Chris Uggen's Blog: garth eppley

Thursday, May 11, 2006

garth eppley

young garth eppley died in a plane crash april 23rd, along with four other indiana university graduate music students. i'm in a count-my-blessings mood these days, so his death reminds me to cherish the kids around me and to enjoy life while it lasts.

mr. eppley was a 25-year-old biker/opera singer and one of those relatives that i wished i'd known. at a family gathering this weekend, i heard tales of his voice, his humor, his bikes, and his adventures. mr. eppley's obits noted his professional accomplishments, sometimes briefly hinting at other interests.

on saturday, the best story i heard involved camping one night with some new biker buds. when they asked what he did for a living, he said he was an opera singer. when they asked him to sing, he sang big. when he was done, his immediate audience was stunned and big applause came echoing back from across the dark lake.

a blog dedicated to his memory paints a more complete picture. a few excerpts:

Garth taught me that sometimes you just have to sit back and not worry about being in control of everything.

While I discovered the joys of musical analysis, I began to mark my music to an extreme level. Garth told me to "Just ________ sing it." He understood that there was a point where music was simply (and complexly) music. This lesson has remained a part of my musical identity. As a musicology student, I sometimes will lose focus on the music and get too involved in the minutia. The line "JFSI" has remained in my head...

Your voice astounded me. The warmth, the depth, the ease in which you sang. I was often baffled at how you pulled it off at times. But pulling it off isn't completely how to describe it. It was almost as if you had outsung expectations.

I just remember studying for M402 with Jeff at their place, when suddenly I hear country music being BLASTED from upstairs, and Garth singing loud and out of tune - not a care in the world - along with it. Then he'd come downstairs, gun-toting, accurately identify the piece and excerpt we were listening to, grab a beer, and head upstairs for more redneck karaoke.

Garth never did anything in moderation... You always wanted to walk with the Gods and we know you are now.

Garth was a wonderful friend; always giving me rides home in that big, scary truck of his, introducing me to unending varieties of American junk food, teaching me to speak "mid-western," providing a shoulder to cry on and a couch to waste time on.Garth was always surprising me. He'd be going on and on about motorbikes or guns, and then say, "Hey- are you wearing Coco Chanel Mademoiselle?" Er, yes.

Your beautiful voice went through my heart and refreshed my soul. You made me laugh, you gave me joy, you are my heart, baby. When I step into heaven and take your hand, you have to sing "Comes a Time", with me like we have done since you were a little boy. I will miss our conversations so much. You knew me and loved me anyway. Love, Mom

What a Gentleman. If anything, that is what was most respectable about Garth, he was a true friend and a true gentleman.

After I had lost mine, he had his hair cut to give to me to make a wig. I remember being so proud that I got to sing with Garth Eppley, and could ALMOST match him in volume.

You had the world in the palm of your hand and were so ridiculously talented. "You don't know what it's like to try to find comfort anywhere... his jacket on a hook..." Yeah the opera lyrics go through my head constantly and for the rest of my life, when I hear it, I will think of you.

he took up the whole room...We recently did a performance for a local high school and Garth arrived with a huge tear in the butt of his still cracks me up ...

you were fun, you were crazy, you were uninhibited, you loved the Lord with all your soul and you had that beautiful, beautiful, beautiful voice. In a word – you had a lot of your mom in you. You were tall, you were handsome, you were kind, and you had those gorgeous blue eyes and that beautiful, beautiful, beautiful smile. In other words you had a lot of your dad in you.

I always knew I could count on you. Thanks for taking my kids to soccer or wherever...I would call you and tell you I was in a pinch and you would drop whatever you were doing and say "Don't worry, I'm on it!" ...oh and by the way...our won.

Adrian said I probably wouldn’t be playing bass guitar now if we hadn’t dated… He’s probably right-

And what a voice-- what a performer! His intense and anguished portrayal of Pilatus in Arvo Part's Passion always gave me chills (the good kind)...Our choral conductor instructed Garth to step out of the ensemble when he had the solo and to turn and glare at the soprano section "like an angry god." He would always stare directly at me with this murderous expression...

I'll always remember my family and I sitting on our porch listening to him play his guitar. He would sit on his porch or be upstairs in his house with the window open and play.

I wonder if it's more unbelievable that you're gone or that someone like you had ever lived?

You played my brother in "The Secret Garden." I was so intimidated at first by your gorgeous voice, tall muscular frame and big personality...I look forward to seeing you in heaven, and counting how many angels you taught to ride motorcycles on the streets of gold.

I remember the time when you sent me a note in class that was marked urgent!!! In the note you asked me to be your girl

when we realized that our names could be in the score forever. You sat there punched a rock fist into the air and said, "I'm gonna be a fucking foot not ein music history!"

I will never forget you -- the man who renewed my faith in tenors. Only you could name a motorcycle by just listening to it drive by.

Two weeks later, and it's still're really gone. I keep waiting for a sarcastic text message or random phonecall, but it hasn't happened, and it won't. You taught me many things. How to corner on a motorcycle. Not to soak a chicken in pure alcohol overnight (no matter how good you might think it's going to taste). That changing a car battery is as easy as changing a light bulb. That cigars taste better in celebration. That Dave Matthew's sounds better the second night. Going to see Lord of the Rings at 12:30am is the only way to see it. That there's nothing wrong with forgetting your words during your senior recital if you have a kickass voice to back it up.



At 5:00 PM, Blogger Gidget said...

i am so sorry for your loss - my deepest sympathies and condolences

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Me too -- he sounds like a wonderful person.

There's a paper (diss?) waiting to be written here about how websites in general and blogging in particular have altered or melded with existing mourning rituals.

Off the top of my head, it seems like RIP blogs (and related critters) have made death much more personal for a much wider circle of people. In the pre-blog era, the 2nd grade sweetheart of the deceased probably wouldn't be invited to a memorial service (except perhaps in very small towns), let alone participate in it. RIP blogs allow people who are much farther from the deceased, geographically and socially, participate in the mourning "rituals."

At the same time, RIP blogs make the very personal and usually private grief of the family members more public.

A Durkheimian could go nuts.

Maybe this paper has already been written, and I just don't know about it. If not, it should be.

At 11:41 PM, Anonymous chris said...

thanks gidget and kim. i never knew the guy, but know some good people who loved him a lot.

kim, yes! i'm a little too close to sociologize it dispassionately, but i agree completely. the standard obits seemed so superficial after hearing family members talk. the blog, on the other hand, seemed to portray the man in full -- or at least it got closer to the stories delivered at the dinner table.

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Lars said...

Forgive me for introducing, perhaps, a cynical tone here, but I wonder about Kim's proposition here.

Specifically, I do think such a thing would be interesting and *ought* to be done. But, as a fledgling (flailing?) graduate student, I wonder, who gets to do this stuff? I can't imagine finding anyone to serve on that committee. And, from what I hear (which is probably wrong), the prospects of taking that under your arm to the job market doesn't sounds so smart either. But what do I know?

I ask because, well, I'm curious about how this business of sociology gets done. I often here from grown-ups (professors) what ought to be done, but it seems to come as advice when the speaker wouldn't be responsible for the student whom is being addressed.

My apologies for sounding crass in response to something sincere. I am curious, I hope I don't offend with my questions.

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous chris said...

that's a fair point, lars. such projects are high risk, but potentially high reward. in my opinion, good studies of mourning and bereavement could interest a pretty broad sociological audience.

off the top of my head, i'd recommend a multi-method approach that would hedge your bets: a historical component, a quantitative analysis of, say, death notices past and present, and an interpretive study of selected cases.

since this isn't my area, the *first* thing i'd suggest is that the student contact a real expert, such as my old friend bob fulton , to get a handle on the existing social science literature. your advisors will often have old friends who know more about your interest areas than they do. my advisees mostly focus on the sociology of crime, law, or deviance, but they often take on similarly creative (and, hence, risky) projects. such studies can take a few years longer than, say, adding an independent variable to a well-established model in a well-established data set. in the end, however, you can emerge as a real expert in a bourgeoning new area.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Garth's mom said...

Thanks Chris for writing about my "Bug". I hope to meet you someday. After all, we are family. If anyone is interested, I feel that the blogs do make people see who the person really is, and it helps those of us who are grieving to read them. Since many of those who wrote the blogs were Garth's dear friends, I know it was therapy for them to write about him. And I would agree with Kim when she said that it makes it more personal for a wider circle of people. It made us all feel more connected to see the personal comments.
However, mourning is what it is-painful and life changing. My definition of joy and happiness have been changed forever. And I am sure that it has been that way since the beginning of time for anyone who has lost a child. It is an exclusive club that no one wants to belong to.

Garth's Mom

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous chris said...

as a parent, i simply cannot imagine losing a child. thank you so much for your grace and eloquence in the face of so much pain and sadness.


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