Monday, March 19, 2012

Losing Friends

RIP Ross Sears.

I lost yet another close friend this weekend. As I look back at my life, I have lost some really extraordinary people who were in my life on an almost daily basis. It is a small wonder I feel so empty many days. Here’s the list:

Morrell Pfeifle. Mr. Pfeifle (pron FIFE-lee) was one of my conducting mentors. He conducted the ‘second band’ at Cal State Northridge. He was really the first of my teachers who encouraged me. He let me conduct the college band and even as a 21 year old, he had enough faith in me to let me conduct ‘Music for Prague 1968’ by Karel Husa. Not only was he my teacher, but also he was my friend. I only hope I have made him proud. He killed himself, his 3 kids and the family dog in a plane crash.

Ned Truelfels. Ned was a horn player, with whom I played in Debut, and American Youth symphonies. Later, we were both members of the Theophilous Brass Quintet. He had a brilliant career ahead of him. He was just starting to make inroads into the LA freelance scene, getting some excellent studio calls and getting a toe into the great symphony gigs in the southland. He was smart, funny, a great looking guy and always fun to be around. I’ll never forget our all night session, with Stan Friedman, about the merits (or lack thereof) of the minimalist movement. I have his picture (still) on my bulletin board in my office; I think of him daily. He died of a brain aneurism driving to work on the freeway.

Vic Steelhammer. Vic was one of those once-in-a-lifetime meetings. I met Vic under such odd circumstances, and the reality of the situation is that we really didn’t like each other so much. For some reason, we were drawn to each other and in spite of our differences, we became as close as 2 men can become. I felt like his brother and indeed his family welcomed me into their homes and their hearts. I always wished I could be a Steelhammer. He died in a plane crash. I went to the morgue to identify the body. I don’t think I’ve EVER cried so much. I'll never forget the look of horror he had on his face, as he crashed one of his prized, hand-made RC airplanes. I miss his calls, I miss his stupid jokes, and I miss his company.

Phil Zahorsky. If I had to PICK a brother, Phil would be him. He sat next to me 5-6 days a week for 30 years. I can’t begin to tell you how much he did for me professionally; I could write a book. When the SJ Symph went belly up, I didn’t see Phil as much and I felt real grief not seeing him. We talked almost daily on the phone. When he past May 18, 2011, I was overwhelmed. I wept for weeks; some days I couldn’t get out of bed, completely encased in debilitating grief. I have never felt loss such as this.

There have been other people who passed who I miss, Betty Steelhammer (yes, Vic’s mom) Ted Brown, Sam Comfort, Harald Peterson, Tommy Johnson, Mike Villegas. Every loss, a piece of you goes away.

Please take a moment today and tell a friend how important they are to you in your life.