Brice Clark – Girdwood Man of Mystery
By Sue Todd
A mysterious character walks the streets and trails of Girdwood, sporting a backpack and his instrument du jour. A tall, dark-haired fellow, he moves with stealth, quietly appearing as if from out of thin air, only to disappear again.
I heard about his musical prowess long before I laid eyes on him. A few months ago, I finally met the elusive Brice Clark. He appeared at the Silvertip for Open Mic and put his name on the list. He joined other musicians when he was invited to play, and effortlessly delivered banjo alongside them.
When it was his turn at the mic, he delivered a flawless performance, after which he put away his instrument and left as quietly as he had arrived. No fanfare, no need for accolades, Clark appears to be quite confident in his talents.
It has been rumored that this musical phenom is a classically trained musician from a long line of classically trained musicians. Surely a talent so pure had been molded through years of hard work. Curiosity got the better of me, and I organized an interview so I could separate fact from fiction.
Clark, 26, comes from Hammond, Ind. He moved to Anchorage eight years ago to attend UAA to study Graphic Design and Art. However, a few years in, he realized there were too many people vying for the same jobs, and the chances of getting work would be slim. This was not to be his destiny. He left UAA.
So how and when did he start playing music? As it turns out, Clark only started playing in earnest in 2009. While attending UAA, Clark became friends with a guy who played in a band. When the band’s guitar player left the state, Clark learned to play and took over. It was that simple. For a few months, they performed together in Anchorage and Wasilla, but in the end, they parted ways. For Clark, it was a gateway.
To dispel any rumors, let us be clear. Clark’s parents are not musicians, and he has no formal training at all. He did, however, grow up around cousins and uncles who are jazz musicians, and like him, they all play by ear. One is famous in Japan, and another is a big Motown producer in Chicago. Music is definitely in his blood.
One by one, he has added instruments to his repertoire, teaching himself to play banjo, cello, violin, bass and hurdy gurdy (think of a violin with a hand crank instead of a bow string). I have witnessed his talent on banjo, guitar, and violin, but hurdy gurdy would be a big step outside the box. Its haunting tunes would add a new dimension to local music.
All the instruments he had previously chosen to play had strings, but now he is adding clarinet to the mix. I asked if he thought he could play a keyboard.
“No, I never got into them because I can’t carry one on my back,” Clark said.
He did admit, though, that he definitely could if he had an opportunity to mess around on one.
Still unable to believe that he was 18 before he even started playing anything, I dug a little deeper. Clark admitted that he messed around with instruments in his earlier years, but he never got serious about learning until eight years ago.
I wondered aloud how he got all those different instruments. He replied, “People give them to me or I find abandoned instruments and give them a home until someone claims them.” Interesting. He is an instrument magnet, of sorts.
Clark has performed solo at art galleries, pubs and pizzerias, but to make the music he really wants, he says he needs a band. He simply cannot do it alone. His dream band would include horns, drums, upright bass, cello, and violin. The venues he would enjoy playing would be places that normally do not have music, like back porches. I can just imagine that back porch concert!
Looking ahead, Clark says he would like to be playing enough and making enough money at it to get out of the kitchen (his current means of support,) put gas in the truck, and keep moving.
Clark has plenty of hobbies to fill his time outside of work and music. He has learned how to forage for mushrooms, what is edible, and what is not. He said at one point, he was living on Crow Creek Road, and he found it was easier to forage for mushrooms than hike to the Merc. And way cheaper!
Cross-country skiing, historical treks, dog training and archery are some of his pastimes. He also occupies himself with poetry, leatherwork, carving, cooking and baking. This explains why we rarely see him.
I asked if there was something he would want people to know about him, and he said they could ask him questions themselves, but he might or might not answer. He likes to keep some mystery. And there is plenty of it. Who knows when he will appear again? Or what instrument he will be playing when he does? What will he learn to play next?
I like to say Girdwood has a lot of character, and a lot of characters. The elusive Brice Clark is a perfect example.