Monday, July 20, 2009

Tragedy: Tom Pfaeffle

A few days ago I learned that my friend and former teacher at the Art Institute of Seattle had been shot and killed at a hotel in Twisp, WA. Apparently he had been trying to use his room key on the wrong door and the suspect, a 57-year-old man, shot him through the door. Tom Pfaeffle was 49, and is survived by his wife and four children. This is a terrible loss on so many levels. Death never ceases to shock me with its abrupt and unfair delivery. My mind reels with how senseless this crime was.

Tom was a unique individual. I first met him in 2003 while in a class at The Art Institute. I'll never forget his zeal and magnetic delivery. When he spoke, people listened. He was a dynamic instructor, weaving stories of working with great bands like Nirvana, The Black Crowes, Queensryche, Candlebox and Heart. When he taught he spoke as someone who had experienced what he was teaching. He had lived it to the fullest extent. His lessons seemed more like intense movie narratives than the unintelligible droning I received in my other classes. He would spend as much time as needed to insure that the students asking the questions understood the answers. He was passionate about the information he was conveying, and it was clear that he wanted to make sure it clicked before he moved on. I believe because of his techniques many of his students went on to have careers in the music industry. One of these students (Casey Bates) was my classmate at the time and has gone on to produce a laundry list of signed bands. He also produced our first EP, which was never commercially released.

In 2007 I met Tom Pfaeffle again, only this time as a client. We had just released our Seattle Sessions EP and were playing a release show at the Showbox in Seattle. Tom was there to record an opening bands performance, but he told me that since the equipment was already set up he would be happy to record our set at a discounted rate. About a week later I took my hard drive to The Tank - the studio he built next to his house - to get the live tracks from him. As I was there I recalled out loud his conversations with the class four years prior about building the studio, so we reminisced about that for awhile. I met some of his children, who came into the studio to see what daddy was up to. He was very sweet with them. We talked for a few hours while the data was transferred, and I couldn't help but be impressed with how honest and sincere he was. He was a great listener, and listened intently to what I was saying. When he spoke there was a calming wisdom to his words. He told me about the struggles he had faced as his successes. A few he was most proud of were Wild Orchid Children and K.K. And His Weathered Underground, which were a few bands made up of local musicians from other bands.

Tom was very well known in the Seattle music scene, and had the unique ability of using his wealth of experiences to work with the musicians on the front lines. Many engineers and producers fade into obscurity and have trouble relating to new scenes and climates, but Tom had the tenacity to push forward and remain relevant. He was as good a learner as he was a teacher, and that is a rare quality to find in someone who had already seen so much.

I had hopes to work with Tom on projects in the future, and it just seems weird that now I won't get to. I didn't know him extremely well, but I knew him well enough to miss him.

So heres to you, Tom. You made a difference in my life and I will miss you.

Link to the news story:


  1. why would someone shoot anyone so senselessly?

  2. Tom.... Thank you for everything you have done! I will always remember you! I remember fearing your classes! :) you have done so many great things for seattle! the first time I went to the Moore Theatre was in your class... The next will be your memorial.... Thank you for three-Phase Power Distribution! Thank you for 300Hz! Thank you for tolerating hungover 7am Saturday classes! Thank you for passing me! :) Honestly, I don't want to believe you're gone... I owe you a handshake my friend. I will remember you always!

  3. You should record your show/the songs your play at the acoustic show in Seattle. People would buy more acoustic stuff from you guys. That means more $$$ for Haiti.