Dr. Douglas Bush (1947-2013)

music-doug_bushI 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.



6 thoughts on “Dr. Douglas Bush (1947-2013)

  1. Thank you for writing this. I knew he was ill, but was surprised by his passing, as he gave a recital just a few weeks ago at the Cathedral of the Madeline. Wishing you peace and comfort.

  2. Hi Matt, I have thought of you often and wondering how everything is going. I was so sorry to read about your little nephew. I hope things are going well for his treatments and and I’m so sorry that your family has to deal with such a difficult thing. This was a wonderful article. I wish I had heard Dr. Bush perform. Bach on the organ……that is so beyond me. Take care and hope to see you sometime. How is that beautiful baritone voice? Any Verdi going on? Best wishes, Karen

    • Karen! We need to catch up. My nephew is fine now. He finished his treatment a few years now and is doing great in remission. My voice is doing okay, singing six hours in one day is rough going. No Verdi while I’m doing that! We should catch up sometime. I’ll be up in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving.

  3. Matt – I’m Jason Johnson. I was also a student of Dr. Bush, and I’m not surprised by your story at all. He was so wonderful. Once, back in 1998, I had a major car wreck that put my in the hospital with a punctured lung, banged up knee, and other smaller stuff. I called all of my professors and left messages to alert them of the reason for my absence. Dr. Bush came to my hospital that night. He brought me a shake. He kissed my forehead. He came again the next night, and by that time, by father made it there (I’m from Arkansas), so he didn’t come again. I will NEVER, never forget his kindness. Thanks for the post –
    Jason Johnson

  4. I didn’t know Dr. Bush, but those are some fine words. He must have been a magnificent person. Just reading about him is inspiring. I’m certain his family would love to read this too. Thanks for posting, Matt.

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