New GreenFields resident shares Dixieland piano playing

Bruce Petsche: ’You couldn’t take the music out of me’

Bruce and Janet Petsche moved to Greenfields of Geneva this summer. Bruce shares his talent for Dixieland piano playing with other residents.

Janet and Bruce Petsche moved to GreenFields of Geneva senior living community this summer, with Bruce bringing and sharing his lifelong hobby of music, according to a news release.

The couple, who have been married for 61 years, have three children and six grandchildren.

Bruce, a U.S. Army veteran, worked in the sheet metal and structural steel fabricating business for 47 years.

He also has a love – and developed a talent – for music and theater.

“I loved Dixieland and took piano lessons between the ages of 6 and 12,” Bruce said in the release. “While other boys were playing ball until the streetlights came on, you couldn’t take the music out of me.”

In college, he played piano with fraternity brothers who played trumpet, trombone, clarinet, drums and a standup bass made out of a washtub.

“We had our own Dixieland band and played for events. It helped to solidify my love of Dixieland,” he said. “In the Army, I played with ships’ bands traveling from New York to Germany.”

Bruce wrote music and was named World’s Greatest Ragtime Piano Player in 1980 as listed in the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival.

He also has written a six-volume autobiography.

Bruce and Janet met in community theater.

“A couple of friends needed a banjo picker in a show. I got the part. I was always a cornball ham,” Bruce said. “Janet could carry a show. You couldn’t take your eyes off of her. She was extraordinary.”

Janet spent seven years pursuing an acting career in New York, then returned to the Chicago area, where she wrote for a local newspaper.

“We decided we needed more money, so I went to John Marshall Law School while working full time,” Janet said. “When I was 52, I started working as an attorney in municipal law. I worked well into my 70s.”

At GreenFields, Bruce attends event discussion groups, sings with the GreenFields Choir and entertains during Thirsty Thursday cocktail hours playing piano and some string instruments.

Located near Geneva, GreenFields offers independent living, as well as assisted living, memory support, rehabilitation and skilled nursing care, according to the release.