Bruce Spencer Brings Aloha to the Mainland
A meek person sees another power at work, greater than their ability to fix all, be all, conquer all. They value other humans above what is comfortable and above what they can offer or give. They tend to have this uncanny ability to suffer long with others without embodying and becoming the victim.
I would like to introduce Bruce Spencer. This is a man who embodies my understanding of "meekness". A man with kind, deep eyes and joy that spills out in a peaceful stream of music and song. His desire for connection and community, is evident in how he teaches his classes, makes friends and plays music. His inner rhythm sways to the melodies of Hawai’i, where he was born, raised, lived, loved, worked and played as a musician. Growing up, his household and extended family pulsed with musicality. In fact, his mother is one of the most talented ukulele players on the Island. According to Bruce, Elaine Ako Spencer, has peaked in her 80’s and is currently playing the best music of her life! She was inducted into Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts Achievement Award in 2016.
His musical training began by assimilation. He absorbed the music coming from his mother, uncles, and cousins at family parties and get togethers. He would piece together notes and melodies by ear and begin to play along. He saw an older cousin play in a way that inspired him and he knew he wanted to become like him. In Bruce's family “either you could catch on, absorb the music or you couldn’t, I could so I did."
Since his early teens, he hasn’t stopped playing, wether that was with the family, in bands and as a solo artist. He brings a unique spin to island music with his dexterity and creativity and he re-interprets many classic pieces to make them fresh and rhythmic. He has flown to Japan many times to play for the other side of the Pacific. Presently, he is assembling a new trio in our local area with much anticipation. It will be exciting to see where this new group goes musically as he is adding an unusual instrument, the steel guitar.
During my time spent with Bruce, getting to know him and his music (as he let me sit in on a mini-session as I was photographing him!) I heard much about his home, Oahu. As a native Hawaiian, he is intimately connected with his culture and the land where he was born. He told me of the sacredness of the islands and volcano, the birthright that had been stolen and the cultural genocide of the Hawaiian language and way of life. He spoke with kind eyes, deep and full. There was no hint of bitterness, instead, something more sacred and holy, more like zeal…. A zeal for rightness, beauty, community, and justice that fuels his desire to love and to live a full life here and now. He currently lives in Kelowna, British Columbia and is finding places to teach and gigs to play. Along with working a full time job, he makes time to snowboard at Big White, which is another of his passions.
After discussing the sense of responsibility he carries for the islands, for his people and other marginalized people in general, I just knew…. I knew he was a rare one, a rare bird, one that sings and rejoices in the ups and downs of life. He is the Real Deal. Even when everything isn't the way it should be, he hasn’t stopped caring or carrying the people in his heart.
And through it all he strums, plays and sings; songs that make me sigh, make my shoulders relax and give me this peaceful feeling of “all is going to be all right”. He brings the island “Aloha” wherever he goes.
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