Meet the Caps Organist, Bruce Anderson

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Posted January 4, 2016

(Photos and video by Caps Outsider)

Tucked away in a small, dimly-lit room near the Verizon Center rafters, a lone musician gets his queue. His fingers dance over the keys, energizing nearly 19,000 fans as one of the most familiar tunes in Chinatown blares throughout the arena – “Let’s Go Caps.

Bruce Anderson, the Capitals’ organ player for the past 16 years, is both a fan and an entertainer, keeping an eye on the game before a referee’s whistle shifts the focus to him. It takes mere seconds from a sudden game stoppage until the switch flips and he’s on. Before his tune is even complete, the puck may drop and like that, play resumes.

“I pride myself on mixing traditional hockey songs – rally pieces like ‘Lets Go Caps,’ ‘Chiapanecas, Kalinka,’ etc., with current tunes – Ex’s and Oh’s, Foo Fighters, that translate to organ,” Anderson said. “I also enjoy playing classic rock tunes – Space Truckin’, In a Gadda da Vida – as well. I try to do a mix so that everyone hears something they might like at the game, keeping in mind the flow of the game and situation.”

A lifelong Baltimore resident, Anderson didn’t become a big Caps fan until he took the job, but he’s always been into music. “I have been playing the piano since age five, and picked up the organ in my 20’s,” he said. Anderson has been with the organization since the move from Landover to D.C. “I played the demonstration for the ownership and management. They bought the organ, and since I knew what to play and how it worked, they asked me to play the first game, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Anderson also plays at Washington Wizards games. There, he’s technically always ‘on,’ even during the game, whereas for Caps games, he only gets select moments to play for the crowd. He often plays lengthier songs on his Yamaha workstation during commercial breaks. He also plays until the puck drops, which isn’t always easy because the refs sometimes pull back from the face-off circle, giving him several extra seconds to continue.

During Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over Buffalo, Anderson played the Cantina song from the original Star Wars. He contemplated playing Motörhead, because the lead singer, Lemmy Kilmister, had recently died, but the Caps instead paid tribute to the band by letting fans vote on which Motörhead song they’d want to hear. It’s common for the organ players and the game entertainment crew to play the tunes of musicians when they pass away, as the Caps did with Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland when he died back in October.

Arena organists have a bit of a fraternity via social media, where they keep in touch and share ideas. “I’m friends with most of the other NHL organists on Facebook and Twitter, and there’s a guy that does ‘Organist Alert‘; that forwards comments and more. We mainly just cheer each other on and have a friendly rivalry when our teams play one another. Occasionally, I see that someone’s played something and maybe give it a try. Each arena has their own traditions, so it’s fun to listen when the Caps are on the road.”

Growing up, Anderson played instruments like the trumpet, tuba, and other brass instruments. He was in the Baltimore Colts’ marching band in the 1970s, and studied Theory and Composition in College at the University of Miami. Now, he owns the Lutherville Music School, which employs 15 instructors. There they teach about 250 students each week. Formerly, he was the Director of Education at Jordan Kitts Music.

The highlight of Anderson’s organ-playing adventures with the Caps was at the 2015 Winter Classic, where he played at a sold-out Nats Park. He won an Emmy a couple of years ago for a Caps Red Line segment where he taught DC 101’s Elliot Segal how to play ‘Let’s Go Caps,’ for a game.

“Bruce Anderson is an extremely talented musician and one of our most integral game-night staff members,” said Caps’ Game Entertainment manager Tyler Hines. “He consistently pushes himself to stay current by adding new songs to his arsenal while also making sure he provides fans with traditional hockey organ music. We at the Capitals are very lucky to have a person of Bruce’s caliber on our crew, and I believe he is one of the best organists in the league today.”

Anderson has one thing on the bucket-list with the Caps he’s looking forward to doing, and it won’t come as any surprise. He hopes to one day play during the Stanley Cup. Considering how well the Capitals are playing this season, this could very well be the year. Either way, Anderson will be ready.

Ben Sumner
Ben Sumner is the editor of Capitals Outsider. He also works for The Washington Post and contributes there when he gets a scoop.
Ben Sumner