Musician, music educator, author, and music publisher Bruce Edward Gbur died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest after a short illness at the age of 62 on October 30, 2017 in Wichita.
Bruce was a brilliant, passionate, and unforgettable character who was often described as a giant of a man with an even bigger heart. A beacon of positive energy, he was caring, generous, inspirational, and encouraging with his students and colleagues, and had an affirmative impact on musicians throughout the globe. A witty and delightful raconteur (who could be hilariously sarcastic), Bruce was also a fierce warrior for social justice.
Dr. Gbur was born August 19, 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio. His musical interests were inspired in early childhood by his mother (Mary Ann Herzberger Gbur) and were boosted when his Scottish great-grandfather gave him a toy bagpipe. He became hooked on wind instruments, particularly the bassoon, contrabassoon, and oboe. His other childhood fascination was with reptiles, and he seriously considered a career as a herpetologist. A graduate of Lakewood (Ohio) High School in 1973, Bruce earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music at Baldwin-Wallace College in 1979, where he was elected to membership in the national music honorary, Pi Kappa Lambda, and became a member of the Beta Phi chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity. Bruce earned his Master of Arts in historical musicology (1991) and his Doctor of Musical Arts in bassoon performance from the University of Georgia (2001). His principal bassoon instructors were Ronald Phillips (Cleveland Orchestra) and William Davis (University of Georgia). He also studied oboe with Dwight Manning (University of Georgia).
Dr. Gbur taught at the University of Georgia as a teaching assistant (1987-94), at the State University of West Georgia (1994-98), Georgia State University (1997-98), Kansas State University (1998-2008), Tabor College (2012-15), and Highland Community College (2016-17). While at KSU, he had the heaviest and most diverse load in the Department of Music. In addition to bassoon and oboe, he also taught woodwind techniques as well as undergraduate and graduate music history classes (for majors and non-majors). He also directed the Collegium Musicum, coached woodwind ensembles, and performed with the Konza Prairie Chamber Players. Dr. Gbur also played Scottish Highland Bagpipes at numerous KSU graduations and other university functions. He spearheaded the Department of Music’s annual Telefund drive for many years.
Recognized for his encyclopedic knowledge of music history, Dr. Gbur was a popular lecturer, not only in the classroom but also for pre-concert events and for various civic organizations. He was well known for his contributions to music periodicals, for writing liner notes for numerous compact discs, and for providing program notes for numerous orchestras and music festivals throughout the United States, including the Columbus (Georgia) Symphony Orchestra, Evansville Philharmonic, Furman University Symphony Orchestra, Hastings (Nebraska) Symphony Orchestra (since 2003), Hendersonville Philharmonic, Kansas State University Orchestra, McCain Performing Arts Series, New Hampshire Music Festival, Sunflower Music Festival, Topeka Symphony (since 2001), and the University of Georgia Performing Arts Center. Linguistically talented, Bruce was fluent in Austrian-accented German and Dutch, and had moderate facility in other European languages. He wrote program notes in German for the American Institute of Musical Studies Orchestra in Graz, Austria.
Dr. Gbur played bassoon and/or contrabassoon with countless professional orchestras throughout his career, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic (1978-79), the the Florida Symphony Orchestra (1982-87), American Institute of Musical Studies Festival Orchestra in Graz, Austria (1984-97), the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (1985-1998), Savannah Symphony (1985-90), Atlanta Ballet Orchestra (1987-97), the Atlanta Opera Orchestra (1991-97), and many regional orchestras in the Southeast and the Midwest. He was contrabassoonist with the Topeka Symphony from 1999 until his death and was principal bassoonist with the Hastings Symphony from 2003 onward. He also performed occasionally as a bassoonist and/or contrabassoonist with other orchestras, such as the Cleveland Orchestra (with whom he recorded Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” under conductor Lorin Maazel). Prior to moving to Georgia, Bruce was a member of the U. S. Navy Band at NTC Orlando. He also played with the Manhattan Municipal Band for many years. He played solo recitals in Asia, Europe, and the U. S., and was a frequent performer at conferences of the College Music Society, the International Double Reed Society, and other professional societies, as a soloist and with his bassoon quartet, Depraved Indifference.
Perhaps Dr. Gbur’s greatest impact on the music world was as the founder and proprietor of Prairie Dawg Press and Mountain Lion Press, established in 2006, which published over 200 compositions from the Renaissance to the present, most of which he edited himself. Many of these works have since become standard repertoire items throughout the world and have been recorded. He was also an editorial board member for Bassoon Heritage Editions, Bocal Music, and Frog Peak Music.
Dr. Gbur held a variety of leadership positions with Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity at Baldwin-Wallace College and the University of Georgia (Epsilon Lambda chapter). Upon his arrival at KSU, he helped reactivate the society’s Tau chapter. He later became Governor of Province 7 of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (1999-2012), was a member of the fraternity’s Commission on Standards (2003-06), and was the fraternity’s National Historian (2009-15). He was renowned for nurturing generations of new initiates into the fraternity, for embodying the ideals of Phi Mu Alpha, and for championing American music. Fraternity dinners that he prepared as his home were celebrated for his culinary skills and for their conviviality. Bruce’s chicken paprikash, chili, homemade pierogis, hot chocolate, and spaghetti sauce were legendary.
Survivors include his partner, William O’Neal Latty of Manhattan; his father, Robert Emil Gbur of St. Petersburg, Florida; and his brother and sister-in-law Jeffrey Alan and Jerri Gbur of St. Petersburg, Florida. Bruce was preceded in death by his mother, Mary Ann Herzberger Gbur and by his stepmother, Rose Evelyn Cichra Gbur.
A memorial concert in honor of Dr. Bruce Gbur will be held Tuesday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in Manhattan. Bruce’s friends in Georgia plan to hold a memorial concert in his honor at the University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music in late spring 2018.