Though I didn't know it at the time, I grew up in an early form of a counter culture family in the Catskill Mountains, where there were nearly weekly get-togethers of musicians playing old popular tunes from the thirties, forties and earlier: Stardust Melody, Up A Lazy River, Summertime, St. Louis Woman, and others. I had piano lessons off and on from age five; boogie-woogie was popular with my dad, still is, so I learned a bit of that to play for him, still do; I particularly like Pete Johnson; never was crazy about ragtime. Then in high school, I listened to my brothers surf and pop band practicing in the living room at least once a week; I don't know how my parents put up with it. The only complaint of any consequence was the oil stain left on the beige carpet by the bass drum pedal; mom didn't like that. Not long after that I was in my own bands. I got my first guitars in 1966, a big year for me in a lot of ways, first loves and all. I learned a lot from the golden Beatles song books. Anyway my bands were doing top forty covers for the next years through high school; I was shamelessly entranced by big hits; My father bought me my first Jimi Hendrix record because he liked The Wind Cries Mary; I thought he was weird at first, but for some reason I felt I had to be able to do what he was doing, even though I didn't have a clue to where he was coming from; I'm still working on that one. Then, I was competitive about it; now it's a great love, and some part of almost everything I do on guitar. At Marlboro, Blanche Moyse, of course, was a huge influence: her love and illumination of J. S. Bach, her patience as a teacher, clarification of what harmony was all about; but mostly she taught me to give myself a chance, have patience with my own process of learning, how to practice any instrument or course of action. I used the stuff I learned from Bach when I was playing country and western 6 nights a week, 5 hours a night, for a living when I was in Colorado in the early 80's. A lot was learned from doing George Jones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Ricky Skaggs, Earnest Tubb, Bob Wills, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and others from Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Greeley, Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and various four corners barrooms in east Colorado. The most notable group of these times was five weeks with Johnny Western and the Stone Country Band. Johnny was the writer of the themes to Have Gun, Will Travel, Johnny Yuma, and one of the un-credited writers (there were four altogether; I've only seen credits for two) of Bonanza, which does have words, and he used to sing 'em. He was also the youngest DJ in country music at age sixteen. At this time I was also going to blues and jazz jams in Fort Collins, where I was living; I was also working with a couple of choreographers writing a few jazz and one ballet dance pieces. The notable people I was in contact with were Fred Israel, who had some releases in Sweden in the seventies (jazz); Walter Jenkins, a local powerhouse of soul and funk music, Mark Sloniker, who had a jazz release in L.A. shortly after I left Co., Kirby Shaw, a jazz vocal ensemble arranger; (I missed a Phillip Glass concert by that much in 1983, big loss). My piano-playing at that time was very strong from having to perform for recording in one or two takes the dance pieces I was composing; the ballet gets more and more difficult toward the end because of all the practicing I had to do to learn the parts before just so I could hear the damn thing. My biggest influences have been my mistakes; I can find something wrong with just about anything I play, but I'm trying to get over that. I take them personally, and learn from all of them; After that, my mother who played piano, accordion and organ and sang; my family of musicians and their tastes and opinions. -- Bruce Balmer as told to Bill Pierce.