Joel Crouse and I go waaay back – like back to the mid-1970s in high school when we saw Todd/Utopia, Genesis, Lou Reed, David Bowie and other great concerts for $7.50 to $15 per ticket. (We even got to see Genesis perform the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway right before Peter Gabriel went off on his own.) On the days when I got to drive the family beater to school, I can remember Joel would often toss his saxophone case in the back seat. After graduation, he and I went our separate ways to different parts of the country. While I meandered around Michigan with a stint in Arizona, Joel did the country coast to coast. He was in NYC for a time and then went to the western extreme of the country. These days Joel lives in the Seattle area where he is a technician for Konica/Minolta, but his passion for music has never left him. Thanks to the wonderful web, we got virtually (re)connected five years ago.
The words “diverse”, “multi-faceted” and “eclectic” apply to Joel. In our school days he was certainly a free thinker who embraced all kinds of music and art. But during wrestling season he was all about the rigid discipline of the sport. One day you might find him dancing his feet off to the latest David Bowie record and raising hell – yes, Virginia there are white men who CAN dance! – and the next day he would be pushing his body to the limit in order to shed 14 ounces to make weight for the next wrestling tournament. I used to shake my head in amazement.
There are even more facets to be found on the adult Crouse. Joel is a practicing Buddhist who is very involved with Soka Gakkai International (SGI-USA). He also happens to enjoy collecting and shooting old Russian bolt action rifles. (I don’t know about you, but that does not fit in with my mental image of a Buddhist).
Through all of the changes and permutations of his life and career(s), the love of music and the making of music have been a constant. But one of the aspects he loves the most about music is that it daily provides the opportunity for change – the opportunity to learn, play, or experience something new. Constant change – that describes Joel’s life.
Joel has memories of his musical education as far back as the third grade. He started playing the saxophone in middle school and continued with that as a member of the marching band in high school. Joel grew up in a family that encouraged his interest in music – especially the piano and saxophone. He told me his parents were not too excited about him taking up the guitar, but they never tried to stop him – not as if that would have worked anyway!
“I was 15 when I started playing the guitar,” Joel said. “It was a mutual interest I had with a good friend of mine. I thought it would be very cool to play it and we spent a lot of time practicing.”
Mr. Crouse is still six string cool – his guitars, and a small collection of other stringed and non-stringed instruments, are an important part of his daily life. In addition to guitar, he plays bass, mandolin, accordion, and “a little bit of fiddle and banjo”. He also confessed, “I like gear!” and sent several pictures to prove his point. When he found this cool accordion, he quickly shared it with his Face book family. His most recent paying gigs were as the bass player with Four On The Floor – a rockabilly group. Joel has also performed as a solo act.
He gave me a great answer when I asked how music enriched his life.
“It makes me feel human, “he responded. “I don’t have to be rich, or handsome, or smart. I play, and mostly people like it. It is awesome.”
He is in complete agreement with the philosophy of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation when it comes to making music education available to every student because of the broad spectrum of benefits it provides. “It [music education] is a great work out for the brain,” Crouse contends. “It improves math and other skills and just makes one feel good about oneself and life.”
Well said, Mr. Crouse.
Cliff Yankovich is a partner with his wife Julie Claire DeVoe at Chimera Design, a jewelry store in Lowell, Michigan since 2002 (www.ChimeraDesign.ws). A Todd Rundgren fan since 1972, Cliff is thrilled to be a part of the Spirit of Harmony Foundation. His observations and opinions can be found on his blog: www.cliffsriffs.blogspot.com.