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Remembering Industry Pioneer Karl Bruhn

Music industry leader Karl Bruhn passed away on Oct. 5 in Anaheim, Calif., after a brief illness. He was 80. He is recognized industry-wide as the “father of music making and wellness,” due to his work on the Music Making and Wellness Project and support for recreational music making.

Active in both music retail and supply, Bruhn served as senior vice president, marketing for Yamaha Corp. of America, a position from which he retired in 1989. Later that year, he became NAMM’s first director of market development. During that time, he led the music community to present the work of the National Coalition for Music Education.

He also served as the executive director and president of the American Music Conference, president of the National Piano Foundation, president of Piano Manufacturers Association International and presidential advisor to the American Music Therapy Association. Most recently, he was chairman of the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute.

Music & Wellness Legacy
Bruhn collaborated with Dr. Barry Bittman on a series of research projects focused on developing and scientifically testing the bio-psycho-social aspects of recreational music making. Their protocol, Clavinova Connection, was launched by Yamaha Corp. of America in the United States. Additionally, Bruhn co-authored the HealthRhythms Group Empowerment Drumming facilitator-training program with Bittman and Christine Stevens for Remo.

“Karl Bruhn was a rare gift to the music products industry — a humble man who earned a stellar reputation as an advocate for arts education and the benefits of lifelong music making,” said Joe Lamond, president and CEO of NAMM. “His achievements have been felt by every NAMM member, and his legacy will have a positive impact on the industry for years to come.”

“Karl was one of the clearest thinkers I have ever known, and he challenged those around him to do so, as well,” said Terry Lewis, a friend of Bruhn’s and former executive vice president of Yamaha Corp. of America. “One of the ways he did this was to begin with a provocative saying, and these came to be known as ‘Bruhnisms.’ There were many. At Yamaha, the employee favorite became, ‘Your salary becomes effective when you do.’ But dealers might best remember, ‘There are two kinds of music dealers: Yamaha dealers and those who would like to be.’ He was a true mentor to me and to so many in our industry. He will be greatly missed.”

Bruhn was an accomplished musician who played professionally and led his own orchestra. He was awarded the honorary degree, doctor of music, by the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He’s survived by his daughter, Sandy Singleton of Ashland, Ore.; son, Craig of Anaheim, Calif.; and several grandchildren.