Thanks to my mother and father, I had three guitar teachers growing up. The first two were at the Music and Arts Center in Bowie, MD. One of them I had for a very brief time, but Gene Goldsmith taught me the fundamentals and gave me a strong foundation on which to advance. Once I had those fundamentals down, I moved on to my third and most influential instructor, Tom Kreuzburg.
Tom was a legend in the Bowie area, and taught guitar lessons to a lot of Bowie kids. Tom was talented, challenging, fun, funny, always in a great mood, and could teach anything I asked of him, from the latest pop rock song, to proper classical guitar in the style of Andres Segovia, and anything in between. He was part of a pop music nightclub band called Bits and Pieces, who toured out of the area and were known around the East coast of America and elsewhere. He also performed Flamenco guitar brilliantly, and did solo performances of classical and flamenco in DC venues, sometimes accompanied by Flamenco dancers. At one point Tom was working with Flamenco legend and then-local DC resident Carlos Ramos to transcribe old Spanish Flamenco pieces that had been only passed down from generation to generation and never transcribed before.
Thanks to Tom, I managed to join a great established rock band in the Bowie area named Majestic, and performed with them starting in my senior year of high school and all through college. We performed throughout the DC area, and sometimes hit the road briefly here and there – we performed in Manhattan at one point. And one memorable evening, Majestic performed at a huge facility at the University of Maryland, and Tom came to the show and recorded us on video.
If memory serves me correctly, I believe that’s the last time I ever saw Tom Kreuzberg.
As web search engines came into being, I think most of all of us have used them to search for old friends with whom we’ve lost contact, and Tom is one of those I’ve often searched for, but to no avail – until recently, when I found two mentions of him online.
The first thing I found was the video below on YouTube, a news report by the Las Vegas Sun from March 30, 2008, showing Tom teaching guitar and showcasing some of his students at a local coffee shop.
But the second item was this obituary reporting that Tom passed away on March 30, 2011, in Las Vegas.
I was shocked to learn of his passing, what a great loss.
Tom was one of the greatest influences on my life growing up. When I see the kids in the Las Vegas Sun video piece below, I’m reminded of myself – I remember playing a few of those exact same pieces under Tom’s instruction, and how some of those works formed the basis of future guitar riffs I’d use in the future on stage with Majestic. Most importantly, I remember the joy of playing guitar, and how enthused Tom was and how encouraging he always was.
I have a great appreciation for all the teachers I’ve ever had. I think we all agree that teaching is a special calling and a crucial social connection that, to me, is one of the most important aspects of society. Whether instruction is written, video recorded, or taught in person, the act of one person sharing knowledge with others is what enables us all as a society to connect, advance, and build on one another’s achievements. Without it, we are all floundering around without the benefit of each other’s achievements. With it, we are stronger as a society.
Tom was the best example I ever had of what a teacher should be. You can get a brief sense of that in the video below.