In Memory of Ernie Stires (1925-2008)

When Trey Anastasio mentioned that Ernie Stires passed away during his speech at the Jammys, you could sense the pain and loss in the Phish guitarist’s voice. Stires taught Trey things about composition and improvisation that became vital to what set Phish apart from the pack over the course of their career.

Back in 2001, I had the pleasure of speaking with Stires before Trey premiered Ernie’s Chat Rooms at the Vermont Youth Orchestra concert in Troy. He told me that he knew Anastasio was a special talent from the moment he met him, and felt honored that Trey was playing his concerto. Stires also got a big kick out of meeting and interacting with Trey’s fans. He appreciated his special bond with the guitarist, and the feeling was mutual:

“Ernie Stires was my mentor, my hero and my friend. I met him when I was 18 and looking for a composition teacher but he quickly became like a second father to me. I remember with great joy our long days in his living room, drinking cup after cup of black coffee, and listening to scratchy old Samuel Barber or Benny Goodman records. He would jump around the room like a little kid, so excited. I cherish those memories.

“Mostly we would talk about life, though — children, being on the road, marriage, friendship. I always looked forward to his letters. They were funny, deep and full of love. Sadly, I was replying to his last letter when I had learned that he had passed away. Ernie’s music was just like him: inventive, challenging, romantic and elegant. He had such a beautiful, beautiful soul. My heart is broken today and my prayers are with his wife, Judy, whom Ernie loved more than words can express.” – Trey Anastasio

For more on the life and times of Ernie Stires check out today’s articles from The Times Argus and the Burlington Free Press. R.I.P. Ernie, R.I.P.

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4 thoughts on “In Memory of Ernie Stires (1925-2008)

  1. _goff. Reply

    thanx scott for this piece.

    explains more.

    it was a great jammies awards!

  2. wade Reply

    My heart is heavy for Trey. RIP Ernie. Long live OUR Ernie

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  4. Brian MacCarty Reply

    I met Ernie Stires many years ago at Lackard’s Automotive Repair Service in Middlebury,Vt. where he often took his antique car and antique electric boat that ran on 24 batteries in for maintenance or repair. Ernie who was a relative of Winslow Homer the painter, was a very unassuming, humorous, gentlemen who enjoyed talking to Ernie Lackard about various issues while drinking coffee and hanging out with the “wacky boys” Bill and John.
    He visited even when he didn’t need anything fixed because he enjoyed being with down to earth individuals who could make or fix anything.

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