Steven C. ‘Bo’ Eckard

McDaniel Col­lege se­nior mu­sic lec­turer founded the Elec­tric Bass En­sem­ble and World Mu­sic Con­nec­tion

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Frederick N. Ras­mussen fras­mussen@balt­sun.com

Steven C. “Bo” Eckard, a mem­ber of the mu­sic fac­ulty at McDaniel Col­lege, se­nior mu­sic lec­turer and founder of the Elec­tric Bass En­sem­ble and the World Mu­sic Con­nec­tion, died Aug. 24 of un­de­ter­mined causes at his West­min­ster home. He was 58.

“We are wait­ing for the re­sults of an au­topsy as to the cause of death,” said his wife of 25 years, the for­mer Les­lie Payne.

The son of John R. Eckard, who was West­min­ster city man­ager, and Doris A. Eckard, a home­maker, Steven Charles Eckard was born in Bal­ti­more and raised in West­min­ster.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from West­min­ster High School in 1977, he ob­tained a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in his­tory in 1981 from what is now Loy­ola Univer­sity of Mary­land.

Mr. Eckard be­came an ac­com­plished bass gui­tar player — he had been as­signed that in­stru­ment while play­ing with var­i­ous bands dur­ing his high school years.

He also com­posed songs and, in ad­di­tion to the bass gui­tar, played pi­ano, drums, man­dolin and up­right bass.

He per­formed be­gin­ning in the 1970s with tour­ing bands that trav­eled the Eastern Se­aboard, such as the Lost Cow­boy Band and the Es­sen­tials, which has been rec­og­nized nu­mer­ous times by the Wash­ing­ton Area Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion.

They played such venues as CBGB, a mu­sic club in Man­hat­tan’s East Vil­lage, the Bot­tom Line in Green­wich Vil­lage, and the Kennedy Cen­ter and French Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton.

Mr. Eckard met his fu­ture wife, a writer, when he was a mem­ber of the Es­sen­tials.

“We were it, man. We still are, but we’re older now,” he told The Hill, the McDaniel Col­lege alumni mag­a­zine, in a 1995 in­ter­view.

In 1984, Mr. Eckard came to thenWestern Mary­land Col­lege in West­min­ster as a lec­turer in the mu­sic de­part­ment. He also taught string bass and elec­tric bass.

“I’ve been in bands since I was14 and I’ve played a lot of places. … I made it big, I’ve cap­tured the house, I’ve had fans chant my name,” he said in the1995 in­ter­view. “I want my stu­dents to get a taste of that — what it’s like to walk out onto a stage with de­cent sound and just say, ‘OK, this is it.’

“Teach­ing is the most won­der­ful thing in the world,” he told The Hill. “I want my stu­dents to have fun, to learn a lit­tle and go from here to there.”

An email from McDaniel of­fi­cials to fac­ulty col­leagues an­nounc­ing his death de­scribed Mr. Eckard as a “bril­liant pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian, per­former, com­poser and di­rec­tor. … His charis­matic teach­ing and gen­er­ous men­tor­ing drew stu­dents from ev­ery ma­jor to his cour­ses and he quickly built the Jazz En­sem­ble from three stu­dents to a much larger group who would per­form for stand­ing-room crowds at bian­nual con­certs.”

Mr. Eckard was a tire­less re­cruiter when it came to bring­ing stu­dents to McDaniel to study mu­sic. His motto was “The more the mer­rier.”

Dr. Mar­garet Boudreaux, for­mer mu­sic de­part­ment chair and cur­rent di­rec­tor of choral ac­tiv­i­ties at the col­lege, said in the 1995 Hill in­ter­view that Mr. Eckard had a “spon­ta­neous teach­ing style” that “leads to very good con­cepts of im­pro­vi­sa­tion, and his style is very in­clu­sive.”

In ad­di­tion to di­rect­ing the jazz en­sem­ble, he was also the founder of the Elec­tric Bass En­sem­ble. McDaniel of­fi­cials say the col­lege is one of only two col­leges in the na­tion to spon­sor an idio­syn­cratic band. Mr. Eckard pro­duced his own com­po­si­tions and ar­range­ments for the en­sem­ble, with more than a 100 ti­tles to his credit.

He presided over re­hearsals in McDaniel’s Levine Hall — and would be­stow $1 “re­wards” when a per­former achieved a mu­si­cal break­through.

He be­came di­rec­tor of jazz stud­ies at the col­lege and played an im­por­tant role in es­tab­lish­ing a jazz mi­nor at McDaniel.

In 2002, he was ap­pointed se­nior lec­turer in mu­sic, the po­si­tion he held at his death.

“A lot of peo­ple think jazz mu­sic is play­ing a bunch of ran­dom notes, like mon­keys sit­ting at a type­writer,” Mr. Eckard told The Hill. “It’s not that easy, oth­er­wise every­body would be play­ing it. I be­lieve the gen­eral pub­lic would be as­tounded to find out just how much the­ory goes into play­ing jazz.”

He added: “Jazz is whistling past a grave­yard, jazz is col­or­ing out­side of the lines, jazz is know­ing the mu­sic so well you can be free with it. … Jazz isn’t play­ing non­sense. It’s see­ing the sit­u­a­tion and grasp­ing it, but you can never fully grasp it be­cause if you did you would ex­plode.”

Mr. Eckard’s in­ter­est in in­ter­na­tional and mul­ti­cul­tural mu­sic was epit­o­mized by his found­ing of the World Mu­sic Con­nec­tion — a group that brought di­verse mu­sic from Brazil­ian samba to mari­achi to African per­cus­sion to reg­gae and mu­sic of the Mid­dle East to the West­min­ster cam­pus.

He also had a band, Mari­achi Sin Nom­bres, that per­formed at West­min­ster venues — and roamed the city’s streets dur­ing the an­nual Cinco de Mayo cel­e­bra­tion.

He per­formed with Cham­ber Mu­sic on the Hill, Com­mon Ground on the Hill and in many cam­pus the­ater pro­duc­tions.

In ad­di­tion to mu­sic, Mr. Eckard main­tained an in­ter­est in his­tory, ar­chi­tec­ture and ge­neal­ogy. He was an avid reader, a fan of Brazil­ian World Cup soc­cer and the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles.

A memo­rial ser­vice will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 9 in the Baker Memo­rial Chapel on the McDaniel Col­lege cam­pus.

In ad­di­tion to his wife, Mr. Eckard is sur­vived by two daugh­ters, Anna Lisette Eckard, a se­nior at McDaniel, and Stephanie Eckard, a se­nior at Win­ters Mill High School; three brothers, John “Jay” Eckard of Tow­son, Philip Eckard of West­min­ster and Lawrence “Lawry” Eckard of Cum­ber­land; and two sis­ters, Terry Eckard and Marty Devili­biss, both of West­min­ster. Steven C. Eckard played an im­por­tant role in es­tab­lish­ing a jazz mi­nor at McDaniel.

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