Karl Bruhn, known for his tireless work with Recreational Music Making (RMM), Remo’s HealthRhythms, Yamaha as its senior vice president of marketing, as an advisor to the American Music Therapy Association and many other music-industry-promoting causes, such as drum circles, died following a brief illness on Oct. 5. He was 80.
Bruhn most recently served as the chairman of Yamaha’s Music & Wellness Institute. He won a trophy room’s worth of awards during his life and is known as being RMM’s father. That cause lives on. Many knew Bruhn as the “Father of Music-Making and Wellness” and RMM. “Humans have the need to belong, to be part of a group of individuals who share interests, and who come together for a common purpose. Such needs are as important to children and teens as they are to people in mid-life and to senior adults. In fact, it is increasingly being understood that this need for connection with others may be the most important component contributing to quality of life,” wrote Bruhn when talking about RMM. “Adults can benefit significantly—in many ways—when they learn to make their own music in a supportive, socially enjoyable setting. Writing in MuSICA, Research Notes, Dr. Norman M. Weinberger, Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory, University of California at Irvine, is quick to point out that it is ‘never too late’ for music. He goes on to say, ‘It is an established fact that the adult brain is perfectly capable of learning and remembering music throughout life span.’”
During the 2008 NAMM RMM Coalition meeting, Bruhn said he believed RMM can be as big a movement as aerobics was more than 30 years ago. And he added only 7.6 percent of the adult U.S. population play musical instruments. If 25 percent played instruments, that would equal 41.3 million people and a lot more people at your store. “Aerobics has been around for more than 30 years and millions of people know what it is,” said Bruhn. “I ask the question, ‘Is it possible that, some day, millions and millions of people will be involved with recreational music making and understand it?’ What would the industry be like if we can accomplish that? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have an industry supported by the scientific and medical communities? Like aerobics, they would say recreational music making is good for you and fun. It helps you lead a better life. We need a global PR campaign in the news media. It’s like a savings account. It takes a long time to get to where you want to go.”
“There’s no one else like Karl Bruhn on the planet. I had the joy and privilege of working with Karl for more than a decade,” said Dr. Barry Bittman, CEO of Yamaha’s Music & Wellness Institute and one of Bruhn’s closest friends. “He was one of the most important mentors in my life. Karl truly carried the torch for the music products industry. I first met him 10 years ago during a Remo event. I spoke at that event. At the end of the event, Remo [Belli] walked up to me and told me he wanted to ‘assign’ me to this gentleman, who was Karl Bruhn. Karl nodded, shook my hand and gave me index cards saying what I’d be doing for the next three days at the NAMM show. Those three days were some of the most challenging in my life because you could not walk through the halls of NAMM with Karl Bruhn without getting stopped literally thousands of times.”
A week after Dr. Bittman got home from the NAMM show, a box arrived at his house that weighed about 30 pounds. “In the box were papers, writings, articles and a note on top with Karl’s handwriting that said, ‘Read this’,” Dr. Bittman recalled. “Like any typical human, I ignored it. Ten days later, Karl called and asked if I had read it. He figured out I didn’t read it. So he said, ‘You have to know this. We have to show people that playing a musical instrument is great for their health and wellbeing. We have to do it scientifically. You have to be that person.’ As I say that, I have chills running through my body. That was the beginning of one of the greatest eras in my life.”
“Karl Bruhn has passed on, leaving a legacy that will not be easily equaled. The results of Karl’s efforts will be a part of our music products industry forever,” said Remo Belli, founder and CEO of Remo Inc. “It was my good fortune that I began a close working friendship with Karl just at the time that he was leaving his position at NAMM. Fortunately for all of us, he never retired. Karl’s concepts were interesting to see develop, and a pleasure to implement and to see take shape. He was a deep thinker and had the logic and wisdom to envision things that had not been done before. He cared a great deal for our industry and its people. Of course, we will miss him and, for those of you who did not have an opportunity to know him, you will unknowingly miss him the most.”
“Karl was one of the clearest thinkers I have ever known, and he challenged those around him to do so, as well. One of the ways he did this was to begin with a provocative saying, and these came to be known as ‘Bruhnisms’,” said Terry Lewis, close personal friend of Bruhn and former executive vice president of Yamaha Corporation of America. “There were many. At Yamaha, the employee favorite became ‘Your salary becomes effective when you do’. But dealers might best remember, ‘There are two kinds of music dealers: Yamaha dealers and those who would like to be.’ He was a true mentor to me, and to so many in our industry. He will be greatly missed.”
“Karl Bruhn was a rare gift to the music products industry—a humble man who earned a stellar reputation as an advocate for arts education and the benefits of lifelong music making,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO of NAMM. “His achievements have been felt by every NAMM member and his legacy will have a positive impact on the industry for years to come.”
Bruhn is survived by his son, Craig, his daughter, Sandy Singleton, and many grandchildren.
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