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In memory of John Austin Butsch

April 11, 2011

There aren't words, of course.

Last Friday, I attended IU Opera's world premiere of "Vincent." In its final moments, I was struck by the obvious notion of how the death of an artist takes with it more then the loss of a life. Also lost are the things that artist would have created.

Shortly after returning home, I learned of the murder of John Austin Butsch.

I did not know Butsch well, but I knew of his work as musical director for Bobdirex productions at the Athenaeum (including the delightful "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" last summer). And I appreciated the generosity, care and talent he brought to last September's IBJ Arts Night event at the International School.

More than that, though, I knew that his work had impacted the lives of many theater artists in Indy.

There was a lot I didn't know of, including Butsch's piano education as a Cincinnati College-Conservatory Corbett Scholar, his Aspen Music Festival win, his composing for Time-Warner and ABC, and his stage time with the likes of Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, the Pointer Sisters, and Burt Bacharach. We in Indy only saw the latest of the music he created in his 59 years.

As details surfaced of the horrifying crime, one glimmer of light appeared. The latest project that Butsch was working on with creative partner Bob Harbin will be going forward.

In an announcement of the cast for Bobdirex's upcoming production of "Camp Rock," Harbin noted: "It is also with great sadness that I share news that some of you may not know. Our Musical Director and my close friend, John Austin Butsch, was taken from us Thursday last. ... We will persevere ... we are mighty, and we will put on a show that would make John proud."

May his memory be a blessing. May his music be heard. May his family and friends find comfort as they mourn both the man and the future work that has been taken from us.

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