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Benefits and Blessings

It´s interesting the way someone else´s tragedy can help us realize our own blessings. It´s inevitable that we all suffer through perils, but quite often, time dilutes the real message, and sometimes the lesson is lost.

That´s a funny way to start a music column, but this week, the interconnectedness of tragedy and blessings is all too present. On March 1, longtime local musician John Wurm, who has spent the past nine years working as technical director of the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, suffered a devastating intracranial hemorrhage and has been incapacitated ever since. Wurm, 46, was simply fishing at the time of the incident and, according to his wife, Maggie, was in perfect health up to that point. It´s not certain what brought on the stroke, but Wurm lapsed into a coma almost immediately and hasn´t fully regained consciousness. It´s been a challenging experience for his family; Wurm is the father of three young children.

For those who are wondering if the name rings a bell, Wurm spent the bulk of his 20s and 30s playing music throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties in various bands, such as Electro Cat and Lighten Up. He was an avid bass guitar player and tended to play rock, blues, and covers at various locales on Singer Island and a few haunts that aren´t around anymore in West Palm Beach. His love for music carried over into his most recent job at the Kravis, where he supervised lighting and sound for all of the venue´s events. He´d worked on sound crews before taking the job at the Kravis and made a name for himself handling the technical responsibilities for scores of big-name and local musicians, including Miami-based flutist Nestor Torres, who remembers Wurm fondly.

¨That guy is always sharp as a tack,¨ Torres says via telephone from California. ¨His heart is so open, his warmness and humility really stood out. He was always going beyond the call of duty and was one of my favorite people to work with.¨

Torres learned about Wurm´s condition only a few weeks ago, when he was asked to perform at this weekend´s benefit concert, ¨Let There Be Light,¨ to raise funds to pay for Wurm´s mounting medical bills. As a part of Wurm´s therapy, he´s undergoing hyperbaric treatments. Unfortunately, such treatments aren´t covered by insurance. After about 20 treatments, Maggie Wurm happily notes, her husband´s condition is noticeably improving. But it comes with a stiff tab.

When Torres was initially contacted to perform, he was gripped by emotion, because, as it turns out, Torres was the recipient of one of these benefit concerts himself after a freak boating accident in 1990 left him hospitalized and severely injured.

¨It was very sobering for me,¨ Torres says of being asked to play on Wurm´s behalf. ¨Although it was nearly 20 years ago, I felt like I would finally get a chance to say thank you and make good on the generosity people showed me. At the time of my accident, I didn´t have insurance at all. I had about $65,000 in medical bills, so I understand exactly where John´s family is at right now.¨

For those who don´t remember, Torres was involved in a celebrity powerboat racing event on May 12, 1990. Despite having never operated a boat before, he entered the race along with fellow competitors such as Don Johnson and Chuck Norris. He didn´t realize things were getting out of hand until a boat he cut off inadvertently flipped up in the air and landed on him.

Sounds like a hell of a wake-up call. Torres suffered 18 rib fractures; both of his clavicles were broken, as well as one of his shoulder blades. His injuries were nearly fatal.

¨Those injuries literally crushed me, not just my body but my career,¨ Torres says. ¨And the overwhelming support I received from the South Florida community meant a lot. I was shocked and surprised at how appreciated I was by folks from South Florida. People did fundraisers, as did radio stations like Love 94, and everybody, and I can never forget that. But I wasn´t able to express my appreciation to the community. So being able to do something to support John is an opportunity for me to pay a debt of gratitude.¨

Torres is an acclaimed member of the Miami Latin/jazz community, and he´s a Grammy Award winner. He has performed with everybody from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to Tito Puente and Gloria Estefan. For the benefit, Torres will be joined by keyboardist George Tandy and guitarist Tom Lippincott.

Torres is elated to perform for an old friend, he says, and hopes his efforts can help put a dent in the cost incurred thus far by the Wurm family.

¨I want to support him in being able to transcend being a patient and a victim to being an example or point of reference for others in this situation,¨ Torres says. ¨I guess they´re all confident or hopeful that I can fill up the Kravis Center. I´m humbled by their trust that I can get it done.¨

The event is Friday, June 22, at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets cost $20 to $80.