By Lloyd Crenna and Dave Brubeck
Ivey-Brubeck House Dedication Plaque
Note: The plaque dedication ceremony has been scheduled for Saturday, September 10 at 11 AM. For more information click here.
On March 17, 2011, the Society installed a plaque at the former location of the Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck family home. The beautiful home was demolished by its subsequent owner in 1946. It is located mid block on the west side of Colfax Street between Willow Pass and Salvio Street. Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck and H.P. Brubeck raised their 3 sons there, all of whom became musicians. Howard was an accomplished classical pianist , who taught music at Mt. Diablo High School. Dave, a member of the Society’s Honorary Board, is the world renown musician and composer.
The house was inherited by Mrs. Brubeck in 1911 from her father, Henry Ivey, who owned and ran one of Concord’s livery stables. All three of her sons were born in the house. Actually, Mrs. & Mrs. Brubeck met in the house when her father , who had been impressed by young “Pete” Brubeck”, brought him home for dinner. Pete Brubeck had come to Concord with his father from Lassen County , along with horses and cattle that he used to stock his new ranch he had purchased in Ignacio Valley along with pasture rented in what is now the site of the Concord Pavilion. As you may know, Dave Brubeck later played many concerts at the Pavilion, a coming home experience that he found very rewarding.
Mrs. Brubeck was born in 1886 on a ranch near the Monument but moved with her parents and family to the Colfax house when she was in her early teens. Her mother, Johanna, actually died in the backyard of the house. At that time a small stream ran near the property and had overflowed and flooded the yard. Johanna went out into the yard to save some baby chicks. She fell, possibly hitting her head, and drowned in a few inches of water. Mrs. Brubeck was a teenage girl at that time, inside the house and reading a book. She regretted to the end of her life that she had not gone out in the storm to help her mother.
Mrs. Brubeck designed and remodeled a dramatic second story and balcony music studio that could be opened through sliding doors into a large room. Several hundred people could be accommodated for recitals in the space. She gave music lessons in this studio to many children and adults, as well as providing for her family’s home life.
Dave Brubeck's Childhood Home
It was in the house that Dave Brubeck first listened to live jazz music. His oldest brother, Henry was a drummer and vocalist with the Del Courtney Band made up mostly of musicians from the Concord and Martinez area. Henry persuaded his mother to allow the band to rehearse in her studio. Like many classical musicians of that period, she really did not approve of jazz, so her permission was granted with great reluctance. Dave relates that as a 7 year old he was thrilled by this turn of events and about this time he gave his first public piano recital in his mother’s studio.
When his parents decided that the family was moving away from Concord, Dave was 12 and his mother organized a farewell concert with all her piano students performing. Dave recalls that “(t)he grand finale featured four Brubecks in a spirited arrangement of Stars and Stripes Forever ( two pianos, eight hands- Elizabeth, Howard, Henry and Dave). My brother Howard and my mother were fantastic pianists. Henry, however, was a drummer and not a pianist and during this piece he started one beat late and did not budge throughout the entire piece. Howard was furious. The first words he uttered to Henry were ‘How could you do such a thing? ’. The audience however, applauded enthusiastically as we took our bows. I learned a little bit about ‘show biz’ that night. If something goes wrong just keep on playing”.
In Dave’s words : “I have many happy memories of life in Concord. It was an ideal place for a boy to grow up. I recall playing in Todos Santos Park on summer evenings and racing home when curfew sounded. You didn’t want to get caught by Constable Slattery. I roamed the hills surrounding Concord on my Cleveland bike and door to door peddled apples from our back yard tree. If my mother approved of the film, I could go to Saturday matinees at Uncle Phil’s theater. My mother, who had lived all her life in ‘ in the shadow of Mt. Diablo’ , as she used to say, hoped for many years to return to what she called her ‘dream house’. I am so pleased and grateful that the Concord Historical Society has honored her fond memories and mine”.
The property is now owned by the Presbyterian Church. A long time member of the church has related that when the home was to be torn down to make room for a new structure, it was prepared by cutting the supporting posts and beams, to be finished off by removing the last support so it would fall in on itself. However, upon removal of that last support the house stood its ground. Despite several attempts to bring it down in that fashion that plan was abandoned and the assembled onlookers dismissed. It took a bulldozer in a later attempt to accomplish the task. Dave already knew this story because Alma Couchman, who was a beloved English teacher at Mt. Diablo High School for many years, had sent Dave an article and photo from the Transcript which described the event. Alma had lived in the house with the Brubecks for a period when his father was away. Alma had applauded the fact that the old building had resisted. I think it was those good Brubeck vibrations that gave it the strength to defy the woodman’s axe. It just didn’t want to be lost to posterity.
I would like to especially thank Shon Wolf who did such a great job of installation, and Mike Wolf, David Gagliardi, Jackie Fontaine, and Frank Kennedy of the City of Concord, for their efforts on this rewarding project. A formal dedication of the plaque will be held on an undetermined later date at the site. Mr. Brubeck will not be able to attend but will send his personal remarks to be read to the assembly. Brubeck music will once again be heard on Colfax Street. The proceedings will be videoed. All are invited to attend.
For more information on the upcoming plaque dedication, click here.