Guitarist, Teacher, Composer
Published, EAC Communiqué, November 1991
ayne Bridge has left music three times, and three times he’s been lured back to the life and training of a professional musician by the fascination of the guitar. His recent move to a house and studio on Mill Street East, Elora, backing on the Grand River, is nurturing his creative abilities. The century house appeals to Wayne’s strong sense of history, and there’s something about the natural aesthetics of Elora that gives him an emotional high: the limestone rock structures of the river gorge and the cedar trees. “Sometimes I see a heron or an osprey by the garden. I feel good about myself and my music. I’m composing after a hiatus of five years.”
Wayne performs on classical guitar for the Gallery Music Group, or for an occasion, but the main focus of his music is teaching and composing. He also repairs fretted instruments and sells them. With his own varied music background, he is equally comfortable teaching Classical, Blues, Rock and Roll or Jazz guitar. Wayne is strong on technique, especially left-hand technique because it opens the way to the performance of any type of music. Wayne says he has made “every mistake known to man” in learning the guitar himself.
Initially he was self-taught. “At Guelph’s John F. Ross high school I became a social misfit, closing myself up, replaying and imitating recordings with tenacious determination. At 16 my sole goal in life was to be the next Beatle!” While still in school he played in a Lounge Band, and in the late 1970’s formed his own Blues band, impassioned by Black American music.
Wayne claims to have come by his tenacity and musicality through his mixed German and British ancestry. His family goes far back in Canadian history. His mother’s family were pioneer Mennonites originating in Alsace Lorraine and emigrating to Pennsylvania. During the American Revolution they moved north and Sam Cress became the first settler in the St. Jacobs area. His maternal grandfather and grandmother were both stringed instrument musicians. His father’s family came to Canada from England as Pioneers to the Queen’s Bush. The pioneer spirit is strong in Wayne’s approach to life, shaped by German pragmatism and the English bulldog tenacity.
In time Wayne’s development on the guitar ran into the limitations of his self-taught technique. Discouraged, but persistent, he took classical guitar lessons to break bad habits and turned to Personnel Administration with a multinational company – the real world! Shortly, feeling the need for more education, he enrolled at the University of Guelph in Sociology. He had been out of school for 10 years. Offered two elective courses, he was lured back to music. Studies in music history and composition drew him back to his old love like a centrifuge. “I guess I was just ready for the richness I found around me. I was like a sponge; I absorbed everything”.
Here Wayne met Dr. Charles Wilson, a composer who became a major influence in his life. Dr. Wilson said, however, that his enthusiastic pupil was “a tough nut to crack” because he was locked into the 5-1 cadences of pop music. Fortunately, studies in composition and music history effected the transformation and Wayne graduated with a B.S. in music.
Wayne is strong on technique, especially left-hand technique because it opens the way to the performance of any type of music.
His background in ethno-musicology and music history enriches his composition.
Wayne was now married to Bonnie, a child-life worker at present in a Mississauga hospital. He set his sights on becoming a professor of music and attended York University, Toronto, focusing on ethno-musicology, Blues and Jazz. But the big-city style of York was confusing and oppressive, and to escape back to a more pastoral life Wayne and Bonnie came to live in Inverhaugh during the final year of the Master’s program. Wayne began to teach guitar, and his thesis was left uncompleted. Eventually he took a studio in Fergus, teaching for two years behind Birdland Music before relocating in Elora.
Wayne often takes long walks in company with his daughter, Jessica, now three. He tries to capture with his camera the nature around him. This summer he enrolled in a professional photography course. “I would really like best of all to be the Robert Bateman of colour photography”, he says with enthusiasm.
Camping on weekends with the family is another way of sharing nature. Recently, reading the poetry of Pauline Johnson by the campfire, Wayne was inspired to begin the composition of a series of guitar interpretations reflecting the moods of numbers of Johnson’s poems. His background in ethno-musicology and music history enriches his composition. Wayne hopes to perform his new pieces as preludes to readings of each poem that inspired them.
Wayne particularly loves live music, and this year is on the board of the Gallery Music Group. His love of history involves him in the Wellington County and Guelph Historical Societies. He feels his life to be enriched by his music students; four of them are at present pursuing post-secondary musical training. Composition, however, brings together all of Wayne’s ardent interests in history, nature and ethnology and wraps them in music. Of this difficult taskmistress Wayne says, “Music is the most unique of the Arts, the most ineffable, one might say almost ethereal, crossing time and space with immediacy, speaking directly to the listener.”
by Beverley Cairns, November 1991
Music is the most unique of the Arts, the most ineffable, one might say almost ethereal, crossing time and space with immediacy, speaking directly to the listener
UPDATE – 1997
The ‘Pauline Johnson Suite’ has had several performances. Wayne Bridge now lives in Fergus, with a teaching studio at Groves Mill. He shares his love of nature through a weekly newspaper column and calendar Nature Watch, and through colour photography.
UPDATE – 2005
The ‘Pauline Johnson Suite’ was recorded in 1994.
In the year 2000 “A Year On The Grand” was recorded and continues to sell. The CD is a collection of Wayne’s solo guitar compositions musically depicting the Grand River from its source to Port Maitland. It was part of a tripartite project – fine art, music and video – the brainchild of Elora artist Linda Risacher Copp and her husband, Terry Copp. “A Year on The Grand” toured the Grand River watershed throughout the year winning much critical acclaim.
In 2004, Linda, Terry and Wayne again cooperated on an art and music project. Wayne teaches from his home in Fergus where he lives with his wife, the former Elizabeth Louise Breithapt of Kitchener. They both sing in the St. Andrew’s church Sanctuary Choir in Kitchener.