I learned this morning that BYU organ professor Douglas Bush passed away. I am very saddened by this news simply because I wasn’t expecting it, and he was one of the best teachers I ever had. Even though I wasn’t an organ student, I took 18th century counterpoint from Dr. Bush, had one-on-one independent readings about Renaissance music with him, and even had him as part of my graduate committee for my Masters degree.
He was a self-described “Bach-oholic” who regularly performed all-Bach concerts for the campus community and abroad. He was friendly, cheerful, genuine, humorous, sincere, helpful, encouraging and kind. Whenever I asked him how he was doing that week, he’d replied with a twinkle in his eye, “Oh, just as mean and twice as ugly,” and then smiled. Every counterpoint class (at 8 AM) started with us all singing a Bach chorale with him at some crummy piano playing with spirit and vigor. He loved what he taught, and more importantly, loved the students he taught.
Before I ever took a class from him, he took an interest in my studies, my future, and my life. He would ask me how I was doing, how my family was, and how I was coping. Our one-on-one discussions about Renaissance history were uplifting, enlightening, and engaging. Many times, after a trip to Europe, he would start lessons with some German chocolates. His enthusiasm and love for that music was contagious. Every time I left those discussions he would give me a big hug and leave me with some encouraging words.
During the first semester of my Masters program, my newest nephew was diagnosed with leukemia at 4 1/2 months and became a major crisis in my family. I emailed him that I was too emotional and distraught to go to class that morning and needed to visit my family instead. His email back to me basically said that he completely understood, and that being with my family was the most important place I need to be at that point.
When we met up later, he expressed his sorrow and condolences and told me that he would be flexible with assignments and projects. I never needed that flexibility from him, but knowing it was there showed me what mattered most to him in his life. He taught me that people are more important than anything, including music. He encouraged me to be a better person and to be as faithful as I could be.
I regret never telling him that he was one of the best and most important teachers I ever had in my life. I will miss him greatly.