Barbara Stewart was a lot of things. A playwright. A track and field star. A professional flutist. But I came to know her through our mutual love of the kazoo. Barbara’s the author of the only comprehensive tome on the instrument - The Complete How to Kazoo. She’s also played kazoo in more places than I can imagine from Carnegie Hall to Late Night with Conan O’Brien to Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion.
Though we exchanged emails for years we only met up once - at a coffee shop in New York’s west village in January 2006. I remember it clearly. She was warm and charming and funny and I instantly knew that I had met a kindred spirit. I’m similarly guilty of having a long and diverse list of interests/hobbies and we had a lot to talk about. She was incredibly supportive of my then-growing interest in kazoos. She was more than happy to share all her information and sources and even included some of my kazoo-related projects in her next edition of How to Kazoo. When I started the Kazoo Museum in 2007 she was thrilled to welcome another kazoo-related organization into the fray. The Kazoo Museum has grown a lot since then and I’m only sorry that Barbara could never visit in-person. Either way, her knowledge and generosity have informed and inspired the museum and my recent film, A Brief History of the Kazoo, that now plays in the museum theater.
Barbara Stewart passed away this past August and I’ll miss her (and her wonderful emails) greatly though I know I’ll be referencing her book for years to come.
To learn more about Barbara, you can read this recent article about her life.