Remembering Mr. John Bonia

26 years ago I graduated from high school. Music was my life and I had a really special relationship with my music teacher, Mr. John Bonia. Just weeks before my high school graduation, John was killed in a motorcycle accident.

I spent a lot of time in the music room during my three years at Prince of Wales Collegiate and Mr Bonia and I always shared a special connection. He taught me a lot about music and we laughed a lot. He even had me playing the timpani in the band one year. He was desperate but knew I’d give it a go. I had to drop out before MusicFest that year because I was terrible and hated going band rehearsal. It was so loud! (I don’t know how you do it, Katie Sullivan! Seriously. You’re a superstar) He didn’t fight my decision to quit. 🤣🤣🤣

The November before he died, he asked me to sing a song he had written at the school Remembrance Day assembly. It was called Crossroads. Although he never came out and said it, I knew it was the story of his battle with alcohol. He played piano for me and I sang. It was emotional because I knew he was being so vulnerable sharing it.

At his funeral, I also sang his song; his words and music. As an 18 year old, I thought I understood. But now as a 44 year old, I hold an entirely different perspective. He was 41 when he died. I am singing Crossroads all the time now and practicing it on piano. (Big shout out to my sweet and talented nephew, Matthew Hardy, for his keen aural skills to help me figure out all the chords. ❤️) I am going to record it and share it in the future but the thing is that my piano skills are rusty and my piano is soooooo out of tune it doesn’t help the situation AT ALL. I am going to get Joe from Pianowise in to tune it asap but for now, I’d like to share a snippet of his lyrics. I do promise to record it and share when the time is right.

This is the last verse and chorus of Crossroads by John Bonia.

I’ve searched for my spirit. I feel hurt and I feel pain. I pray that you’ll help me. I’m not playing a game. Let’s join hands be together. Take one step at a time. Take our strength from each other. Feel that freedom inside.

So hear me now. I’m trying to live just one day. One day at a time. I want to free myself. To move one step closer to being. To being alive. Yes alone I stand. I’m here at the crossroads again. Which way will I turn now? I can’t go back cause I know what will happen and then. I’ll tear out my heart and soul.

It’s a really powerful tune and I look forward to sharing it with you. For my music peeps, it’s in e minor but it ends on an E major chord. 😃❤️

That was one part of John Bonia’s story. He was also a father, husband, friend, teacher, songwriter, he played SOUL music and was a motorcycle enthusiast….the list goes on. I invite you to share your memories of him and look forward to it.

And speaking of memories….I have been wanting to do this for a while and have finally started the process to establish the John Bonia Memorial Scholarship at Memorial University’s School of Music. It will be awarded to a student studying saxophone (or any woodwind major if there isn’t an eligible saxophone candidate) with an expressed interest in jazz. It is especially timely as the School of Music is starting a minor in Jazz Studies program this coming September. How cool is that! I do love it when a plan comes together.

I have personally committed to funding the scholarship at $1000 a year for three years so it can be awarded immediately. Over the next three years, my plan (when all this covid stuff is over enough) is to organize an event where there will be an abundance of music (!) and bring together the PWC community and family/friends of John to celebrate him and raise money to donate to the scholarship fund. Let’s grow it to a level where it can be endowed and paid out in perpetuity. At the University’s current payout rate, $56,000 will support a student at $2000 every year….forever….and it will continue to grow over time. The John Bonia Memorial Scholarship. I am delighted to be able to start this scholarship fund and celebrate John and his legacy.

The photo below hangs on the wall in the School of Music where I graduated from in 1999. Not in percussion. I was a voice major.😃 I snapped this pic quickly as I was walking by last July and sent it to John’s son, Andrew. I had connected with him a few months earlier to ask if he had the recording of John singing his song. Thankfully he had a copy as the tape John gave me in 1993 was lost in a fire at my parent’s house many years earlier. I had no idea that it had been John’s birthday only a couple days before. Just look at the smirk on his face in the painting. His spirit was captured perfectly. I can’t recall the artist’s name but I am going to find out and update.

I visited John’s grave last week and played the recording of him singing Crossroads from my car speakers and I belted it out sitting on the grass. It was a beautiful visit. I know he was smiling down on me.

I look forward to this evolving. Connecting with and bringing together those who loved and admired John. Please reach out to me if you’re interested in getting involved. It’s gonna be fun and I think we all need a little more fun!

Please take care and stay safe peeps. It’s a crazy ole time in the history.

Until next time!

Only joy, only love,

Michelle

❤️❤️❤️

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3 Responses to Remembering Mr. John Bonia

  1. Karen Naugler says:

    Wow, this was amazing to read. I have heard so much about John, his music, his personality, and most of all his caring ways. I never got to meet John and wished I would have had the opportunity. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Karen Naugler (Jim Bonia’s partner/John’s youngest brother

    Like

  2. Andrew Reid says:

    Hi Michelle – thanks for writing such a beautiful tribute to someone who meant so much to you. I was not fortunate to have known Mr. Bonia, but his portrait hung in the music building close to the portrait my former teacher, Dr. Andreas Barban who passed away on May 23, many years ago. Your article was written with lots of love and admiration and was really enjoyable to read.

    Hope all is well

    Best wishes.

    Andrew Reid

    Like

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