Bruce von Kugelgen

Bruce Von Kugelgen, Trombone

Not many trombone players have had illicit root access to the computer system at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. “I was a total computer hacker,” Bruce says. “This was my greatest coup. I was 14 and had saved up money to buy a computer. But I had no idea what to do with that access!” Well that’s likely a good thing.

Bruce was born in Berkeley into a musical family: grandmother and Dad played violin, mom played piano and sang. He spent a lot of his childhood backstage at various concerts and performances. He also grew up listening to the Coasters, and “Yakety Yak” sent him in the direction of playing tenor sax. “I really wanted a tenor sax, but they were all out. The music teacher saw I had long arms and gave me a trombone.” And the rest, yes, is history.

Bruce played trombone in orchestra and pep bands through high school, taking lessons and playing in various pit orchestras. In fact, he even came to one Prometheus rehearsal while still in high school, at the urging of French Horn player he met in a pit orchestra. “I felt very, very young and a little scared. I didn’t come back.”

Now, since he was 6’ 8”, people did suggest Bruce play basketball instead of so much music. “But I was pretty skinny and basketball really is a contact sport. I played a bit, but after a few bruised ribs I decided music, chorus and computers were more for me.” In fact, he concentrated on music so much that he really had to decide if he’d become a professional musician or stick with computers.

Bruce went to Northwestern in Chicago as a computer major, and put down the horn. “I concentrated on computers and computer gaming. I was singing in the chorus, but I realized after a couple of years that I just really missed my trombone.” He started playing again. He still got a degree in computer programming, and did it while playing trombone in the band, pick up orchestras and in the marching band. He also met his wife, Alicia, who was an opera major at Northwestern, and he convinced her to come back to the Bay Area with him.

Once again, at the urging of the same French Horn player, he came to Prometheus. “This time I really liked it and joined it as a permanent player in 1991.” Bruce is now on the Board and our Treasurer. He works at Leapfrog on educational games for children. He and Alicia have two kids, and their daughter Helen is now playing trombone too. And if she’d like to come to a rehearsal some time, we promise not to be scary!

~Joyce Vollmer

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