Editor’s note: This profile was originally published May 12, 2000.
Music has always been a big part of Colleen Bruhy’s life.
She was born into a musical family in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. “My mom played banjo, my dad violin, and my sister and I traded off on saxophone and sang together,” said this smiling, impeccably dressed and made up woman, who has been selling May Kay Cosmetics for the last 15 years.
To that mix, add a friend they called “Grandma” on the piano, and you had Walt Shaw’s Orchestra, a group that played Saturday night dances at Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion halls all over the Nebraska panhandle.
Of course, the kind of music her mother and father played at the time was primarily waltzes and foxtrots. With the addition of their daughters, the ensemble’s repertoire expanded to include the hot music of the times: jazz and swing -- songs you could jitterbug to.
At Scottsbluff High, Bruhy played in the orchestra and the marching band, and sang in the choir. During her senior year, she was drum major of the band.
“We had jam sessions back then,” she enthused. “Where kids now run around in cars, we’d walk to someone’s house to play music. My mother was a teacher, and said that on her way home she could hear us at least two blocks away!”
To this day, when Bruhy and her sister visit once a year, “shoot, yes!” they still sing together.
After moving to Klamath in 1962, Bruhy was at first not active with the local arts community. Then in 1980, five years after marrying her husband Jim, who had sung with a barbershop group in Salinas, Calif., she got involved with Lighthouse Repertory Theatre and met the Del Norte County barbershoppers.
One of the early barbershop quartets in our community was the Blue Stars, comprised of John Metcalf, Bob Brissenden, Jim Bruhy and Sammy Sampson. “When they’d have a ‘sing out’,” said Bruhy, “the ladies would get together and sing, too.”
The “ladies” formed their first official quartet in 1985, the same year that the Coastal Aires chartered their own organization as a part of the international Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A.)
Several years later, after two others came and went, Bruhy became the director of the ladies chorus -- the Coastal Classics. “A director I’m not, but I will direct until you find somebody else,” she told the Classics. “That was eight years ago,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye, “I think they’re still looking. They put up with me, anyway.”
She’s come a long way for someone who has only taken one voice lesson in her life. “I didn’t like it, so I quit,” she commented on that subject.
“We’d love to have people join us!” she said, speaking for the Coastal Aires and the Coastal Classics. Both groups practice once a week, on Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. The men meet at Bess Maxwell School, and the Classics at Joe Hamilton. “You don’t have to know how to read music,” she emphasized.
Bruhy will be both directing the Coastal Classics and singing in the Accidental Four quartet at Saturday night’s Barbershop 2000.