 8-9, 1948, I 
just after midnight; he in Philadelphia, I in Odessa, Texas.  Despite 
the fact that we grew up in utterly different cultures, and had entirely 
different undergraduate and graduate educational experiences, we ended 
up at more or less the same place:  keyboard/organist trench musicians, 
and budding music theorists (in the years when it was just becoming 
possible to be a budding music theorist), both with a focus on canonic 
tonal music, and both teaching at Eastman.

For two or three years Bruce taught the advanced freshman theory section 
at ESM, and I the advanced sophomore section.  Our practice then was to 
skim off the top dozen or so students who performed best on the entrance 
theory exam, and put them in a special section, with its own curriculum, 
for their two years of basic theory.  With these gifted students we were 
given a wide berth with regard to what we taught--in essence, we could 
teach whatever we wanted to teach, so long as we more or less covered 
the basics of tonal harmony, form, and ear training.   And so I would 
inherit as sophomores the advanced students whom Bruce had taught as 
freshmen.  I was always impressed by the preparation they had received 
from him.  Clearly he had led them in the direction of being quick and 
insightful musicians, with excellent writing and aural skills, and with 
an appreciation and indeed love of the musical, and music-theoretical, 
discipline that they learned in his course.  By the time they entered 
their sophomore year, they were ready to roll:  they knew repertoire, 
they knew many of the right questions to ask, and they had an interest 
in how good compositions were put together.  I was, I must confess, a 
bit intimidated by what I knew their experience in the preceding year to 
have been:  I couldn't, or didn't, hand out musical examples with 
beautiful calligraphy, or spend countless hours in the middle of the 
night preparing cassette tapes (that was the advanced music technology 
of the day) of just the right examples with just the right performances 
for every class, or do any of a number of other things that Bruce 
lovingly did for his students.  But I did what I could, and it was a 
pleasure to work with these students, and to see how their musical 
careers have developed over the past three decades.  With Bruce they got 
a head start.  It is not surprising, but certainly inspiring, to learn 
from many of his students since then, over his 25 years at Michigan 
State, that he continued the same superb teaching for the rest of his days.

Those of us who knew Bruce well know that he was no fan of 
institutional, academic music theory, as it has developed since the 
1970's; he wrestled bravely with it for his entire professional life.  
Indeed, though he was perfectly competent in /musica theorica, /his 
interests and strengths lay in /musica practica, /where he used his 
formidable gifts to make a cherished contribution to his students and to 
his musical community.  He valued balance in his life, and he 
complemented his university teaching with on-the-ground music making in 
East Lansing and beyond--composition and arranging; many years of 
distinguished work as an organist/choirmaster; and (I now learn), as a 
bagpiper, lover of all things Scottish, and participant in the Iona 
Community in Scotland.

He also balanced his musical life with his family life, and it was a 
pleasure for me to see, if only at a distance, his devotion to his 
family:  to Sulin (whose Eastman thesis on the slow introduction in 
early Beethoven was the first master's thesis I ever advised), and to 
his children, of whom I only met the eldest, but all of whom, I suspect, 
are energetic contributors to their community.

A person and musician with many gifts, used faithfully and consistently, 
doing much good, day by day, over many years:  who could ask for 
anything more?  May he rest in peace.

Pat McCreless

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