Jim Bruno (1975-1987)
Chapman Stick, Lyricon, EVI Steiner, Guitar, Vocals
It was such a creative and incredible experience, the whole run of being in the Stickband. I was set free to be as creative as I wanted to be, as a player, a songwriter and as an ambassador of newly invented instruments – what a gift for my musical and spiritual heart. I am so very thankful for meeting Emmett Chapman and being friends to this day. I also met Bill Bernardi, another very creative man and innovator of the Lyrcon – it was really wonderful to have been a part of it. I also played the EVI Steiner, but I never met the inventor. His name is Niles Steiner, and I loved playing his instrument.
Both Bob Culbertson and myself are the only two people who were there from the start to the end. Before I was in the Stickband, I was already a singer and guitar player; I have been singing and playing the guitar from a very young age. In fact, if you hit Jimmynite.com you can read about my childhood musical adventures.
Over the span of the Stickband, we definitely transitioned through different directions of musical genres/styles. We were always working on improving our playing abilities and at the same time we were finding our niche as a band.
We went from Rock jazz-fusion to movie soundtrack experimentation to a top 40’s MTV 80’s group, all the while learning how to play all of these wonderful instruments in so many different settings. It was better than a college music education (incidentally, I did have a college music education), but I feel my real music education was from all of the people and performances throughout my life that shaped my knowledge and playing.
Here’s a reflective thought – the last direction the band metamorphosed into was a Top 40’s group. Now, one might think of that as going backwards musically, but because we needed to be very good on the instruments, it is lucky for us that we started out as a jazz group before we went into the top 40 stuff. We really needed to be solid in our playing for the pop group. The chord changes might have been easier, but the solid groove that was required for the pop group was absolutely necessary. In the jazz group, we just would write a song that went along with whatever we could do on the instruments at the time, so all of the practice with different players and styles paid off by the time we got to what I like to call the Stickband pop period.
By the time we where playing with Mike and Michale we were almost eight years into playing and we had come a long way. The last version of the band lasted 4 years and we had many wonderful adventures. When that was over Bob continued on with a group he named “African Rain”. I did play in that group in some of its incarnations and all of the singers in the group had been vocal students of mine, except for Paula Sorcie who was a friend of mine. After African Rain, Bob went solo and as they say, the rest is history.
As for me, after Stickband, I concentrated on my own career as a singer and continued my teaching career in my music school, Showcase Music Institute. But that, as they also say, is another story.
First, I must tell you that Jim’s enthusiasm is highly contagious. If you have met Jim, then you already know what I’m speaking about. He has a natural born expressive personality. Jim is a fabulous showman and he is extremely energetic. He is switched on 24/7.
Having said that, Jim is addicted to the creative arts. I have always enjoyed walking into Jim’s studio, greeting him and hearing about the latest and greatest musical instruments and technology. With Jim it’s always, “Wait until I show you this”. “This”, being one of Jim’s newly acquired electronic instruments or some new cutting-edge digital sound and recording technology.
I’ll never forget the day way back in the early 1970’s, when Jim approached me regarding “possibilities”. I was hanging out and networking at Guitar Showcase, our local music store. That’s what musicians did long before mobile phones and social media. After some discussion, Jim offered me the position of Drum Instructor in his music school. I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted a teaching income and I wanted to grow my music career.
The invitation to join Stickband came shortly afterwards. For me, it was a golden opportunity to perform in a limitless and musically expressive environment while my drum instructor’s income supported me.
Jim spearheaded Stickband, our rehearsals, and our recording studio sessions. He also did a lot of promotional work for Stickband in booking and scheduling our gigs. Jim was a major creative contributor on all our compositions. His energy and expertise are invaluable.
Jim’s superpowers are obvious. He’s an awesome musician, educator, promoter, and the Stickband spokesman. Jim and I are huge Walt Disney fans. We admire Walt’s creativity and entrepreneurship. When I think of Jim I am reminded of a quote by Walt Disney – “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”. Jim is courageous and he’s always pursuing his dreams. I’ve seen Jim encounter some daunting business challenges during our time in Stickband and he faced all the obstacles with calm resolve. Just as Emmett Chapman imagined the Stick, Jim imagined Stickband. For his courage, and for the warm and friendly person Jim is, I will always admire him.