Today, someone's body that was important in my personal growth as a musician and artist is being buried today, his life and accomplishments celebrated in heartfelt tribute by his friends and fellow musicians at his funeral, the measure of his worldly contributions cited, tears and memories shared. His patient, devoted and compassionate partner of 26 years, Lynne, a dear and lovely artist herself, must now learn to live without him for the rest of her life.
It will happen to every one of us, our current physical containers shed for an uncertain future, uncharted territory to our body-wrapped minds, but we are offered untold potential for incredible and unimaginable soul possibilities, and so, we move inexorably toward a shedding full of hope and happiness. I like to live looking forward to that sort of future.
I met Spencer Starnes at a friend's birthday party on Lake Travis in 1997, I was a naive and inexperienced talent. (20 years later, I have a deep and abashed understanding of how much I did not know at the time, and so, how far I have come, increasing my appreciation for Spencer immensely.) I was no prodigy, but I had a vision for producing a music album that had excellent quality and depth, and its purpose in the world was to be genuinely beautiful and helpful to others. I was not just producing music as a glamour exercise in fame building and self-absorption. I had a unique perspective and pure vision, Spencer saw something worthy there and so he took me on as a client. He and his dear friend, the extraordinarily talented and humble John Mills (Univ of Texas, Austin), got me through my debut instrumental album (and the following two).
I say "got me through" because on a good day, with perfect performers, and all the equipment functioning well, from the sketchy computer/analog interface to the temperamental but dutiful 2 inch tape machine, (this is 1997, remember) producing a beautiful quality, magical album was NOT EASY!! Spencer and John had to be extremely patient with me, as I was new and inexperienced in studio recording, and although calm patience seems to come naturally for John, to Spencer, um...well, not so much. "Patience" was not his coin. He had exacting standards, and maintained respect only for the most expertly talented. 20 takes into a technically hard passage for me, using an instrument (concert grand harp) that makes a sound only once you let go of a 4 or 5 foot string, using hand movements that must be timed ever so exquisitely BEFORE the click, (notes to fall on the 31st of 32 beats between clicks, at times) both he and I had many tired, difficult and frustrated times together while recording, probably way too many. I am a much better musician today partly as a result of his persistence and sometimes tough instruction, and as time went on, studio recording was more fluid and easier for me. He made up for any possible "patience" issues (my responsibility, humbly admitted) with flashes of genuinely compassionate mentorship and gritty dogged perfecting endurance, fueled by big cups of strong coffee and the integrity of his stomach lining.
With such mutually dedicated efforts "Pregnant Pause" was released, this album won some nice accolades and some awards at the time and 20 years later, people still listen to and purchase that music. It had some legs after all, along with SO MANY of the other amazing artists and albums Spencer Starnes recorded and produced over the years at his Bee Creek Studio. He was just as accomplished and exacting as a live performer also, and he loved both performing and producing passionately.
I honor him (and John Mills, also) for hanging in there with me, for mentoring and teaching me so much. He is appreciated and respected by all the artists and musicians he worked with, following through in his labours with every skill he had with relentless focus and determination. He has left a fine legacy for all of us, albeit much sooner than expected. I wish his soul every happiness and fulfillment in its continued journey. RIP, Spencer Starnes, we will miss you here on Earth. Have fun over there, wherever that is for you!
Next in this series: What's a legacy, and why do we care?