Spotlight #3: John Bumstead

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Brunch with John Bumstead, Cellist with the MSO for Over 35 Years

Submitted by MSO Board Member, Nick Quinci

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting John Bumstead for brunch.  John has been associated with the Melrose Symphony Orchestra for over 35 years!  He has had the privilege of playing under three conductors with the MSO: Christopher Blair, Peter Hazzard, and for the last twenty years, Yoichi Udagawa.

John grew up and attended public school in Wakefield.  Although neither of his parents were musicians, he was encouraged to play a musical instrument, and started taking piano lessons at the age of 7 with Jean Putman from Melrose. In 4th grade, he had the opportunity to try a string instrument and chose the cello. After studying privately with Phoebe Carrai and Mark Churchill, among others, he continued his studies in graduate school with David Finch from Melrose.  (David’s son Nicholas Finch performed as a cello soloist with the MSO a couple of years ago.) John continued his musical studies at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and UMass Lowell.

In the 9th grade, through an outreach program, John had the opportunity to join the MSO as a student. Christopher Blair was the conductor at that time and his first concert included a performance of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. One of John’s most memorable moments with the MSO was when Christopher Blair’s stepmother, actress Maureen O’Hara, narrated Peter and the Wolf.  John recalled that he and other students were tickled by Ms. O’Hara’s “colorful language.”

John might have gone into public school teaching if he had not chosen the performance route. He has kept the educational component through teaching cello privately and as an adjunct professor at UMass Lowell.

He classifies himself as a Boston-based freelancer, and with his husband, violinist Peter Stickel, runs a business called Presto! Music. John and Peter were also the founders of the nationally known string orchestra, New England String Ensemble, which performed throughout Boston until 2010.

John enjoys the diverse nature of his profession: teaching students with differing abilities is endlessly challenging, and performance opportunities are widely varying. In addition to the MSO, John plays in Symphony by the Sea, in string quartets for concerts and special events, and in the pit orchestra at the North Shore Music Theatre. Les Misérables is one of his favorite musicals.

Baroque music is John’s favorite classical genre, including the music of Bach and Vivaldi.  He also enjoys reggae, jazz, and rock.  His favorite rock band is Blondie, which he follows religiously.  As an educator, John hopes that young kids will continue to be exposed to different types of music - including classical.

John enjoys hiking, gardening, and anything associated with nature.  Like many others, he also spends too much time on Facebook.

Since he has been associated with the MSO for over 35 years - about 2/3 of his life - he feels that the orchestra captures much of “the story of his life.” For John, MSO musicians include childhood friends, colleagues, musical mentors, and a number of his past and current students.