Among the many tributes to Paul Bryan as his 97th birthday draws near was the following, articulated during the Duke Wind Symphony’s February 23 celebratory concert in Baldwin Auditorium. We are indebted to Anthony M. Kelley for permission to reprint it here.
“Thanks to Paul Bryan, Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant, John Yarbrough, friends, family, and the current/past Duke Wind Symphonians for this exciting opportunity to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite people on the planet.
“I’ve enjoyed a regular weekly ritual of spending some hours in conversation and musical listening with P.B. over the past year, and quite frequently, he would inject a crucial observation. He’d say, essentially, that he owed much of his longevity partially to his impulse to “keep moving,” but even more importantly, he would remind himself regularly to fully engage in an act whose gratifying benefits we too often take for granted: “We have to remember to breathe,” he always implored me.
“Thinking about this more broadly, it’s dawned on me that PB has charged me and many others with that exact same, life-sustaining advice since we got our first glance at him on the conductor’s podium in Duke Wind Symphony. In that capacity, his advice has led us to aspire to more robust and longer-sustaining tones, which resulted in more virtuous musicality in a wind ensemble.
“But more and more, I also realize that the act of breathing is akin to the practice of human love, in that both depend on the inexorable pairing of forces — the inhale and the exhale; the regular chemical choreography of the exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide; the unwavering, shared partnered investment in the sustaining existence of even itself.
“It’s therefore poignant to realize that my piece for Duke Wind Symphony, Caprice, would cease to even exist but for the human breath. Similarly, I am happy to report, the work’s life and energy are forever recharged not only by the new breaths and efforts of our talented young colleagues, but also by love itself.
‘While we are able to, may we all be fortunate enough to draw regularly upon PB’s sagacious, multi-coded, and persistent advice: