Breaking News: Music professor commits suicide

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.

Music professor Pam Bricker, who was a part of the University’s jazz department for five years, took her own life last weekend, an official from the Maryland Medical Examiner’s office said Wednesday.

On Sunday night, one of her band mates called her ex-husband, Gareth Branwyn, to say that she did not show up to a scheduled performance. Branwyn called the police immediately, he said, because she never missed a show. She was pronounced dead at 10:35 a.m. Monday by the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office.

“She could be on her deathbed with the flu and she would take cold medicine and go to the gig,” Branwyn said. “As far as she was concerned you just don’t miss jobs.”

Branwyn, who was Bricker’s husband for 22 years before they split up two years ago, said she was a caring person filled with love for the people in her life.

“She was an extraordinary, sweet person and really did have a great love for people and all of the people around her,” he said. “She was very devoted and loving to the people that meant a lot to her life, and there were a lot of those people.”

Bricker was as a part-time faculty member in the music department since 2000, said Tracy Schario, GW’s director of Media Relations.

“She was extremely well liked by students and faculty, and was an extremely well respected performer and teacher,” Schario said.

Bricker sang with the faculty jazz combo and taught jazz voice, Schario said. Sophomore Corey Brekher said he has attended nearly every jam session since he came to GW and that Bricker left an impact on him after going to his first concert.

“I was pretty blown away not only by her vocals but her musical abilities – how she sang and moved, and her encyclopedic knowledge of all types of music,” Brekher said.

Well known on the local D.C. jazz scene, Bricker was a 15-time nominee for the Washington Area Music Association’s annual award, according to her Web site biography.

“All these musicians really respected her, not only as a singer, but as a musician,” Branwyn said. “That’s one of the things that really strikes me about her. She had an unbelievable devotion to the professionalism about what she did.”

Bricker was a vocalist in the band Thievery Corporation, appearing on its first three albums. She performed vocals for the group’s song “Lebanese Blonde,” which was featured on the Grammy award-winning soundtrack to the movie “Garden State.”

Branwyn said Bricker had a strong command of vocals, noting that “her understanding of rhythm and timing was just impeccable.” Both Branwyn and Brekher said she seemed most comfortable when she was performing.

“It really was her home, and in those songs is where she really was alive and most comfortable,” he said.

Schario said the University Counseling Center has been working with students and faculty in the music department.

Roy Gunther, chair of the music department, said Bricker was popular and cared deeply about her students.

“She was very popular for people to listen to and she was popular with students,” Gunther said. “She was a fine singer … and showed how much she cared about students and their development.”

Gunther explained that as a jazz voice instructor, Bricker didn’t teach voice in the “technical” sense; she taught students how to use their existing skills in the jazz realm and showed them how personality should come through in their music.

Bricker, who sang with the faculty jazz combo as part of the popular Friday jazz jam sessions, related particularly well to the faculty in the jazz and voice areas, Gunther said.

In a statement, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the community would remember Bricker fondly.

“Pam will be remembered for her talents, generosity and ability to communicate through song,” Trachtenberg wrote.

ESL Music, Thievery Corporation’s record label, released a statement late Wednesday afternoon that highlighted her talents and personality.

“Her classy, easy-going nature, professionalism, and her distinct, beautiful voice will be eternally missed,” the statement read. “Music fans from D.C. to Istanbul and everywhere in between mourn her loss, and we mourn with you.”

Bricker’s skills were unmatched in the D.C. jazz community, and she subscribed to the idea that “a vocalist should be an instrument and act like one,” Branwyn said. He said many of the city’s leading female jazz vocalists were her students and said she took pride in teaching. Though Bricker was battling depression, she was still able to do her job and teach students, even through her worst times, Branwyn said.

“She’s been struggling with depression; even in the midst of the worst of that, she would say, ‘Well I gotta go, I got a student.’ She never stopped seeing students even in middle of recent struggles,” Branwyn said.

Details about a funeral or memorial service have not been formulated, Khalil Ghannam, a music department executive aid, wrote in a music department listserv e-mail sent out Wednesday. On Friday, there will be further faculty and student sessions with Counseling Center representatives in Phillips Hall room B120 at noon.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.