Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Balmer, Bruce, guitarist, singer, songwriter; b. Margaretville, New York, at 1:35 AM, Tuesday, 7 November 1950. His father was Edward Balmer, b. 1917, d. 1998, and his mother, the former Margaret Etta Botts, b. 1918, d. 1994. His brother William Edward, b. 1945, a much-loved bass player in Woodstock, NY's local scene, passed in 1995. He has two surviving brothers, Barton Harry, b. 1948, and sax, flute and clarinet player Brian Craig MacGillivray, b. 1955, and a sister, Candace Claybourne, b. 1958.
He lived till age 7 with his family in Big Indian, New York, where his father had a woodworking shop. He started piano lessons there with Jane Rubin at age 5. His family moved to Shady, a hamlet in the town of Woodstock, New York, in 1958, when there were still a few working farms left, continuing piano with Alice Jeffrey. His father, a swimming pool contractor who played bass balalaika, and mother, an accordionist and classically trained pianist, hosted weekly get-togethers of musicians, who would play pop songs ranging from "Up A Lazy River" to "Girl From Ipanema" to "Stardust Melody." Bruce would fall asleep listening, or later be playing along on tenor guitar or banjo, even. At about age 15, his older brother Bart showed him how to play an "E" chord on his 6-string classic guitar, and he has not let many days go by since without picking up and playing some version of said instrument. From 1968 to 1972 he was a student of chorus, piano, harmony and analysis under tutelage of Blanch Moyse at Marlboro College, where he received a B.A.
From High School to the early 90s, he played in many bands as lead guitarist. These were original rock groups, vocal groups, jazz guitar duo "Airtight" from 1974-75, and while living in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the early 80s, a number of country and western bands. Notable among these was the touring Stone Country Band, led by Johnny Western, the man who wrote the TV theme songs to "Have Gun, Will Travel," and "Johnny Yuma." While in Colorado, he wrote jazz and ballet compositions for students and teachers from Colorado State University, notably 1982's "Prakriti" for Susan Thomae's Pulse Dance Company and 1983's "It's A Joy" and "Rajo-Guna" for choreographer Kathleen Berman. Meanwhile, he developed his playing in local blues and jazz hangouts. Many unreleased tapes exist. This is when he started writing songs.
He has also written for animated film's Bill Plympton, with music for the 1998 full-length animated feature, "I Married A Strange Person." In recent years, Bruce has been a singer/songwriter in the NYC area, playing regularly at The Baggot Inn. Since 2001, he has been attending the Songwriter's Collective, a well-known group of 27 years in Greenwich Village.
Bruce has been married and divorced twice. His daughter Freyja, b. 1973, plays bass, and his son Noah, b. 1976, plays guitar and mandolin in NYC.
He has been interviewed and received radio airplay from Shawn Rhodes at WBAI of New York and on "New Jersey's Talking" for WGHT of New Jersey.
He was interviewed by Richard Cuccaro for the Acoustic Live! Magazine's September 2002 issue. On-line version is available at http://www.acousticlive.com/sep.4.feat.htm, (page 2.)