Steven C. ‘Bo’ Eckard
McDaniel College senior music lecturer founded the Electric Bass Ensemble and World Music Connection
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.