By Daniella Caveney
Those of us who have attended live music concerts in Sonoma County and the North Bay have probably heard of Joshua Bluegreen-Cripps.
Joshua, who died on Jan. 31 at the age of 44, was a concert producer, trumpeter, magician, showman, DJ, KJ and yoga instructor. He was a giant in our community, always thinking of ways to bring people together with music. He loved everyone and celebrated everyone.
Joshua picked up a trumpet when he was in 4th grade and never put it down. At one point he was the youngest member of the Santa Rosa Youth Symphony, playing principal trumpet. In his youth he also sang in choir and picked up his love for magic, honing multiple tricks and even getting hired to perform magic tricks at events while he was in middle school.
In high school he won awards for his musicianship and multiple festivals. He began teaching trumpet as a teenager. His first original band, Tin Circus, was a ska band that drew a cult following in the ’90s. Joshua could play anything on trumpet. He went on to play with multiple musical groups including the Vespertine Orchestra, the Wednesday Night Big Band, the Tahoes and Tru Lyric.
Joshua loved being involved with Sonoma County Pride and was on the board of Petaluma Pride. Even though he was open with his friends, he actually did not “come out” to his entire community until his 40s. He said he previously worried that expressing himself openly might affect his career if someone did not want to hire him because he was a gay man. When approached to produce a local pride event, he made a conscious decision to express himself more openly and was excited to be featured in full makeup on the event poster. Joshua wanted to set an example for queer youth in our community and felt that his openness might help others come out.
He reconciled his relationship with what he called his “higher power” and loved to talk about spirituality. He frequently prayed or set a spiritual intention before performing, and his clear prayer was always to touch the hearts of the audience and to bring people together through music.
Joshua was a fantastic magician and performed advanced tricks, illusions and grand stage magic. One of the signature tricks he perfected was making a dove appear from a flaming dinner platter, which always wowed his audiences. Joshua performed for Catholic Charities and multiple schools, and children were mesmerized by his presence. He often did facepainting at his magic show events for children.
Joshua was a talented DJ and produced multiple shows at the Phoenix Theater, Maritime Hall and Sonoma County Fairgrounds. He produced EDM music for parties during the era when warehouse parties were all the rage, but his focus was on community and on getting people together. He even found locations in nature and brought in generators to provide music for hundreds of guests. He understood that young people need community and places to be together.
Joshua was voted best DJ in the North Bay for multiple years and also won the Couples Choice Award from The Knot & Wedding Wire for his work as a wedding DJ. He DJ’d for “Stepping Out to Celebrate Life,” a huge Breast Cancer-awareness event.
Joshua loved karaoke so much that he decided to become a KJ, or karaoke jockey, and hosted several weekly karaoke nights in Sonoma County. He was proud of his skill at fine-tuning the audio mix to make singers sound their best, and he put his whole heart into late nights, which earned him a loyal following of passionate karaoke attendees. He made everyone feel so special.
Joshua was an avid runner, Bikram yogi and Bikram yoga instructor. He dabbled in Chinese medicine and herbs, owned a full cupping set, studied essential oils, grew his own wheatgrass and made his own kombucha. He was interested in the environment and even became a solar-installation consultant. He never let his genetic pancreas condition slow him down; instead he committed his life to health. He was nerdy about supplements, herbs and food as medicine. He even carried a cooler around with him everywhere he went, which he stocked with probiotic yogurt, a protein bar, coconut water and alkaline water.
Something lesser known about Joshua is that he was a progressive participant in the legalization of medical cannabis. Recognizing a need to help people who used cannabis as part of their medical treatment acquire it safely and affordably, he became active in researching and challenging some of the laws that made it difficult for people to get medical cannabis. At one point he successfully argued for the return of medical cannabis that had been seized, which was the first time seized cannabis was returned in Sonoma County.
Joshua was also a marketing genius and sucessfully promoted many events from their gestation through to their end. He would begin by calling fellow musicians and saying, “Hey, let’s get a show together for Valentines Day,” and the next thing his musician friends knew, they would be signed up for a two-hour photo shoot and Josh would show up with all his camera equipment and props. Joshua would then proceed to take 100 fabulous photos of himself and everyone else involved in the gig. So many musicians who worked with him have him to thank for some of their best photos.
One of the last shows Joshua produced was his “Feel Good Show.” The title he chose really captured what he was all about. He loved when the show was free and open to the whole community and all ages. He mostly hired his friends to play on the gigs he produced, but he was inclusive, and it didn’t take him long to make and book new musician friends. He loved to feature student musicians and often surprised a talented young person by inviting them onto stage for a song or two. Joshua captured the hearts of our entire community.
Joshua Love Fest, a community celebration remembering Joshua Bluegreen-Cripps, happens Sunday, Feb. 13, at Sally Tomatoes, 1100 Valley House Dr., Rohnert Park. 10am to 5pm. Sign up to perform or share photos of Josh at jblovefest.weebly.com.