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My Dave Brubeck Story: Why He Was More Than a Legend

When I was 14 years old, the unimaginable took place. It started out as your normal, average day. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and got ready for school. As usual, I spent the day sitting in class just waiting for that moment when I could get home and put my hands on the piano. Yesterday, my idol Dave Brubeck was in town for a concert and I was more inspired than ever.

After school the previous day, I sat down and began playing the piano, excited to go to the concert that night. My mom, meanwhile, was checking her email when she noticed a message from Russell Gloyd, Dave Brubeck’s manager. A few weeks ago, I had found out much to my surprise that I had been selected to attend the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony. Never in a million years did I expect to get in— they only accepted 3 pianists in the country and I was just an inexperienced 14-year-old. But somehow it had happened. When we heard that Dave would be performing in town, we decided to send an email to Mr. Gloyd.

Mr. Gloyd’s response was very kind. He told us that Mr. Brubeck would very much like to meet me and that we should call him after the show to come say hello. I remember that night like it was yesterday. I was mesmerized by the performance, eating up every note that emanated from the Dave Brubeck Quartet. After the show, we called Russell and sure enough, it was time to meet Dave Brubeck himself. We navigated the dark labyrinth of backstage hallways until we came to a dressing room. Inside sat Dave’s entire quartet as well as Russell, and Dave’s wife Iola. Those were some of the most exciting moments of my life. Before leaving the dressing room, I handed Dave the CD that had gotten me into his Summer Jazz Colony. I really never expected him to listen, but I at least wanted him to have it.

When I got home from school the next day, I sat down at the piano as usual.  For a while now, I had been trying to convince my parents to purchase an answering machine. We finally got one the week before. My mom went over to the answering machine and began listening through the messages. After the first two messages, I stopped playing the piano. From the machine came a voice that sounded old and wise in quality, but playful and youthful at the same time. “Hello, Noah. This is Dave Brubeck.” He proceeded to tell me that he, Iola and the band were all listening to my CD on the bus and that they were really enjoying it. As you might imagine, this was easily the most exciting moment of my musical career up until that point. Even today, I feel excited just thinking about it

I wanted to share the story because to me it is a great example of the kind of man I knew Dave Brubeck to be. He was very kind and generous. While he was extremely well-known for his incredible piano playing and composing, he did not let this stand in the way of dedicating his life to inspiring others. His sons Chris and Dan continue to spread this inspiration by being kind to all and embracing young musicians. My experiences with them have been equally as inspiring as with their father.

I attended Mr. Brubeck’s Summer Jazz Colony three more times and eventually went on to be the pianist in his year-long college program called the Brubeck Institute Fellowship Program. I am honored to have been involved with the Brubeck family and I thank them all for their kindness and inspiration. I can safely say that without Dave Brubeck and his wonderful family, I would not be who I am or where I am today. Mr. Brubeck will be greatly missed.

Noah and Dave Brubeck

Thank you again, Mr. Brubeck.

-Noah Kellman

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