Saturday, March 24, 2007

In Loving Memory

Col. Jim Roueche, Jr. 1923-2007

We called him “Jingle Jim,” at first. We noticed him my sophomore year at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro sitting in the back of Hart Recital Hall, in the old music building. When he walked, he jingled. I suppose it was his keys? I never knew, for sure. Like many young people in today’s society of prevalent stalkers, abductors, and weirdoes, we initially found Jim… well, creepy. But he didn’t care, or didn’t notice, and continued to attend student recitals, ensemble concerts, and before long befriended the students and faculty at UNCG’s School of Music.

He was at my senior recital. He was at my best friend Julie’s wedding. He liked to talk about jazz and his days in the military. When I graduated and moved away from Greensboro, he sent me clippings about the local music scene, and programs from the school’s jazz recitals, always folded up into free mailings from local arts pamphlets, a message scrawled inside, he knew how to avoid paying for a stamp! He also ALWAYS sent me a birthday present. Usually an oddity of jewelry. I sent him Christmas cards and postcards, and the occasional picture of me with other UNCG alums.

Jim was as eccentric and mysterious as they come. He hinted at being financially well off, yet donated only $10 when Julie and I raised money for our first marathon through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training®. He showed us numerous pictures of his race car (?!), and had many, many framed pictures of UNCG students in his home. I’m not exactly sure of his family situation, where they are located, or how often he saw them, but we got the sense that we students were his extended grandchildren. He kept track of everyone, and was a good resource when trying to find old classmates.

Sadly, Jim passed away a few days ago, succumbing to prostate cancer. His death caused a ripple across email, myspace, and phone lines. John J. Deal, Dean of the UNCG School of Music writes:

Jim's death is a tremendous loss to all of us in the School of Music, especially for those students he befriended over the years. He loved the School of Music and all who worked and studied here, and we will long remember his dedication and support. It is fitting that we as a School do something special in his honor. Please contact me if you have a suggestion for an appropriate tribute to Jim.

The James Roueche Scholarship in Jazz Studies has been set up in his name.

Jim’s final years illustrate the omnipotence of music. Clearly Jim had an initial love of music that brought him to the local music school to satiate his musical needs. But he attended a LOT of recitals. Way more than the ordinary music aficionado. I believe it was not just the music in itself, but the vibe, the energy of the student recitals, the comradery of studios supporting each other, the fruition of long, harsh, coffeed hours, that kept him returning day after day to his seats in the back of the new music building’s two recital halls.

There is energy in music, and then there is the energy that surrounds, and supports (?) music. We all know it. It’s the reason we alums feel odd when returning to our alma maters. Sara and I were just talking about this last night. Why did we feel suffocated when returning to MSM for friends’ recitals? I think it’s because we are no longer part of that energy. We actually sleep at night now. We belong to a new and different energy (the kind that can longer claim that we are broke because we are in school!).

I think this surrounding force is important to recognize as a musician, and as a composer. In a way, it alleviates the pressure of transforming music into perfection. Sometimes, maybe it’s just as important to have a good music scene.

I believe Jim exemplifies why, though we may strive to achieve the highest quality of music possible, it’s not always the music itself that makes music so important and necessary as humans. It’s the long lasting relations and bonds that are forged and maintained, as a result of music.

Jim, you were, and still are, loved, and you will be deeply missed.


Heidi said...

It was the bracelets Kel. He wore lots of bracelets. They jingled.

D0nnaTr0y said...

You're right, Heids! It was the bracelets!!! I forgot about that!