Judge Bruce Mencher: Combining Love for Music and Law
By Jeffery Leon
January 11, 2017
How does one balance work with wellness? For Judge Bruce Mencher, a senior judge on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, it's through music. A pianist, Judge Mencher has played nationally and internationally, and currently sits on the board of directors of the Trinity Chamber Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Here he shares more about his passion for music and how it helps him unwind.
How did you become interested in music?
I started studying the piano at age seven, and studied for a little over 11 years. When I was 18 years old I was offered a piano scholarship to Temple University, which I turned down, and I went to George Washington University instead. There I joined the Travelling Troubadours and performed nationally and internationally with the Air Force and Navy musicians, and I've played piano for the Four Winds Quartet.
Law school took over, and there was a dry spell in my music since law study was so all-consuming. About 17 years ago the maestro of the Trinity Chamber Orchestra asked me to be on their board of directors, and I've been there ever since. That's my great passion, my music, and being with the orchestra for the board meetings and all the concerts. We do four concerts a year, and have 40 to 50 musicians. It's a wonderful orchestra.
What was your most notable musical experience?
The Embassy of the Czech Republic requested our orchestra to perform music to honor Vaclav Havel, the playwright, political dissident, and statesman. And Dr. Joseph Santo of Catholic University composed a small symphony for narrator and orchestra, and I was the narrator. They asked me to perform as the narrator for the orchestra, and I did that. It was quite an event! [Members of] the embassy and [Havel's] widow were in attendance. The piece was taken from Havel's address to the joint session of Congress;they took several of his statements made to Congress to make the music and narration with the orchestra. It was a wonderful experience. I was in the clouds and didn't come down for a year!
Why is music important for your wellness?
Music and the piano helps me unwind. It keeps me level because of all the things we see in the court, like when you've presided over three codefendant first-degree murder trials, or you've been in a very tough custody case and you're anguishing over how best to approach it because you want it to be right for the children and the families . . . To be able to come home and turn to your music is a great release for me.
Music is my release, my unwinder, my joy, and it fulfills me, sustains me, and gives back what life takes way. I think I've made a great choice, both in the law and in music.