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Alumni Profile: A Life of Art and Illumination

Joe Bousard at his piano at home

(Story credit to Images Arizona - copied with permission by Shelly Spence)

Writer - Joseph J. Airdo // Photography by Yuri Bejarano

Anthem resident Joe Bousard believes that you do not necessarily need high production values to tell a compelling story on stage.

"You can do it with an actor, an audience, a good script and some good direction," he says.

Most important, though, is a willingness to be completely honest with the audience.

"Let yourself hang loose," explains Bousard, noting that an actor is him or herself first and the character that they are playing second. "Let yourself be as emotionally nakes as possible - including the bad stuff that you do not think is very interesting."

"If you allow yourself that communication, you become the illuminator of all time. That, to me, is what activing is about. It is about illumination, telling a story and really creating a relationship with the audience and giving them something that they cannot get without you."

Bousard has been creating just such a relationship with the audience for more than 50 years. And although is professional journey in music and theater has taken him to not only New York but also as far away as Japan, it has now come full circle, bringing him back to Arizona where his story of stardom started.

Big Apple Aspirations

Born in Boston, Bousard moved to Phoenix at age 10. Although he had some involvement in the performing arts as a child, it was not until high school and college that he began to discover its true significane in his life.

"I've always felt that music and theater were very important to me," says Bousard, noting that he played a ghost in a play during the third grade - a role for which he had only one line. "I guess it was never not there, because I was always a pianist. That was my door opener. The voice stuff came later."

After graduating from West Phoenix High School, Bousard attended Phoenix College, where he studied under drama teacher John Paul - for whom the campus's theater is now named.

"For two years there, I did everything I could possibly do to get involved in the arts, as well as with the community," Bousard says. "I also worked with Don Doyle, who was a professor at Arizona State University and had a children's theater. Little by little, everything started to come together."

Bousard later received a bachelor's degree in speech arts and theater from San Diego State College, where he performed and directed operas, plays and musicals. He was also very active in local radio and television.

After a stint in the U.S. Army, where he furthered his musical career, Bousard moved to New York in 1962.

"I thought that the ultimate reason to be around was to be an actor, which is why I went to New York to begin with," he says. "That was foremost in my mind as the most illuminating role that I could possibly have. And I was lucky enough to somehow become involved in the opening of Lincoln Center as one of the chorus people."

Bousard continued his work in piano and voice, honing his skills as accompanist and composer/lyricist for several singers while also directing choral groups and producing original scores for musical theater under his own banner - JBL Productions.

One of the highlights of his musical cabarets, which played all over New York City, was a lunchtime gathering at the Hallmark Gallery that featured the music of the Great American Songbook.

Bousard was also a contractual teacher of voice and musical theater at HB Studio, The New School and The O'Neill Theater Center.

"I stayed in New York for 32 years," Bousard says. "I built up a career in coaching and teaching, met my wife, had out daughter and did a lot of different things. Then, in 1994, I felt like I would be in a rut in New York if I did not get out. It was just not fun anymore in the late 80s and 90s - and it got expensive. So we decided to move back to Arizona, which was my home.

[Read more of Joe's story on Images Arizona]

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