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Danny & Tug

“We had to make each other laugh…”

For Danny Goode, music is everywhere: from bird songs and hubcaps to Indonesian gamelans and “sonic meditations.” A composer and clarinetist, Danny spent most of his career as a professor of experimental music. Ask him to speak about his wide range of experiences, and Danny lights up: he launches into a tale full of travels, mishaps, and true love.

After studying at the High School of Music & Arts (now LaGuardia High School) in the 1950s, Danny pursued a degree in Philosophy from Oberlin College. This brief detour from his music studies informs so much about Danny’s continued curiosity and creativity. His mind never seems to stop working and discovering.

 

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After Oberlin, Danny studied composition at Columbia University and took a teaching position at the University of North Dakota. This is where he discovered his love of early music. He spent much of his time transcribing somewhat obscure 14th century music for early instruments. “I was in Heaven!” Danny exclaims.

A theater director at the University asked Danny to set music for the department’s production of The Tempest. This was not only his first time scoring a show but also his “best and favorite early work.” He pauses here to hum aloud his composition for the most famous selection from the show, Ariel’s song, “full fathom five thy father lies.” A gleeful musical interlude.

During the “60s explosion of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll,” Danny found himself studying experimental new music at the University of California San Diego – “the place to be” – before moving back to the East Coast to build the Electronic Music Studio at Rutgers University from scratch. After so much movement and exploration, Danny settled down at Rutgers in 1971 and remained there for 27 years until his retirement in 1998.

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It’s during this time that Danny’s story turns from an adventurous and musical hero’s journey into more of a romantic comedy.

With a boyish gleam in his eye, he exclaims, “I fell in love!” with Ann Snitow, his colleague at Rutgers, the much-celebrated professor of English literature, feminist studies, and the founder of the New York Radical Feminists. A year after their first meeting, Danny moved in with Ann on West 4th street in Manhattan, just a few blocks from where he grew up. In 1984, the couple bought their Spring Street loft, where Danny still resides.

It cannot be understated what a unique space he’s inhabited for the last four decades. Art, books, and instruments (from pianos to large gongs) swell and stack through Danny’s apartment and his studio space across the hall. Even Danny’s bedroom features a small rehearsal space just for his clarinets!

 

After Ann passed away in 2019, Danny found himself capable of, as he puts it, “care of the body,” but he was looking for “care of the spirit.” In many ways, Danny’s companion Tug Watson was looking for the same things.

Working as a caregiver with ComForCare was a welcome addition to Tug’s suite of creative skills. Until the Broadway shutdown in March 2020, Tug was performing in the cast of The Phantom of the Opera. And prior to that role, he was on a creative and educational journey not dissimilar from Danny’s!

A classically trained Shakespearean actor, Tug took a chance on an open call for CATS at age 23 that would open doors for years to follow. Tug also pursued an advanced degree in San Diego, and much like Danny, his journey after this season in Southern California resulted in a move back East. Rather than merging directly into a teaching career, Tug returned to the stage in the revival of Evita, the international company of Chicago, and on Broadway in both CATS and, of course, The Phantom of the Opera.

 

When Tug got the call to interview with a fellow artist described as, “85 years young, wild at heart, jack of all trades,” he was eager to meet this character.

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They hit it off immediately. As Tug explains, the beginning of their companion relationship was a combination of quality social time and support of household chores and errands.

Tug laughs remembering an early miscommunication between the pair that resulted in a wonderfully curmudgeonly voicemail from Danny. Danny interjects, remembering this moment. “That’s marvelous! Did you save [the voicemail?]… I’ll set it to music!”

 

Tug admires the way Danny never lapses on his music practice. “It’s what’s keeping me alive!” Danny adds, joyfully.

Danny keeps busy by hosting house concerts in his sprawling loft, as well as composing and orchestrating for his music group, The Flexible Orchestra. In fact, several of his compositions for the group are named for his beloved wife Ann. Danny speaks with pride about the “Anncela Express,” a unique piece for 12 cellos and 3 winds.

After Danny and Tug began working together, an imperative of their shared time became clear: “We had to make each other laugh.” What Tug appreciates most about his work as a caregiver is that he and Danny were never discouraged from becoming close. “[Danny] is the strangest of creatures,” Danny belly laughs in agreement as Tug continues, “and I get a real kick out of it all.”

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The empathy, support, and trial and error it takes to create a thoughtful care environment are the same ingredients any actor, teacher, or composer must nurture to create a rich artistic setting. It makes sense, then, why Tug and Danny are such a compatible, dynamic duo.

When Tug travels for a theater gig, he calls in one of his substitutes who have also gotten to know Danny over the last two years. They’ve formed a collaborative network of care under which all of them can thrive. Danny is wholeheartedly supportive of Tug’s travels and creative pursuits. He aspires to stay just as busy himself! Though it’s been more than 20 years since he left Rutgers, Danny grins, “You know, an artist never actually retires.”