I’ve written before of the pleasure I had sitting quietly in a corner taking notes, while my son took lessons from the mandolin virtuoso, Butch Baldassari.
After a long and difficult battle with cancer, Butch died on Saturday.
In addition to teaching mandolin (he was an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music), Butch was also a powerful performer, composer, publisher and had a near-evangelistic zeal for the mandolin. (Here’s interview with Mandozine.com on a wide-range of topics related to the instrument.) The Tennessean published an obituary today and in it, noted that, “through his leadership of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble, he helped the dormant mandolin orchestra tradition that had begun in America in the 1800s.”
Several months ago, my son and I dropped by Butch’s house to visit and to once more thank him for everything he meant to my son. We will miss him, but it’s good to know that he’ll live on through his music and the people it has touched.
Update: After learning of Butch’s death, I e-mailed my son, who is now a senior at a boarding school in western Mass. It seems appropriate that he received the e-mail while in a practice room, playing his mandolin in preparation for performing with a singer-guitarist at a school meeting (assembly) tomorrow.
Here’s part of the e-mail he sent me late last night. I post it to encourage parents to support (keep it fun) their kids learning music — and in appreciation of the men and women like Butch — the music teachers who pass along their gifts to the next generation:
“I have been thinking about Butch and realizing how important music has been in my life. I remember all the recitals and performances in which I loved playing. I know that sometimes it was frustrating but I wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed having music be a part of me. We have been rehearsing for our performance on Tuesday and I remembered how much I love playing and being part of a song. Even though I don’t play as much anymore, I know I will always keep playing.”