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Exclusive Interview With Bruce Tyler on His Resignation from the Montclair Arts Council

Natalie Heard Hackett

Thursday, August 14, 2014 • 7:05am

MONTCLAIR, NJ - TAP into Montclair caught up with Bruce Tyler to get the inside story of why he departed the Montclair Arts Council (MAC) and discover what’s on the horizon for him.

Tyler has been a volunteer and has served on various committees with the MAC since it began in 2005 until 2010 when the funding was withdrawn and the MAC became defunct.  During those initial years, Tyler had been a first-party witness to the birth, life, death and resurrection of the MAC.  When the MAC lost funding in 2010, it laid dormant until 2013 when Tyler and two colleagues, Greg Spinelli and Meg Beattie Patrick, brought it back to life.

Tyler explained how former board members had made the transition smooth for him and his colleagues.  He added, “Greg, Meg and I met with the primary board members when we initially took over the MAC in January of 2013.”  In 2013, Tyler became one of the board members for a short stint and then moved into his most recent position of Creative Director of the MAC until his recent resignation where TAP into Montclair broke the story.

An influential leader in the community, many note that Tyler is certainly no stranger to hard work.  However, when committee-work and slow progress became overwhelming, then Tyler decided to give up serving the MAC and focus more on his music.  A decision to let some things go is one that some often realize far too late, but Tyler explains that he feels free and at peace with his decision.

“It was no longer satisfying to me and I really wanted to concentrate on playing my music,” expressed Tyler.  “I believe that when you make a decision and you feel comfortable with it, then go with it.  Don’t haggle around…and I’m glad that I did it.” 

“There were some things that didn’t happen quickly enough.”  Despite some slow-moving initiatives and a few other niggles like not having a designated office space, Tyler spoke highly of the people that he has met and worked with through the MAC.  He also expressed that he would much rather make an impact from the outside than to continue to struggle getting things accomplished on the inside.  

Tyler explains that his love affair with the arts began at an early age.  Born and raised in Montclair, Tyler pursued Music at Essex County College, graduating with an Associate Degree.  He then studied drums with Carl Wolff, Andre Strobert, Freddie Waits, Charlie Per and many others at Jazz Mobile in New York.  Later going on to graduate with a BA in anthropology from Montclair State University. 

Over the years, Tyler continued to pursue music as a hobby while slowly transitioning into a career.  Tyler said, “I did a lot of background grunt work and stagework.”  In 2003, Tyler founded Jazz Month in Montclair, developed the Montclair Jazz Archives that are housed at the Montclair Public Library, and has won numerous awards for his contributions.  Then in 2006, Tyler founded the Black Lace Blues band, which he describes as, “…Blues-based style of eclectic music, including reggae, fusion, Blues, and we do some covers.”  He is also a drummer with the band.  

Tyler is proud of the accomplishments that he and his colleagues have made in the community while serving the MAC since 2005.  He boasted of the MAC’s accomplishments since restarting in 2013,  “We accomplished 2 things:  We did the picnic in 2013 after the 4th of July parade, which was a music and arts fest.   We also had bands that were able to do 45-50 minutes and then we got vendors. ...It turned out pretty good.”  He continued, “We also did a tribute to a gentleman who passed away by the name of John Finnegan who was an acoustic guitarist and a lawyer.”

Tyler said that the MAC’s goals are, “…To try to create programs or projects that would be valuable to the community at large.  The MAC prior to us taking it over was more advocacy.  We also did some advocacy, but we are more of a presenting organization.  We present workshops, musical performances, poetry readings and host panel discussions.  We also advocate for artists, but we wanted to bring an educational component here.”

At some point, Tyler plans on sitting down with the MAC members he left behind and explains that he wants to help them by giving them any ideas on the projects that he had proposed.  Some of his proposed initiatives that had not yet been approved, included requiring all street performers to register with the MAC.  This would be a free registration, but would be a precautionary measure so that business owners and town officials will be able to identify every street performer by their approval letter.   Tyler shared other initiatives, as well.  

Eager to explore the next chapter of his career, Tyler said that he will continue to assist the MAC from the outside. He adds that the MAC is always looking for volunteers and committee-members who can help keep the MAC going strong.  He is more that willing to help anyone who is interested in joining and furthering the cause. 

“I will still help from the outside, but don’t want to serve on a committee.  This is heavy volunteer work.  This requires a lot of technical know-how in a lot of areas.  We had the right people there to do the technical work,” Tyler continued. 

Tyler will be volunteering at the Montclair Jazz Festival on August 16th and looks forward to assisting them.  “I’m also volunteering for the Jazz festival this year.”

Tyler added that he regularly performs at Trend Coffee House in Montclair, as well as other locations throughout the tri-state area.  “My music performance career is starting to take off.  I’m working with a lot more artists and getting to play my instrument more.  I 'm also exploring different types of music, my demographic in playing is widening and I’m doing gigs in New York.  On August 17th, I will be doing a Woodstock celebration at a winery in Lake Mohegan, New York. “  

For more information, visit Black Lace Blues on Facebook.

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