Oral History Interview with Jim Ruff
Brief Item Record
Title: Oral History Interview with Jim Ruff
Creator: Jim Ruff
Date: May 15th, 2013, 2:00 PM;2013-05-15T14:00:00-05:00
Description: An interview with Jim Ruff on May 15th, 2013 about the outfits he and his husband, Drew Minter (Vassar Lecturer of Music), wore during their wedding on May 12th, 2012, as well as their relationship, and his views on marriage.
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Emily: So first things first, if you could just tell me a little bit about your wedding?
Jim: A little bit about it, gosh, about the ceremony itself, you mean, or..?
Emily: Yeah that, or you can expand in any direction you like.
Jim: Okay, well I think we kind of put it together, and wanted to pull different interests that we all had, that both of us had through our lives, so largely it followed the Episcopal matrimony service, really, which we went through word by word and kind of tweaked a little bit so it sounded good for us. And then added, of course, since we're both singers and both musicians, we had lots and lots of music. That was kind of the biggest part. We had three choirs, different choirs, that also all sang together on one big piece, which was about 80 people singing. It was really amazing. Let's see, what else...and then I also have interests in kind of Scottish things, Scottish spirituality, Scottish music also, so I had little bits of that also--a piper that piped us in and piped us out, prayers, one little prayer and Gaelic, and stuff like that, so...anyway, it was just kind of a big celebration, really, with friends and family from all different parts of our life, which was kind of amazing.
Emily: That sounds really exciting. When was it?
Jim: It was almost exactly a year ago, May 12th last year.
Emily: Wow that sounds fantastic. And where was it?
Jim: It was at the...our church...right here in town about a mile from our house--Christ the King Episcopal Church in Stoneridge, where I'm the director of music.
Emily: That sounds really exciting, congratulations.
Jim: Thank you.
Emily: So I guess, where did you--we have both your outfit and your husband's outfit--where did you get them, do you remember?
Jim: Well, let's see..mine, the kilt outfit--the highland outfit--I ordered in Obin, Scotland, on the west coast in 2009 when I was there singing in a Gaelic singing contest. And I had worn a different kilt outfit, a rented one, and I decided after I wore that for a whole day I needed my own, so I ordered it then, and had worn it a few times since. But then when the idea of the wedding came up I toyed with whether or not I should wear it and then of course I decided to. And special for the wedding I ordered the plaid that hangs over the shoulder, which I didn't have before, which was really fun and came just in time from Edinborough for me to wear it.
Emily: That's perfect.
Jim: Drew's--I don't actually remember where he got his, I think he got this at Woodbury Common, but I don't know what store.
Emily: That's wonderful. And then, why did you choose--you mentioned a little bit because of your interest in Gaelic culture--why did you choose your outfits?
Jim: Umm..well, I think my interest in Gaelic culture came kind of through intuition I would say, and through starting to learn the language of Scottish Gaelic, and then going into the poetry and the song and that sort of thing which just resonates really deeply for me. I guess also growing up I kind of was told we were German, but in doing family research realized we were kinda half German, and the other half was sort of the English-Scottish-Irish mixture, and I did a lot of research, and there's kind of Scottish lines on both sides of my family, so that felt kind of strong to me, that I wanted to incorporate that in the service also and in the clothes.
Emily: Do you think you identify at all with the popular culture, the fashion of the time?
Jim: Of popular culture now, you mean?
Emily: Well, yeah, since you only married a year ago, so pretty much present day. I use that for people who got married 50 years ago.
Jim: Right. I think, gosh, for me that's not so much popular culture. For Drew I'm not exactly sure, I mean usually he just picks things that he really really likes, and I loved that. I of course wasn't allowed to go on the trip when he went and bought his, but one of his best friends went with him, and I loved that he bought the suit with the window pane, which kind of fit with my clan really well. An Italian suit...which actually..he's very interested in Italian culture, and he's been studying Italian pretty strongly and is in Italy right now, so...
Emily: Yeah, I heard.
Jim: Yeah, and we'll go back again in summer to teach, so.
Emily: Oh wow. That's exciting. Why did you choose to let us borrow these--your outfits--for this exhibition?
Jim: Umm....well I think it sounded like a really interesting exhibition actually--to go through history--I love historical clothing anyway, and I guess mine is kind of historical clothing. So on myself I'm kind of interested in seeing that, and I think it's a wonderful way to show the transformation of marriage, which is happening right now, actually, and we can be part of that. I think that's kind of wonderful to support.
Emily: I'm really excited about it to. So how old were both of you when you got married?
Emily: If you care to tell.
Jim: I think I wasn't yet 50--I was 49--so...and Drew was 56.
Emily: Cool. And so you said you've been married a year. Do you remember how you met each other?
Jim: I do. We met each other in a performance of Monteverde's "Coronation of Poppea," a Baroque Opera, at BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, back in...gosh...I think it was January of '96, I believe. And Drew was playing a role, Ottone, and I was in the little ensemble of singers that that were largely from Glimmer Glass Opera where I had sung twice already. And we met there.
Emily: That's so exciting. So around the time of your wedding, of course it's recent, how important was it for you to get married?
Jim: I think it was pretty important because we were waiting. We talked about it when we first met, actually, and even talked about what we wanted it to be like. And through the years-- because we had been together, oh gosh, 15 years or so--sort of decided we wanted to wait at least until it was something that was valid in the church or in the government or both. So kind of the moment we found out that happened in New York state, we decided...talked quickly and kind of were ready to do it.
Emily: That's great. How important was it, do you think, to your family and friends for you to get married?
Jim: That's a good question...I'm not sure as far as my family is concerned, I can't really tell you...I don't know. There was some question as to whether or not they were going to come, but my mother and one of my brothers came, which was...I was very happy for that support...and Drew's, both of his sisters and some family came also, which was quite wonderful. I mean I don't think...I think people were very happy to hear that we were doing this and were extremely happy to be there. I think one thing--one of the moments that stands out strongly in the service for me was when...was the actual pronouncement of being married legally in the state of New York. And really at that time, even a year ago, it was not valid for priests in the Episcopal church in New York to declare that. So our priest, Alison Quinn, had to go figure out a way to have this happen, and she came up with an idea where one of our members of the church who was the warden for a while was a judge--so he came up dressed in his wonderful judicial robes, and at the right point he stood up and declared that we were married, and people screamed and clapped for, gosh, three minutes straight without stopping. It was very exciting, overwhelming, really, actually.
Emily: That's really exciting. Has your view of marriage changed at all in the past year?
Jim: My view of marriage...I think I'm...I guess I would say I wondered, after being together for so long, really, how much it would change me or how I would be affected by it, and I really definitely could feel a difference after the ceremony, actually, in feeling the kind of love and support and blessing from all the people who were there, as well as from the clergy and everything, and I think that's kind of a wonderful. That's really kind of a wonderful thing to sense from your community around you. And I think we both felt that, and kind of feel cradled by that, I guess I would say, which is a wonderful thing.
Emily: Yeah. So I guess my last question is just if you could tell me a little more about yourself. Where did you go to school? What careers have you had over the years?
Jim: Sure, let's see...I did my undergrad work in music, a performance degree in voice at the University of Southern California, and well, my family had moved out there when I was 10 or so. So I was not originally from there, I was originally from Chicago, and was there in LA for a while at school and realized that's not where I wanted to live, so I moved East as soon as I could after I graduated. I went to Tanglewood to study there in the summer and loved Massachusetts and moved to Boston right after that and lived there for about 10 years, and did my...after a couple years of working...I went back to school and did my grad work at Boston University in voice performance also, a Master's degree there, and stayed on for a few years in their Opera Institute, which is kind of a professional--preprofessional--opera program, which was quite wonderful, and still going on there. And I lived in Boston for a few years after that, performing there, then moved to New York, really, to be with Drew, and did the wonderful New York singer life of temping in banks and things like that during the day, and auditioning and singing at night, and churches, and etc etc. And got into teaching after that--singing, performing, and also teaching voice. And then since we've moved up here, gosh, 10 years ago. I've been working as, as I said, as director of music at the church, which was...I'd always sung in the church, but never really directed a choir, so that was an experiment, and I enjoyed it.
Emily: That's fantastic. I'm really really happy that we got this chance to talk for a little bit because it's been great. That's all the questions that I have unless you have anything else that you would like to add that you- wedding, marriage, life, anything.
Jim: I don't think I have much to add; I do think it's a wonderful thing how marriage is changing now and allowing more of us to take part in it, because it is a...it really is a wonderful blessing, I would say, for us and for a community.
Emily: I agree. Well thank you so much for talking with me, this has been great and I hope that you get to see the exhibit.
Jim: I do too.