He taught music in the public schools of West Virginia for 38 years before finding the cultural scene of the Suncoast too good to pass up. Since moving here in 2015, he has become the piano accompanist at Sunnyside Village Retirement Community, the Sarasota Jewish Chorale, director of music ministry at St. Andrew United Church of Christ in Sarasota, performs with the Players Center for Performing Arts, is on the board of the Sarasota Ballet, attends every cultural arts performance in town, AND is the accompanist for Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota.
It is in that capacity that Bruce Ensinger talks to us today about the mission of Diversity, how singers can be a part of this "more than music" choir, and their concert plans for the 2021-2022 season.
All that and more on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club Podcast. Come along a join the club!
• Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota Website & Facebook & Instagram
• The Players Centre for the Performing Arts Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• Manatee Performing Arts Center Website & Facebook & Twitter & YouTube
• Venice Theatre Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube & Twitter & Trip Advisor
• Sarasota Ballet Website & Facebook & Instagram
• Sarasota Orchestra Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube
• Sarasota Opera Website & Facebook & Instagram
• Florida Studio Theatre Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• Asolo Repertory Theatre Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• The Ringling Museum of Art Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter
• Sarasota Concert Association Website & Facebook
• One City Chorus Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter
• Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter
• Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter
• Key Chorale Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube
• Choral Artists of Sarasota Website & Facebook & Twitter & YouTube
• Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota Website and Facebook and Instagram and YouTube
• Michael’s on East Website & Facebook & Instagram
• SSPARCC Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube
• First Step Website & Facebook & YouTube
• Sarasota Pride Facebook
Robyn Bell: I am so thrilled to have with me today. The amazing Bruce Ensinger who plays so much piano around town, I don't even know where to start. Bruce. You are the accompanist at Sunnyside Village Retirement Community. The accompanist at the Sarasota Jewish. Director of ministry at St. Andrew United church of Christ in Sarasota. And you've been performing with the Player Center for Performing Arts, but a day I invited you here to talk to me about your role as the accompanist for Diversity, the Voices of Sarasota. So Bruce Ensinger welcome to the club.
Bruce Ensinger: Thank you very much. Happy to be here
Robyn Bell: before we talk about the Diversity choir, their upcoming auditions in the seasons performances. Take a moment to tell us about you, Bruce. Where did you grow up? What got you started in music? What jobs have you had that led you to the work you do here? And how did you land on our face? Suncoast of Florida.
Bruce Ensinger: okay. I grew up in Southeastern Ohio, close to Pittsburgh. Well, close a hundred miles away.
Robyn Bell: Midwesterner.
Bruce Ensinger: Yes. And, my parents weren't musicians, but their parents were my, paternal grandfather played accordion and his father was born in Germany. So I remember. spoke English, but mostly spoke German and Swiss because his wife was, Swiss. She was actually born in Switzerland and they listened to a lot of folk music polkas and so as a kid, I loved that on my mother's side, my uncle played, fiddle in a country band. And it was a pretty good country band. And I love to go and watch them square dances and kid just the excitement, you know, the rhythm that driving rhythm that you find in bluegrass country and also in polka is, and folk music from Europe. Even though my parents weren't musicians, they came from families. That music was a big part of their life, but no one had ever really studied because they all played by ear or by rote or what they had learned. So I think I was probably in fifth grade when I was just fascinated with the piano and that's when I started, lessons in my first teacher was really good. She taught about reading and rhythmic accuracy, but she wasn't a good technician because Know, it was rural, Southeastern Ohio.
Robyn Bell: I was going to ask, did you have a piano in your home?
Bruce Ensinger: We got one
Robyn Bell: for you to take lessons
Bruce Ensinger: once I started. Cool. Then we, found one and, it was nice. It served me well. I mean, it's not the instrument I have today, but that's what happens. I have a , uh, six foot grand, which I, which I love to have it there. Every day, but I had a star upright, which was a Midwestern piano and , it was nice. , and it served me well for what I did, and then in sixth grade I started playing trumpet. and
Robyn Bell: it's my favorite instrument.
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah. Then I also played horn. And when I got to high school played trumpet in horn, but piano was. My main instrument.
Robyn Bell: Did you accompany the choir in high school?
Bruce Ensinger: There was no choir. I loved choral music and I've always loved, and it is my, uh, well accompanying and, but especially accompanying choirs is my first love.
Robyn Bell: What about did your high school have like a jazz band where you could play piano in the jazz band
Bruce Ensinger: playing trumpet?
Robyn Bell: Oh my goodness. The jazz and the,
Bruce Ensinger: in the jazz band? Yeah, the director's wife played. So they were both Ohio state. The Ohio state university. Yes. Yes, Brad. And, uh, so when I was a junior in high school, I heard of a teacher in NewMartinsville. Which is in West Virginia, just across the river. And she changed my life and she changed so many people.
Robyn Bell: Well, you talk about that on this podcast, how one person can just change your whole trajectory.
Bruce Ensinger: She was the woman. Her name was Stephanie . Her father was from tartar, which is a region in Russia and they immigrated to the United States in Rochester and she eastman when she was little. And I think she played with the Rochester symphony when she was eight or nine, she was one of those prodigies and then studied at Juilliard, went to Europe and had a wonderful career in California, TJ. And West Virginia university was doing the new creative arts center in the sixties and Don Portnoy they brought him in to do the orchestra, Joe Goltz, to do the opera Francis yen from the met, John,
Robyn Bell: I'm going to bring some culture to the wall.
Bruce Ensinger: And what they did is they decided to get some artists and residents. They had a dance person down in Beckley. They had a theater person, , in another part of the state and they brought Stephanie in to new Martinsville to start teaching piano lessons and have a studio. So, but she was amazing. She brought this world of experience and I still remember she had this thick Russian accent, you know, even as it is here. And she said something, you have potential. That's what she, what she said. And, I remember playing a Brahms piece and she said, yeah, the notes are right. And you have some emotion there. She says, but once your heart's broken, you'll learn how to
Robyn Bell: that's. Right, right. I say the same thing. Once you fall in love, you're going to be quite the musician. Yeah.
Bruce Ensinger: Quite different. And she was exactly correct. So from there, I finished high school playing piano, and I knew I wanted to, be a teacher. So I looked at several schools. She wanted me to go to WVU, of course, West Virginia university. I keep forgetting I'm not in West Virginia anymore. So, your podcast, people may not know what West Virginia is. Joe Manchin. Yes, everyone is. Heard of that.
Robyn Bell: Can I tell you a joke? My dad always used to tell, he would say, you know, Robyn the toothbrush was invented in West Virginia, and I say, dad, how do you know that? And he goes, well, if it had been invented any place else, it had been the teeth brush that terrible, please, no offense to West Virginia. And it was just a joke.
Bruce Ensinger: When, I say something that, you know, I ended up teaching in West Virginia and they said, well to children wear shoes and everything. Well, I said, I lived in Ohio, but
Robyn Bell: terrible. We shouldn't make connotations like that. People are great all over our country.
Bruce Ensinger: I know exactly. So I ended up, Stephanie wanted me to go to WV. And Lily Kraus was another pianist that she knew who was at Texas Christian. And, I sent a tape there because I didn't travel, but I really wanted to do music education. And that's what I really want to. So I went to west Liberty state college, which is outside of Wheeling, and the beautiful, Hills up in the tri-state area. There it's a lovely school. One of the oldest. Schools in West Virginia, it was basically a teacher's college. It was west Liberty teacher college originally. Now it's a university. Of course, they're all universities. Yeah. But I had a wonderful, experience there. And my senior year when I did my student teaching Wheeling Park High School. Had consolidated three schools and I was lucky to be there and we made an audition tape to go to an international choral festival in Rome and they were selected. So I graduated in December a semester early. And stayed on, did some subbing and things like that. And then I went and accompanied them to Rome. Then I stayed on to Rome a little bit to study some harpsichord. And then I came back and started teaching in Wetzel county schools, West Virginia in the fall of 1977. And I taught for 38 years. Well at the same school,
Robyn Bell: same school, no one does it anymore for you.
Bruce Ensinger: The same school I took one year. To do my master's at Ohio university in music, history and literature.
Robyn Bell: It's funny. Cause you mentioned the harpsichord because that's how I first met you. You came here to the campus and you did a little harpsichord presentation for our students because we have a harpsichord that unfortunately hardly ever gets used, but it's such a fascinating antique instruments.
Bruce Ensinger: Wonderful.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And you're very proficient. Yeah.
Bruce Ensinger: Well, I enjoy, I enjoy very much. I wish I had one in the house. Uh, Phyllis Diller had one in her bedroom. Did you know that she was a keyboardist? Phyllis Diller the comedian that a lot of people don't know, but yeah, she played with, I think the Dayton symphony once a year, she did a benefit, but she actually. Quite a good harpsichordist.
Robyn Bell: Well, I wish I hadn't known this about you, that you want to one, because for many weeks, maybe even months at the Designing Women Boutique, you know, where the Sarasota Cultural Arts Alliances they had, not one but two harpsichords there for sale
Bruce Ensinger: I'm on the board of the friends of the ballet. I mean, they're, yes. Sarasota Ballet and I've seen them there and I kept thinking, okay, Uh, I really have room in that alcove in the bedroom that no one, you either have a chase lounge or an exercise machine. I have a harpsichord and I could be like, Phyllis Diller. I could have it in my bedroom. You know, now if I could only find Fang, have a fabulous comedian career, I don't know.
Robyn Bell: That's great. So you taught 38. Choir.
Bruce Ensinger: I did. I did. I caught it womb to tomb because I started teaching fourth, fifth, and sixth. And I loved that because then I had a four or five, six choir and I kind of knew really what was happening. I knew all the general music. So then I had a choir and it was an after-school choir then. They wanted to do more with scheduling. There were four music teachers at this. It was the largest elementary school in West Virginia. We had 2000 students. K eight.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah, it was a lot. But now. I think it's probably about a thousand students. I mean, we've lost that many students over the years, but they had to consolidate music positions, so when one person left, they had three of us cover. So I ended up teaching everything from kindergarten through eight there, and then I also went to the high school. And one year I actually was half and half when the high school choral position came open, I did it, but it was hard to do two schools and everyone wanted you to keep both the choirs and performing things going. So I did it for a year and I thought it is exhausting. And I also taught at the community college, West Virginia Northern. I did intro to fine arts and music appreciation , did the same at Wheeling Jesuit, which was Wheeling College.
Robyn Bell: What a fun career you've had, but after 38 years you said, Ooh, I'm done.
Bruce Ensinger: Right.
Robyn Bell: I hope I make it. 38 years.
Bruce Ensinger: I probably would have gone on if it wasn't for all of the. Changes in education, the safe shooter drills. And one day I was shot by a state patrolman with a rubber bullet because they said,
Robyn Bell: yeah, I didn't sign up for this.
Bruce Ensinger: They were telling everyone you need to run out of the building. Well, I don't run one and I said, I have. Second graders or kindergarten. And you just tell them to run towards the trees. We'll catch him up later. I said, well, what if we can't find a kid? I would never sleep. I would really, and he said, well, we're going to try a DRO right now. And I'm going to say, there's an active shooter in the five, six wing. And everyone runs into different dress,
Robyn Bell: but you're not you're right. It's never the teaching. It's never the music making. It's all that other stuff that makes. Right education and being a teacher so difficult. Yeah.
Bruce Ensinger: Now with COVID I don't know how, especially choral people. Well, instrumental people too. I mean, you can still, I've seen people play with mask with zippers on the side for wind players. String players are fine and percussionists, they can
Robyn Bell: Right,
Bruce Ensinger: but singers are actually singing, singing.
Robyn Bell: Yeah,
Bruce Ensinger: stuff in the air,
Robyn Bell: it has proven difficult and I'm just exhausted by it all. I have to tell ya, I go to bed at night and I wake up in the morning having no idea what the day is going to look like or when things are going to change again. So anyway, what brought you then to decide to come to Sarasota?
Bruce Ensinger: Well, actually it was my teaching in new Martinsville, a woman that I taught with, she grew up in Florida. And her brother still lives here in Sarasota. And she had a condo. It was actually on siesta key. And they had the corner one on the first floor and it was right out near the pool. And then you just walked across. Beach drive, and you'd be at the beach. And she said they had a renter for nine months, a snowbird renter, but they didn't have anyone who wanted it in the summer. It was so hot. So she said, have you been to Sarasota? I said, I haven't. So I rented it for a month from her.
Robyn Bell: That's, how it starts.
Bruce Ensinger: The music festival was going on, or need us to say about a pass. And I was there constantly. And then Bill Winstead, the wonderful bassoonist who teaches at West Virginia university. I knew him for you. He just recently died and it was so, so principal from the Cincinnati, symphony. Amazing. Yeah. countertenor piano's composer played harp, did everything, but the soon, uh, so I chatted with him and he said, you know, this is a wonderful place. You know, he was thinking of buying something in Florida, and then I stuck. So I came down the next summer. So it was always in the back of my head. Sarasota is really a great place for the arts. So then when I decided to retire, I wanted to kind of someplace warm. I know you don't have to shovel sunshine. And that's what I've seen that smile.
Robyn Bell: You have to run from hurricanes, but you don't have to shovel sunshine.
Bruce Ensinger: So I've always loved Charleston, South Carolina, and I went there on August day and I think I sweat more, fluid than I could take in. And it was, yeah. Uh, cobblestone, it's beautiful, hot, but really hot. And in order to be there, I would need three times as much my retirement money, unless I lived in a suburb, which looked like anything in Pittsburgh or anything outside any city USA
Robyn Bell: that surprises me that Sarasota would be less expensive than Charleston
Bruce Ensinger: while it was downtown Charleston, because I don't live in downtown Sarasota.
Robyn Bell: Right.
Bruce Ensinger: But there are some areas. That, are much more reasonable but the charm of Charleston to me would be living downtown where you'd be close to everything. Cause traffic is an issue there. Sarasota does not a gem with traffic, uh, especially in season, So we ended up looking at both cities and weighing the options and we came to Sarasota.
Robyn Bell: So tell me about how you moved here. And then when I first knew you with Diversity, you were actually filling in as, not just the accompanist, but you were directing the choir,
Bruce Ensinger: right? I moved here in the fall of 2015 and I thought, okay, I did church work since seventh grade, 35 years in a Presbyterian church, 22 years in the Catholic church, I serve both, sentences. Simultan Hey,
Robyn Bell: at least we know you're going to heaven.
Bruce Ensinger: I don't know. There are people who might debate that one, but, so I thought, well, I can just go to church and worship. And I tried that, but what I really missed was accompanying so in January, 2017, I saw an article in the paper that, diversity was looking for an accompanist. So I called and interviewed. And there were three people and I heard the person before me play and he was really good. And then they gave him a sight reading piece and I saw him like counting. Something that I thought, oh no, what if I have that same piece? What if that dah, dah, dah. So I came up and played and I played a Chopin piece. And I remember John artist and say, do you have anything that will show me that you can keep a strict tempo?
Robyn Bell: Right? Well, choir people need that.
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah. Play Mozart. That's pretty good. And I, so I played a little bit of it. He goes, that's enough. That's enough. Now I'd like for you to sight read something, is that okay? And I'm like, sure. And I looked at it and the reason that it was different. Do you know, when people who are not pianists use software notation and they just put the notes in, but the notes don't always line up and you're looking at it doesn't look right. It's like all of a sudden you're reading and then you see it go to italics and then you realize, oh, it's a foreign language. That's great. Yes. Or Turkish posh go to niche or something like that. They're like, ah, so I finally figured it. Where are the main beats and I put everything in line and I saw John and he just likes smiled. Well, it was a piece that, he had arranged and he wanted to do it on the spring concert. We were doing a thing of African music and, So, and I understood where he was going with the accompany might looking at having accompanied so much. And I looked at more than what he wanted. So I think that's where I got an idea of the piece. So that's how I started with Diversity and
Robyn Bell: got it. Now we have it. Maybe we should take just a second and tell the listeners who don't know about Diversity, what exactly it is. Cause it has a specific niche in our cultural community.
Bruce Ensinger: Diversity. A gay and gay friendly chorus in the Sarasota area. Diversity started in 1997 and it was actually the Gulf Coast Men's Chorus and kinda like the San Francisco. Men's gay chorus, the San Francisco gay men's chorus.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. So that's kind of what this started out, like
Bruce Ensinger: started out like that and they were invited by the Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus to sing something on their program. And that was December, 1997.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Bruce Ensinger: So it was a men's group for several years. And then in 2005, a women's group called Harmony: the Women's Voices of Sarasota. They created kind of, well, let's do something like that. When I talked to people, they said, well, the women wanted to be a part for several years and the men I know, I don't know. So finally, in 2008, the chorus has merged and we used a little bit of both the names. So. It became Diversity and then The Voices of Sarasota. So that's the official name,
Robyn Bell: isn't that interesting?
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah. So this should be the beginning of our 25th season. I was doing the math, like 97, 98, 99. So if we started counting 97, I don't know if it was the beginning of a whole year or not, but this season, should be. 25th year of Diversity. And they've combined with Gala, the gay and lesbian chorus is in it, which is an international.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, that's an international organization that kind of oversees or has a convention or the LGBT choirs.
Bruce Ensinger: Right. They have a festival every four years and we were supposed to go last year. It was going to be in Minneapolis and it was postponed to this year and now it's been canceled. Again, so we think 2022 in Minneapolis, but we don't,
Robyn Bell: but whenever it's held our Diversity choir is going to go and perform this.
Bruce Ensinger: We're going to go and perform
Robyn Bell: very. Cool. Now each season Diversity is always looking to add new members. And, one of the reasons I reached out to you to come talk to me is I saw something on Facebook that, uh, oh, we're having auditions. So what is that process like? If someone wants to join the Diversity choir, what do they have to do to be a member?
Bruce Ensinger: We rehearse on Tuesday evening. At seven o'clock and usually we ask anyone who's interested in coming like a new member to come at 6:30, but if they use the contact information, either from the Facebook page or from our website, someone will tell them. About what we do. What we normally do is to go over the procedure we have a handbook of that.
Robyn Bell: In other words, I don't have to be an opera singer to get into Diversity.
Bruce Ensinger: We actually, we don't make anyone sing by themselves. We put them in groups with, some of the section leaders. Basically, we want to know if someone can match a pitch because. That's basically what, what you need for signaling
Robyn Bell: helpful.
Bruce Ensinger: It's helpful. And also, you kind of figure out when you're singing with someone, because part singing, a lot of people can sing the melody, but if you're an Alto you hardly ever get the melody.
Robyn Bell: There's a whole special song about that.
Bruce Ensinger: I know it's like playing French horn button, button, button.
Robyn Bell: Totally. And if you're a tenor, you know, you can sing anything on tenor, but if you're the bass, you gotta learn the bass line. So, yeah, that is true. That many people that are untrained can quickly jump in and sing the melody, but where the music really happens is in those harmony parts.
Bruce Ensinger: Right. And that's what makes it really, really exciting. So we try to figure out then where the voice is so that we would know what section. Then we introduced them to their section leader and the section leader goes over. Because they do the attendance and do all the section leaders.
Robyn Bell: Now you said that rehearsals are on Tuesdays at seven. How long do they go
Bruce Ensinger: from seven? Well, in a real world, they went from seven to nine and we took a break and we were rehearsing at St. Andrew, UCC on Beneva south of Clark. That's how I ended up getting the church job. Cause I started at Diversity
Robyn Bell: looking at their it's all about connections.
Bruce Ensinger: Uh, a church musician. And so I interviewed for that one. And so that's how I got in that little spot. But last year, because of the COVID situation, we actually rehearsed in a parking garage at, north Palm,
Robyn Bell: do you anticipate you're going to be back at the St Andrew's. Okay.
Bruce Ensinger: Not at St. Andrew St. Andrew was in lockdown and masks are required and there won't be enough space. So because of the new CDC guidelines we'llprobably be back in the parking. Garage because the infection rates for safety for singers, that's what we thought it's better. Extremely safe and cautious. Last year, we did it with masks, temperature checks, social distance, bringing chairs in the park. It was really kind of fun, but it's a labor of love because you have to haul the keyboard.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. You all of a sudden, you're a band director. Tell me about it.
Bruce Ensinger: Traveling puppet show.
Robyn Bell: Now, Bruce, is there a fee to be in the choir?
Bruce Ensinger: There is a fee, If someone has some financial issues, we have some people who will underwrite that they say pay $75 a season. A former singer who said that if someone wanted to join and money was an issue that she would pay that is wonderfully.
Robyn Bell: Well, tell us about you have a new conductor, Chris Romeo, how in the world did you land? This superstar
Bruce Ensinger: did auditions and we had five people that audition and we had a committee. We had them. For a half hour, segments. And we said, these are the pieces we'd like for you to go over, please do some warmups and do whatever parts of these pieces that you want. So we gave everyone the same amount of time, the same, chorus, same people, try to make it as. Equitable as possible them. We had a search committee that did preview interviews and looked over the resumes and did all of that. So then thechorus voted and then the search committee also voted, but Chris was, overwhelming.
Robyn Bell: Sure. And he lives just north of the bridge. Right. He's in St. Pete, I guess, area. Okay. So he's traveling a little bit to get here, although sometimes yeah. Quicker and shorter to St. Pete than Venice, you know, where we live. So it's just that bridge. It keeps people separated, unfortunately. Well, he's great. Cause we came and saw Diversity performance at the the Reserve and yeah. First time. I saw Chris not only conduct, but wonderful, beautiful singer.
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah. He sings with St. Pete opera and he just did did the lead well, and
Robyn Bell: you did a wonderful job accompanying on your appliance back.
Bruce Ensinger: I always call it a toaster when they say we want you to play. And I said, is there a piano or a toaster? And they go, what? I said, do you have to plug it in? They say, oh yes, but it's a PA. I said, oh no, that's all I need. I just need to know.
Robyn Bell: I think I know your preference there then
Bruce Ensinger: is music going to go flying anywhere? I need to know that.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if you're playing in a parking garage, you do, you have to have electricity for a keyboard and you need to be able to keep your music
Bruce Ensinger: so that Chris can be heard.
Robyn Bell: Right? Totally. Oh yes. So how many performance is kind of a regular season? Does Diversity give
Bruce Ensinger: in a regular season? We normally. Two major performances, but this year we're stretching ourselves and we're going to three.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Bruce Ensinger: Because we're starting early. We always have a problem at the Christmas time. Everyone wants to perform everyone. So we got together and we thought, what if we like started a little early, earlier than usual and then perform early, leave that Christmas season open. So if we want to do. Or we also have a small group, the Encore group that I direct from
Robyn Bell: chamber group, but
Bruce Ensinger: we didn't do it last year because we were just trying to stay afloat. So I don't know this year. So our first rehearsal is next Tuesday, the 31st, but we're also singing on October 23rd for Sarasota Pride and November 20th for Venice Pride. So those will be. 25, 30 minutes
Robyn Bell: run out concerts.
Bruce Ensinger: But our first concert is the 21st of November and it's called An Attitude of Gratitude.
Robyn Bell: So we put a nice title,
Bruce Ensinger: right? So we divided the program into. Four sections. So instead of just a Thanksgiving program, we're thankful for music. And so then we had some songs, like I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing. Thanks for the Music and Attitude. You know, then the next one is thankful for family and friends. Thank You for Being a Friend and Bill Withers. Lean on Me from West Virginia.
Robyn Bell: Yes.
Bruce Ensinger: The West Virginia connection, uh, thankful for health and life. The Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas, Morning Has Broken Cat Steve. And the last section is, we're thankful for Diversity and heritage and Guantanamera and Irish blessing and a couple of other things.
Robyn Bell: Very clever,
Bruce Ensinger: nice, a nice program. So then we kept Christmas open. We've often done the Spark, Christmas, That's a big gala thing. Michael's on East and we've done that the last couple of years. It was so
Robyn Bell: Spark is a wonderful organization.
Bruce Ensinger: Love it. And Diversity is not a choir. Only it's like a family because we've done things for Spark. We've done things for First Steps. We have women in our choir who rock those infants. We have a list of people, a woman who's just so sweet and she makes a list of things that they need. At Thanksgiving, there's the food drive at St. Andrew and. So when you're I said, well, why doesn't Diversity try? And I brought Reverend Paul was the minister that in, brought him over and I said, I want you to see something. And he came over and the whole. Huge bin was filled with food and he goes, where did that happen? How did that happen? He said it wasn't there on Sunday. And I said, we had Diversity last night and he just started crying and I kind of teared up, but Diversity does that. We took a family at, we have a giving tree at St. Andrew, and we adopted her family one year and it's a social thing.
Robyn Bell: It's more than just getting together to sing. I see.
Bruce Ensinger: Right. And that's one of the things. That's so special about Diversity
Robyn Bell: what about your second big concert?
Bruce Ensinger: Ah, well, we're doing also something new. We're going to revisit. Rehearsals then, depending on what happens in December, what after we do, we'll start rehearsals on the 4th of January, but on February 13th, we're going to go to St. Pete and sing what One City Chorus,
Robyn Bell: okay.
Bruce Ensinger: At the Palladium.
Robyn Bell: Cool.
Bruce Ensinger: The guest chorus and sing on part of their program. And then a week later on the 20th of February, we're doing a concert Motown and Beyond. A road trip and we hope to do it at Holley Hall,
Robyn Bell: bring your dancin' shoes!.
Bruce Ensinger: Exactly. And we planned to do a jazz combo and, a musical tribute to black history month. Plus also we're going to do at Holley Hall, there's that huge hallway. And we plan a silent auction. We did one when we did our sixties program, which was so much fun. And then we've had local artists donate things, there's baskets and trips. And so we'll do that.
Robyn Bell: You know, silent auctions are really. That's a big deal to put on. So kudos to the choir for whoever's manning that that's tough.
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah. Yes, it was. But it was a great fundraiser for us. So we're going to plan to do that for that concert. Then we have the Giving Challenge in April the 26th, 27th at all organizations just begging and pleading. 1st of May, we're going to do our third big concert and then the One City Chorus is going to come down and there'll be a guest on our, and we're going to do it here at the Neel
Robyn Bell: oh yes, that's right. That'll be great.
Bruce Ensinger: So we've grown from two big concerts a year to three, and we're actually going to try to sell a season ticket of all three. That's what we were talking about the last board meeting. So we're. really hoping to grow at least we're planning.
Robyn Bell: I mean, you know, listen. I always say you've got to grow in performers and you got to grow an audience members.
Bruce Ensinger: Right.
Robyn Bell: And when you do that, then you can grow and repertoire.
Bruce Ensinger: Right.
Robyn Bell: You know, and it's kind of this three-headed monster that you're always get better. Get better, get better, get more. And it all works in tandem.
Bruce Ensinger: Right.
Robyn Bell: It's so cool. Bernadette, Cattanach had reached out to me about performing, you know, at the Neel and I put her in touch with the right people. And, I'm glad to hear that that's worked out. We have, such a huge stage and choir risers galore. So I think you guys will really love performance.
Bruce Ensinger: There was about a hundred people in the One City Chorus. So if they come now, Had in the sixties, the number of people in Diversity, last year we had almost 30 considering through the pandemic. We did a poll and we had over 40 people responded. I think it was a survey monkey and you could, it would only take 40, so more people might've responded.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. You gotta pay, you gotta pay MailChimp money to get more and more.
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah. And we decided we didn't serve it. Much to do it. So, but at least we got the pulse of what people wanted.
Robyn Bell: And you already said you perform at Sarasota Pride. You perform at Venice Pride. I just rared where Manatee Pride is going to be back on in, on the Riverwalk. So usually I see Diversity performing there as well. And then I know you sang the National Anthem at the baseball game.
Bruce Ensinger: Right? They did my range. I was so happy. Yeah. It was, it went really well. We had,
Robyn Bell: yeah. it's really great to see the choir out and about and doing the things for those special events. And I think it's meaningful to that community as well. Yeah. Every time there is a pride event. I always can count on Diversity being there to provide some entertainment,
Bruce Ensinger: uh, very important focus of what we do is to be in the community. And we have songs that we call like in our back pocket songs that are always, just, This is Me. A bunch of songs that we can learn this way. Yes, we did that. The concert that you saw at the Reserve
Robyn Bell: now, Bruce, that I wanted to ask you, what do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being involved with the Diversity choir? But, you know, you talked about being more than a choir, but a family and all the things that you do. Is there anything else you would add to that what's really meaningful to you? And if others were to get involved, what would they get most out of that.
Bruce Ensinger: Well, I think they'll enjoy the camaraderie of singing. If you haven't sung for awhile and just wanting to be in a chorus. Luckily Sarasota has, if you want to be in a symphonic chorus, we have one and there are other
Robyn Bell: we have two.
Bruce Ensinger: Yes, we have two. Yeah, but we have little niches but Diversity offers so much. A group of people go out after every rehearsal. And there's that aspect. Of it, but a lot of them have become friends and they ended up vacationing together. They, go to movies together. Good,
Robyn Bell: great way to enlarge your social network and be a part of the cultural scene.
Bruce Ensinger: Right. And there are a lot of single people in the group and it's nice. If you want to go a lot of times three or four, people will just get together on a weekend and, go out. You're not alone in a city. Cause that can be some people don't mind that some people why don't want to go out by myself, but you have a group of a whole, another connection of people besides people that you work with. Or, but if you're retired and single and love to sing. It's a great way of finding people. There are people who go kayaking and canoeing. Other people go on walks, Jeff Weber, who works for, the park system does nature walks. He'll say, meet me here. And we'll, do something. If you want to look at stars or something he'll and other people do that. And within Diversity,
Robyn Bell: Now, Bruce, if anyone wanted to meet you in person, all they have to do is attend any cultural arts events in town. And they're going to run into you. I think you single-handedly keep our organizations of business. So there probably isn't anyone better to talk about the best and the brightest cultural events in our town. So, Bruce, let's say you have one weekend left in Sarasota, a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then you're moving back to West Virginia on Monday. What all are you taking?
Bruce Ensinger: Well, I would take in anything, the Sarasota Ballet,
Robyn Bell: you love the ballet.
Bruce Ensinger: That is a great love of mine and oh, I love Sarasota Opera too. This next season is phenomenal. Anything that Joe Holt or Joe Caulkins would
Robyn Bell: Joe's
Bruce Ensinger: Joe's would be spectacular. I think, Sam. Is doing a fabulous job at Redeemer and he is a fabulous, fabulous organist. So someone wants to hear a great, service being played instrument. Wonderful, wonderful instrument. I thought when Ann was talking about retiring, I thought,
Robyn Bell: Ann Moe you're talking about, who's going to replace her
Bruce Ensinger: right. And, Sam has done a wonderful, wonderful job and his wife, his, just this fabulous mezzo that has this it'll just like melt butter. That's just, oh yeah, it is. It's like Aaron Romm or an Avis. And, um, Ronnie and there's all these, uh, yeah, we have lots of two first year
Robyn Bell: call it couples couples week.
Bruce Ensinger: Yeah. So those were things I'd like to do, but I love Selby Gardens to go there a lot. And, anything if the Players is performing, either Manatee Player, Sarasota Players, Venice. I mean, we have wonderful,
Robyn Bell: fabulous. Oh my it's unbelievable.
Bruce Ensinger: And then there's Florida Studio.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, I was there on Sunday. I saw a Rounding Third fab. Oh God. I got to go see it.
Bruce Ensinger: The Asolo I can't forget the lease so much. And then there's the Ringling. And when you're at the Asolo that I, yeah.
Robyn Bell: Do you get to the Sarasota Orchestra much?
Bruce Ensinger: Oh, I forgot about that one. This of course I have season. I have season tickets.
Robyn Bell: And then as we say, there's the State College of Florida Music Program.
Bruce Ensinger: So the Sarasota Concert Association, Emanuel Ax is coming this year. Last year it was going to be the Cleveland Orchestra with USIA Vaughn and, um, oh my goodness.
Robyn Bell: It's amazing what they bring in to the Van Wezel.
Bruce Ensinger: And then there's the Artists Concert Series. Yeah, that's another one. I mean, Sometimes I have to look at moving ballet so I can go to another non. So now I finally have orchestra on Saturday ballet on Friday. I've just gone that way. So I don't have those conflicts, but other things
Robyn Bell: you are never lacking for entertainment on the Suncoast?
Bruce Ensinger: No,
Robyn Bell: never,
Bruce Ensinger: not at all.
Robyn Bell: Never. Okay. Bruce we're to our rapid fire question. Now the first one you've already answered, but I'm going to have you say it just for the record. Electric piano or acoustic piano.
Bruce Ensinger: Acoustic.
Robyn Bell: I don't, I don't know that actually one person that I've met says electric because he does Jerry Lee Lewis and yeah.
Bruce Ensinger: And there are some good ones. We just got a new one for, Diversity because we had a Kurtzweil, which was great, but it was had no external speakers. So you had to hook it through a system and the weight of it we've come. What we were talking earlier. Just the advancements in technology. So we've got a wonderful Casio Privia their professional line and it was wonderful. It was great instrument.
Robyn Bell: Technology is really come a long way. Okay. To listen, to a choir in a church or a choir in a concert hall,
Bruce Ensinger: a church.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, just the built in acoustics. Yeah. I'm glad every time I've seen Diversity, actually it's either been outside or in a concert hall. So I would love to hear the group perform in a church setting.
Bruce Ensinger: Well, our first concert, more planning, singing at St. Andrew, depending on what happens if St. Andrew's open at that time.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Van Wezel, the Opera House. Or the Asolo to see a performance?
Bruce Ensinger: Well, not the Vn Wezel. So I, I know we had, it's a large building and I'm glad we have it, but it's, um, Opera House or the Asolo? I would say the Asolo.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. You are an ally. I would say the Asolo for the cause the parking
Bruce Ensinger: well parking and also the intimacy. It's more like a New York theater. Which you get the Opera House is not, but it's wide. I prefer the other.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. I'm I'm the girl that thinks about the logistics. Well, there's better parking. Okay. Oh, this is a no brainer. Sorry, Sarasota Ballet or Sarasota Orchestra.
Bruce Ensinger: A Sarasota ballet.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Cause you serve on the board. You got to say that. Yeah. And you said you love it. Matter of fact, you came in your mask was a Sarasota Ballet mask.
Bruce Ensinger: Right?
Robyn Bell: I love that to perform. Or to be in the audience
Bruce Ensinger: to be in the audience,
Robyn Bell: to take it in so much less stress
Bruce Ensinger: at my age, you know, we have to eliminate some of that stress.
Robyn Bell: Now this question is for all of our teacher friends out there,
Bruce Ensinger: okay.
Robyn Bell: Lunch duty or bus duty,
Bruce Ensinger: bus duty.
Robyn Bell: I used to say, how do I get out of this? Or I called it doodie duty when they make a new bathroom duty.
Bruce Ensinger: Had to do it with young kids, because anything that would have packets of ketchup, I finally just brought a little pair of scissors until lunch too. I never thought thought, yeah, here, let me help you because they're like trying and even as an adult and when you have every cause once you open one. You're going to do the whole row of them
Robyn Bell: only in the education world, where they make a professional, do some sort of duty. You know, you can imagine like a courthouse going on recess and them telling the lawyers to go do parking lot duty. You know, it's a shame, isn't it? Okay. Here's your final question. And you know, what's coming roundabouts or stops
Bruce Ensinger: roundabouts.
Robyn Bell: It keeps you moving.
Bruce Ensinger: Oh, I love them. they really do function cause , I lived in Rome for a bit and I loved, doing that. In the Northeast while you DC, I mean, you can just whiz through DC and those roundabouts once now here there's people who don't. Yes. They don't know what I think. Joe Holt did a video about it, posted it on Facebook. This was. It's been months ago, but this is the correct way too. And I loved it.
Robyn Bell: We should put a jumbo Tron in the middle of all of them with the video. Like if we don't have enough to be already distracted, distracted by, oh, well, congratulations, Bruce.Ensinger, you are now officially. Part of the club. If someone listening today wants to audition for the Diversity choir or is interested in attending the performances by this group, where can they go to find that information?
Bruce Ensinger: We have a Facebook page that contains the information and also we have a website, diversity's sarasota.org.
Robyn Bell: Good. And you know what we'll do. We'll put a link to the website and the Facebook page in our show notes. So easy people can just click, but if they go on Facebook and they just searched Diversity, Voices of Sarasota, that'll take them right there too, as well. And, people can also, including you go find things to do and find the Diversity concerts on our Suncoast Culture Club, Calendar of Events page. So we've set that up. So you just click and it takes you right to the website of that organization to buy your tickets.
Bruce Ensinger: Oh, wonderful. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: And it's, it's got three different views, so you can see like a calendar view and everything that's happening that week. Or you can see like what they call a pin view, which list. When you see that calendar view, you're kind of like, oh my stars, there's so much going on. But they can go there to find all the Diversity performance as well. Bruce, thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your love and passion for the arts and making music. It is so inspirational and I'm really looking forward to the Diversity concerts this year. I hope they can be inside, but if not, I'll be out side with my sunshade.
Bruce Ensinger: Alright, thank you so much, Robyn.