How Wichita Tower Member Came to GeTBaD
Friday, October 05, 2012
For Wichita Tower (ICT) member Bruce Despommier, being an air traffic controller and playing the guitar are just two examples of his many passions in life. But how Despommier got to where he is now makes for an interesting story.
Despommier was born at Notre Dame Campus in South Bend, Ind., but was raised in Ft. Lee, N.J., just across the George Washington Bridge. His father, Dr. Dickson Despommier, was and still is a professor at Columbia University. Dr. Despommier is a world-leading expert on the West Nile Virus, and he's also working on a theoretical construct known as the the Vertical Farm, which looks at the possibility of sustaining agriculture in cities.
Bruce Despommier began his college career at University of Massachusetts-Amerst, but after two years, he decided to go back to his high school tennis roots by attending and eventually teaching at Van Der Meer Tennis University founded by tennis legend, Dennis Van Der Meer. Van Der Meer is credited as one of the world’s best tennis coaches and is famous for coaching both Billie Jean King and Margaret Court for the landmark "Battle of the Sexes" in the 1970s.
(www.vandermeertennis.com/history — pictured in front row, second to the left kneeling in the picture labeled United States Tennis Development [USTA] first player development hosted at VDM in 1985)
Shortly after his tenure at Van Der Meer Tennis University, Despommier enlisted in the Air Force and became an air traffic controller. He never went overseas, but instead worked as a trainer in Phoenix. With no plans afterwards, he applied for a controller position in the Western Pacific Region. But due to a hiring freeze, air traffic controlling would have to wait.
In the meantime, Despommier moved to Wichita, Kan., where he was hired on the spot for America West. Although he was lucky to meet and eventually marry his wife, Stacy (who also worked for America West), he decided to go back to teaching tennis until he found a job in air traffic control.
"After a few years teaching tennis again, I got a call one day from OPM in Los Angeles asking if I wanted to work for the FAA," said Despommier. "I thought it was a practical joke and hung up on them twice. But they called me back and told me I had a job. I said ‘I'll believe it when I see it.’ They sent me a hiring packet that following day."
At first Despommier said he wanted to go to Hawaii, but the FAA responded with Scottsdale Tower (SDL). He joined NATCA soon after arriving in Scottsdale. He worked there from 1997-1999, until a job at Wichita Tower (ICT) opened up in 2000. He's been there ever since.
Fast-forward a few years and you'll now find Despommier in his own band, GeTBaD, where he and three other members cover music from the 80s to present day tunes.
"We're a non-drinking band," said Despommier. "It's the best part-time job!"
GeTBaD pictured left to right: Bruce, Dave VanSickle (drummer), Tricia Bussell (vocalist) and Greg Mistretta (bass)
Despommier found his passion for music when he was in a high-school band. His grandfather was a professional drummer during the prohibition days, frequently playing at speak-easy parties for various celebrities, and even some gangsters, in the New York City area. But Despommier's love for music was renewed when he and his wife lived in Phoenix where they lived in a small cul-de-sac with some very unexpected neighbors.
"We had these neighbors with long hair that were always hanging out by the pool and playing loud music," said Despommier. "They were a nobody band at the time, but I knew one day they'd be famous."
And you'll never guess what that band's name was: Linkin Park.
Despommier plays guitar through a training device with headphone hookups in the library when not on-duty, and he teaches some guitar too. He also plays at a young, progressive church, Grace Point Church. He said they've played popular covers such as “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters.
"I've been a member of Grace Point about three years now," said Despommier. "I started playing for them when I was asked to play ‘Sweet Child O' Mine.’ I wasn't a church kind of guy, but the pastor eventually was able to talk me into it. Ever since, I play every two weeks."
Grace Point Church
His band, GeTBaD, has been to some great music venues, including the Cessna Activity Center where artist Willie Nelson has made an appearance. Once a month, Despommier jams with another band in town, but GeTBaD is his primary regional touring band.
As if this isn't enough of a fascinating story, he's also written a how-to-form-a-band book for kids.
"I wrote a book, Let's Get Rockin', that's about how to make a four-piece rock band. It’s primarily written for teens, but is a great reference for any musician," said Despommier. "You go in a Guitar Center and you get overwhelmed with everything these places have to offer. So this book really explains what you really need from your basement to the stage. I wouldn't say this tells you everything you need, but there's no other book like it out there!"
Despommier's book has received recognition from rock legends Alice Cooper, Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Gavin Rosdale (lead singer of Bush and Gwen Stefani's husband), and he is currently working to get Taylor Swift's attention since her aunt lives in Wichita, Kan. You can visit his website letsgetrockin.com to view and buy his book.
He's also patented an instrument tool called L.E.D. String System that allows light to shine on the fret board of a guitar when the stage lights are out.
Despommier has a son, Caysey Warren, who's a sergeant in the US Army at 101st Airborne Unit stationed in Ft. Campbell, Ky., but is currently applying for an air traffic control position, as he will be leaving the Army soon. Thanks to his dad, Caysey is now a NATCA member, and Despommier said he'd love him to get involved.
Despommier is also now a grandfather. His daughter, Hayley, has a three-year-old son Donovan, and has her second on the way, Hayden, due in early October. He also has a fourteen-year-old daughter, Cali, who is currently a high school freshman and is a national competitive gymnast.
"If it wasn't for NATCA I wouldn't be where I'm at now," said Despommier. "I'm always donating what I can. This strength we have, if we don't continue to foster it, we're going to get snuffed out. If we don't stand up for what we want, we're going to be squashed. We got a really strong union, I mean we just celebrated our 25th Anniversary!"
Pictured left to right: Stacy (wife), Bruce, Hayley (daughter), Donovan (grandson) and Cali (daughter)
Pictured left to right Caysey (son), Cali and Bruce