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Bryan Bogue has been a Spokane Symphony percussionist for nearly 50 years

Bryan Bogue has been a percussionist with the Spokane Symphony for nearly 47 years.  (Hamilton Studio)
Bryan Bogue has been a percussionist with the Spokane Symphony for nearly 47 years. (Hamilton Studio)

Following in the footsteps of two older siblings, Bryan Bogue started his musical journey with piano lessons. Music classes in public school allowed him to start dabbling in other instruments, and, by the time he started fourth grade, he had his choices whittled down to trombone and drums. The drums won, and today Bogue has been a Spokane Symphony percussionist for nearly 47 years.

Bogue, 65, earned his Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance from Eastern Washington University, a teaching certification from Whitworth University and a Master of Arts in Music Education/Percussion Performance from the University of Washington.

“Percussion takes quite a focus because it’s not just playing the drums,” Bogue said. “It’s playing a whole array of instruments from mallet percussion to the xylophone, vibraphone and marimba – all similar, yet distinct. Then of course you have all the membrane percussion and all the little toys and sound effects and woodblocks.”

Pursuing the drums, he explained, takes years of study to approach the kind of proficiency necessary for an orchestral percussionist, called on to play such a long list of instruments. Bogue first auditioned for the fourth call position in the percussion section, won the seat and auditioned for and won the principal role when it became available.

Bogue then filled the principal chair in the percussion section from 1979 till 1985 when he and his wife had their first child. He stepped back from the principal role and took on another position teaching music at Salk Middle School. Bogue retired from Salk five years ago but is still an adjunct professor at Whitworth, where he teaches music theory and composition, among other subjects.

Without any regular concerts to prepare for in the past year, Bogue was able to spend more of his musical energy composing. Following the deaths of George Floyd and John Lewis last year, he was inspired to write a piece in collaboration with local poet Laurie Klein and vocalist Scott Ingersoll (aka Super Sparkle) titled “The Dream.”

“I remember watching John Lewis’ memorial service … somebody was reading a Langston Hughes poem called ‘I Dream a World’ … I just found myself in tears listening,” Bogue said, explaining his experience growing up through the civil rights movement and seeing today how the cause has grown.

After getting permission from the Langston Hughes Foundation to use the poem, Bogue consulted with Stephanie Nobles-Beans, Whitworth’s associate chaplain for diversity, equity and inclusion ministry. Nobles-Beans was involved throughout the project and supplied the narration for the recording, which Bogue hopes will be available soon.

For more reasons than one, the most recent year of Bogue’s tenure with the symphony was less ideal than the rest. “Last year was the first year since I was 10 years old that I have not played in an orchestra,” Bogue said. “I have literally spent my life playing in an orchestra. So to lose that – this has been a very tough year … for musicians all over the world.”

More than anything, Bogue is looking forward to starting rehearsals, making music with his fellow musicians and, hopefully, performing in front of an audience. To aspiring musicians, Bogue passed on a piece of advice courtesy of his high school band teacher. “He told me, ‘When you get a call and you’re asked to play somewhere, never say no … go play.’ “

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