Anyone who knows Jim Brunk, knows he only does things one way — big. If anyone knew this best, it would be Brunk’s late wife, Heidi Brunk.
“We would decide to have a party and she would say make a list of who you want to invite,” Jim Brunk shared. “She would take my list and say ‘Jim this list has 300 people on it.’”
As Brunk recalls navigating life with his wife by his side, his face glows, his eyes twinkle and a small tear fills the corner of each eye.
Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008 started out as just one more of Jim and Heidi Brunk’s memorable parties. A freak accident, however, brought the party to a halt as Heidi took a fall and sustained a serious head injury. The days that followed left the family with tough decisions to make. Decisions, which no one should have to make, but which have to be made, all the same.
As his wife Heidi, 45, lay in a hospital bed on life support at Doctors Hospital Medical Center, Brunk drew on the love and kindness of friends and family to help him and his two young children weather an uncertain storm. While she had been pronounced brain dead following the accident, the family had decided to maintain Heidi on life support until her organs could be donated.
It was during this time of waiting and wondering that Brunk and a dozen friends sat on a hillside at the couple’s Oakdale property, watched a sunset and spoke of what could be. Spoke of the beauty of the couple’s 48 acres and the dreams Heidi had once had for the property.
“In the days after, when we sat on the hillside looking out,” Brunk recalled, “somebody had a guitar and started playing and we just started talking. Someone had said ‘this would be a great place for a concert.’ When you get a dozen people together and just start talking it can quickly turn in to a think tank.
“Heidi always wanted to teach kids with our home environment,” he added.
While he may not know how to teach music and host summer camps himself, Brunk does know how to do things big. With the support and love of that core group that rallied by his side in his time of despair, he decided to host Sierra View Music Fest.
“I thought that day (of the accident), there’s no way I’m gonna make it,” he admitted. “Then I thought this happens to people every day.”
During the time of the accident and in the weeks that followed, Brunk began thinking more seriously about the concert he and their friends had brainstormed about.
“I called a few people,” he said, “and we decided, okay we are going to do this.
“You know life doesn’t stop.”
While life may not stop, Brunk does, and often — recalling so many things that were special about his wife — not just to him, but so many others.
“She absolutely loved music,” he said of Heidi. “She had so many loves of music. She was multi-layered, I guess.”
To illustrate his point he shares a story of a recent trip on the family boat with son Preston and daughter Shelbi. As the family cruised the lake they plugged in Heidi’s I-pod to listen to some tunes. With mom’s music at the helm the family’s musical choices were unlimited. Her I-pod ranged from country, to Beethoven to her own local bands Remedy and the Songbirds.
“She wasn’t happy just sitting back. She had to get involved some way and music was the way she did that,” Brunk said.
The Oakdale High School graduate and local businessman went on to state that his wife, a lover of music and children, was often frustrated by the lack of financial support offered to youth with a love for music and the arts.
Heidi, a graduate of Dominican University in San Rafael with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, spent her days working beside her husband at Brunk Industries, an acoustic insulation contracting business.
“She had to do something with music,” he said. “Her day to day job was just something to fill in the void. She wanted to get back into teaching kids.”
Ironically, one month prior to that fateful August day in 2008, Heidi had given her husband her notice at work. According to Brunk, she had a 20-month plan and she was going to return to her first love, full-time.
Now, one year following that 20-month notice, Heidi’s husband is working tirelessly to make the Sierra View Music Fest more than a success. Proceeds raised from the event will be utilized for scholarship opportunities for students throughout Stanislaus County and surrounding areas.
“I’d like to get it to a point where it’s a yearly event,” Brunk said of the upcoming daylong concert event. “If there’s 2,000 people it will get us to a venue where we can have more of a headliner.
“We’re taking those little baby steps and we’ll continue to work at it.”
Along the way, Brunk is quick to point out, there have been plenty of friends to share the load.
“It would not have been able to happen without so many of the people that are helping,” he added.
The ‘people’ Brunk speaks of run the gamut from Greg Cobb of Ad Matters and Chris Ricci, originator of Modesto’s Xfest, to local businesses offering donations of support and so many members of his late wife’s ‘music’ family.
“These people that are in the bands… Remedy, Songbirds and all the others I have come to know, are just fabulous,” he said, stating his late wife’s ‘music’ family has equally become his own. They have been there supporting him and rallying behind him in a way he never thought imaginable, he said.
This community of people not only knew his wife, they not only knew of her love of music, they understood. This is perhaps one of the core reasons so many have rallied behind this father of two to help him make the event not only a success, but also an annual event.
According to Brunk, proceeds from the music fest will directly benefit students interested in music and the arts.
“You don’t know what can happen with something like this,” Brunk said. “We’ve started off with it being for scholarship recipients. I would like to see it be for the continuance of education in the arts.”
He added that there are no limitations with how the money can be awarded to students once it has been acquired.
“This was what she loved,” he said. “Everything about Heidi was music.”
A nine band line-up is scheduled to take the stage at the J-H Ranch on Saturday, Aug. 15 at 2 p.m. sharp. Brunk hopes to welcome 1500 guests and 500 VIP’s onto his property, all in the name of his late wife and the future of music education.
“She would have probably said ‘Great,’” he said of his plans for the concert and Heidi’s reaction. “But she probably would have said, ‘Wait, hold back just a little bit.’”
The nine bands scheduled to perform are: Undercover Acoustic, DAM, California Cowboys, Remedy, Sil Shoda, Wooden Jesus, Good Luck Thrift Store Outlet, Jack Daddy and Papa Doo Run Run. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $100 for VIP tickets, which includes dinner, drinks, parking and reserved table seating.
“Our biggest need at this time is to sell tickets,” he said of ways the community can help. “We’ll take a check for $10. It’s all relative for what people can give. We’ll sell a single VIP ticket, instead of a table if that’s what you can do. Just enjoy the music.”
For more information on the event and tickets visit www.sierraviewmusicfest.com or contact local businesses: Brunk Industries, Inc., H-B Saloon, RT Power Equipment, Heads Above the Rest Salon, Alexandra’s Home & Garden and Farmer’s Insurance, Fran Krieger.