I wanted to write while the feelings are raw and the emotions are overwhelming. Today I lost a friend and a mentor, and our community lost an inspired leader. I’m angry because his life was cut short because of a rampant pandemic that should’ve been much more contained. I’m frustrated because I couldn’t see him one last time, and won’t be able to pay my last respects. I’m devastated knowing someone I loved, respected and trusted has passed.
Our friendship hasn’t existed without hardship, though. Like a lot of relationships, we had a disagreement that took some time to heal. As a person who tries to avoid such conflict, I found it difficult to mend damaged feelings, but what was once broken only lived on to be stronger. I will never forget the time we spent working through our difficulties. James was a man who didn’t believe in doing things halfway, so if we were to fix our friendship, he was going to take the time necessary to do it thoroughly. We spent hours in his studio talking. It didn’t matter how late it was, or that the conversation often wandered into tangents. All was right with the world, and it was like we were making up for lost time. We laughed, we often sat in silence, we shed tears of regret and of joy. It was something I will never ever forget.
After that night, there was a newfound sense of understanding and respect between him and I. I treasured every rehearsal, every conversation, every hug we shared. We often talked about getting a chance to do a show together as father and son. I took that as a huge compliment. I knew the chances of us getting that opportunity were small, but whenever he would bring it up, it filled me with pride. James had a unique way of filling a person with incredible confidence. His respect with something you had to constantly work for and was consistently the bar I would set for myself. “Would James approve of this?” If the answer was no, it meant putting in more work, more thought, more passion.
This drive he instilled in myself and countless others was how he will live on far beyond his and my own lifetime. I can’t imagine going to a rehearsal, or putting work into a performance without hearing his voice in my head. So, we will go on with his love in our hearts. His instruction and laughter in our ears. His wisdom in our minds. And, each time the lights come up, we will perform hoping we can make him proud. Thank you, James. I truly would not be the man I am today without you. I love you.
This is a song we created for James. It had over 40 participants, and was created remotely and responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Huge thanks to Amy Shuman for putting this together and all of my friends who lent their voices to this project. Also, to Andee for putting the slide show together.