Bruce and Sue Bios

About Bruce Stuart:

Bruce was an East Contra Costa County native and had a lifelong passion for instrumental music. He was an accomplished trombonist, bassist, piano technician and music teacher.  Over the course of his life he played in orchestras, jazz bands, concert bands, marching bands and theatre pit orchestras, and he was a passionate supporter of anything involving instrumental music in East County and beyond.

Bruce started playing acoustic bass in third grade and quickly began playing gigs in a jazz combo. Soon after he picked up a trombone and began a love affair with that instrument that would eventually take him all the way to Carnegie Hall.  Bruce studied under Allan Jones while at Liberty High School and through him discovered classical orchestral trombone.  Bruce was a dedicated pupil who won the John Philip Sousa Band Award his senior year and upon graduation became principle trombonist for the Contra Costa Symphony Orchestra.  While studying music at Delta College in Stockton, he met Susan while they were both in the pit orchestra for West Side Story. They were married one year later.  Bruce was drafted into the service during Vietnam but was able to sign up for the Coast Guard, where he spent four years playing trombone in the Coast Guard Band.  After the Coast Guard he started playing trombone as much as he could, joining the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey’s Circus Band for a stint and eventually dabbling in jazz once again by joining Devil Mountain Jazz Band.  Over the course of the next twenty-plus years Bruce played trombone and bass all over California (and beyond) in jazz, swing and rock bands.  During that time, he made his living as a piano technician and owner of Pianoworks.  Though he spent most of his time playing jazz he maintained his passion for symphonic music.  In 2005 he founded the Brentwood Concert Band as a way to channel that passion and offer other musicians in East Contra Costa County the opportunity to do the same.  In 2006 Bruce both played trombone and conducted a piece in Carnegie Hall as a member of the Delta Winds Concert Band from Stockton.

Bruce passed away in June 2008.  But these two crowning achievements in his career as a musician - founding the Brentwood Concert Band and playing at Carnegie Hall - speak to Bruce’s passion for instrumental music, passion that his family is aiming to encourage in young music students through the Bruce Stuart Music Fund.

About Susan Stuart:

In 2011, Susan Stuart finished her 35th and final year as Choral Director at Liberty High School in Brentwood, where she conducted 5 choirs—A Cappella Choir, Women’s Ensemble, Chamber Singers, Men’s Chorus and Women’s Chorus, plus 2 barbershop choruses and advised several barbershop quartets.  Over the course of her 35 years teaching choir, she’s been a fixture of the local performing arts community and a strong influence in the lives of thousands of her choir students - many of whom affectionately call her “Mom Stuart.”  

While she spent most of her childhood in Burlingame, Susan has deep roots in East Contra Costa County.  Her grandmother was a Brentwood schoolteacher who married a Byron farmer, and her mother lived in the famous Marsh House outside of Brentwood when she was a child.  Susan took her first piano lesson from her mother, a piano teacher, when she was six years old.  She was a self-professed tomboy when she was young, playing several sports and even planning to become a P.E. teacher, but music was always a central part of her life.  She played timpani in junior high school and clarinet in high school, and she sang in, and accompanied, the high school choir for four years.  Throughout this time she continued to study piano, and she went on to receive her B.A. in Piano Performance from California State University, Hayward.  

Susan met Bruce Stuart at Delta College while they were both in the pit orchestra for West Side Story.  They were married one year later.  In 1976, Susan took the job as choir director at Liberty High School.  She taught alongside Allan E. Jones, Liberty’s band director, and became a dedicated student of choral (and band) conducting technique.  As her skills grew, Susan grew the choral program and in 1996 she expanded her program to 5 choirs.  At the same time, she began to branch out, taking her choirs on the road to venues around the country and around the world. In addition to a yearly choir tour of California, her choirs have sung in Washington D.C., New York, Vancouver, Seattle and the U.K., among other places.

Susan has served on the California Music Educators Association Bay Section Board as Choral Representative and was recently co-chair of the American Choral Directors Association California State Honor Choirs.  She has been an adjudicator for large choral festivals and solo and ensemble festivals for many years.  Susan has been a guest conductor for numerous honor choirs, both middle school and high school.

In 1995, Susan received the recognition of Teacher of the Year for the Liberty Union High School District.  She was a Soroptimist Woman of Distinction recipient in 2004 and received the California Music Educators Association Bay Section Choral Music Educator of the Year Award in 2005.  She sang under Dr. William Dehning in the California Choral Company for 5 years.

When Bruce passed away, she stepped in to carry on his dream and became the conductor of the Brentwood Concert Band.  In retirement, she’ll continue to conduct the Concert Band, judge at choral festivals and promote music education and performance via the Stuart Music Fund and her connections to the community.