Bruce Skerritt – musician and community stalwart has passed away

Bruce Skerritt and HC. Sherry Tross

Bruce Arthur Skerritt, remembered fondly as Uncle Bruce, died last Friday of cancer from which he suffered for 20 years.

Skerritt was a mainstay on the music scene in Toronto for the last 40 years bringing his infectious form of jazz and Calypso jazz music to Toronto, to many parts of Canada, and around the world.

He was born and raised in Basseterre, St. Kitts, and made Canada his home in 1986. He made his living as a musician and photographer.

Skerritt leaves his wife Allyson, three sons, Gavin, Damian and Markus, one daughter Dominique, grandchildren Taijah, Kaileb, Aiden, Jackson, Mathias and Myles, brothers Ricky and Michael, and sister Gillian.

Last December, a grand banquet was held to celebrate Skerritt’s 70th birthday. During the festivities, he shared his other passions with a display of some of his photography and several of his paintings.  

Although he is recognized as a master musician around the world Skerritt said he received no formal training; he was self-taught. In fact, he never lived in a house with a piano. His passion for music was aroused during years of managing Long & McQuade music store. He said he didn’t have a day in college. His complete education, he stated with pride, was high school in St Kitts, the smallest sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Bruce Arthur Skerritt

A witty and intelligent man, who was never at a loss for words, was philosophical about his cancer diagnosis. He spoke of the cycle of life which comes to an end sooner or later: “so what you have to do is just to do what you have to do and make sure you do it to the best of your ability because you become what you do.”

Skerritt, who never forgot his roots and the need to be of service, made trips back to the Caribbean conducting music workshops in Antigua and St Kitts. The workshops were open to anybody who was willing to learn. 

About his approach to music: “There’s a big difference between playing an instrument and playing music. The instrument never plays music, the pen does not write the poem, the stove does not cook the food.” He plays music and teaches people in that way.

According to Wendy Jones, who leads Pan Fantasy, the perennial head of the steelband class in Toronto: “He was know as Uncle Bruce to all of us in the Steelpan Community. We will miss Uncle Bruce. He was a pillar backing up the steelpan musicians and helping us to Organize our shows especially with Pan Arts Network Showcase.”

There will be no funeral. A Celebration of Life is set for a later date.