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Groton Man With Euphonium Discovers Joy In A Second Retirement Career

Doug Ruby shows off his chops on the Euphonium. The Euphonium has been called the ‘king of band instruments’, or the ‘cello of the band’, because of its similarity in timbre and ensemble role of the cello. Euphoniums are wildly used in many marches, and in brass band music of the British tradition.  While the euphonium was not historically part of the standard jazz big band or combo, the instrument’s technical facility and large range make it well-suited to a jazz solo role.

From Career In High Tech, He Pivots to Teaching High School Math, Then Pivotis Again to Musical Performance

 One of the most fraught challenges of later life is transitioning from the world of conventional employment into a new phase of life, a phase we call ‘retirement’. So-called ‘retirement’ can be challenging, full of peril and promise. 

   The greatest peril often lies in the difficulty of finding a different purpose, a different sense of self worth, an activity offering the deep satisfaction that conventional work offers without high-drama, pressure and politics. 

    The promise, of course, is finding a purpose for a period of life that some call life’s third act, a chance to further develop existing skills and/or to nourish atrophied  skills that can emerge in a different setting.  Doug Ruby, 39-year resident of Groton, has made this trantsion twice. His courage and perseverance is a great example of successfully riding the waves of life’s transitions.

   Doug Ruby is a California native who found the joys of life in Groton along with his wife, Patricia, 39 years ago. With their then six-month-old daughter, Michelle, Doug and Pat moved here from Long Beach, CA in 1980 when both worked for Digital Equipment.

   The product of a musical family, Doug has played euphonium for 59 years; winning awards and recognition for his solo and competitive performances throughout high school and college. Recognizing that future opportunities as a professional euphonium performer were limited, Doug majored in Computer Science at UC Berkeley and spent the next 27 years in the High Tech industry until his retirement in October 2000 after a life-changing heart attack. 

    Not quite ready to be put out to pasture, Doug went back to school at UMASS Lowell and got his Master’s in secondary education, teaching high school math at the Hollis-Brookline (NH) High School until 2010.  

   As part of his recovery from the heart attack, Doug started taking private lessons from highly regarded Beverly-based freelance tubist, Mike Milnarik. Five years of practice with Mike not only helped Doug with the physical elements of his recovery, but also it helped him come up with an idea of how he could enjoy retirement from his second career as a teacher. Since his final retirement in 2010, Doug has become a more or less full-time musician performing on euphonium and English baritone throughout New England and elsewhere. 

   Over the years, Doug had managed occasional forays in wind ensemble and outdoor band work here in the New England area. He never took the 20-30 year “break” from playing that so many do as they approach their retirement. Doug was a member of the Greater Lowell Musicians Union and performed with the New England Wind Ensemble and the Lowell Summer Concert Band as well as the Groton Chowder band and other local ensembles. Occasionally, he was called upon to perform for graduations or in other ensembles, but the demands of a high-tech career meant lots of travel and little or no practice time between performances.  

   While his early training stood him in good stead for many years, the accumulation of bad habits and lack of practice, combined with the effects of his heart attack, meant that as he started studying again with Mr. Milnarik, Doug realized he effectively had to start back at the beginning to redevelop good practice and performance skills and habits. With this professional help, Doug managed to get involved in a wide variety of musical activities at the local and professional level here in Massachusetts as well as far afield in the “euphonium/tuba” community in the United States and England. 

   Doug plans to return to Wales in 2020 for his tenth trip to the International Brass Band Summer School in Swansea, Wales, run by Dr. Nick Childs, musical director of the world-famous Black Dyke Band. Doug has attended the Blue Lake Fine Arts adult summer music program several summers since 2004. In addition, he attends the US Army Band Tuba/Euphonium Workshop as often as he can to see the latest developments and hear the best artists from around the world. Doug is even one of two moderators on the only euphonium discussion group in the US run by David Werden, former soloist with the US Coast Guard Band. In euphonium circles across the US and some parts of Europe, Doug’s name is well-known for his ready smile and weird sense of humor, if not for his playing skills.

   After being a member of the Nashoba Valley Concert Band for more than 10 years, Doug retired last fall. However, he continues to perform in the Townsend Military Band, Winchendon Winds, Metropolitan Wind Ensemble, and most notably the New England Brass Band, where he is also treasurer and librarian. Doug maintains a schedule of about 100 rehearsals/year and 50 concerts/year among these four groups as well as the various “pick-up” ensembles he supports locally.  

   On Friday, May 17, 7 p.m. at the Richardson-Mees Performing Arts Center at Lawrence Academy, Doug will join the New England Brass Band as it performs its second concert as part of the Lawrence Academy Professional Artist Series. This free concert will feature a mixed program of classical, regional, and pops-style music, performed by the 30-piece brass and percussion band in the classic English brass band style. The concert finale will premiere a combined choral/band/piano piece, arranged by the band’s own music director Stephen Bulla, long time chief arranger for The President’s Own United States Marine Band. This premiere also features the Lawrence Academy Singers, fresh off their recent trip to Carnegie Hall.

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