11 THINGS I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT - ROSS BRIDGMAN
Written by Amelia Jeffers
I met Ross Bridgman at a formal gala for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, where he has served on the board for 11 years. A debonair presence in a tailored tuxedo, he could have been walking the red carpet at the Oscars - a fitting image for the professional actor. Introducing himself with the requisite details, Ross told us we could see his work on Titans, The Rise of WallStreet: The House of Morgan, where he portrays Junius Morgan. It isn’t every day that you run into an actual Hollywood actor in little old Columbus. Learning that he had once been an accomplished attorney at the prominent Vorys law firm, I was intrigued: how does a midwesterner retire from law and transition to the big screen?
For Ross, the transition was more intuitive than it seems. We met in his former law office on East Gay where he methodically laid out a comprehensive biography. A self-professed country kid from Springfield, his ancestors farmed in Madison County from 1848 through 2015 when he sold the last of the family tillage. He was active in sports and extra- curriculars (an Eagle Scout, Ross is still on the board of the Boy Scouts), but recalls with admiration all of the kids who out-performed him. Though he had difficulty learning to read, he earned a philosophy degree with honors from Yale, graduated Northwestern Law and practiced at a high level for 42 years - all at Vorys, missing an oral argument at the United States Supreme Court by a coin flip. Thirty-nine years ago, he went to treatment, got sober, and later joined the newly-formed Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program - where he has shared experience, strength, and hope with others struggling with alcoholism or addiction since 1989. Of his own gowing family, he boasts like a proud papa of his three kids, a gaggle of grandkids, and a wife he adores.
As affably as he rattled off the “statistics”, Ross’ demeanor noticeably changed as he described a pivotal moment in his life: when Mrs. Beard, his sixth grade teacher, took note of his wonderful soprano voice and launched what would become a lifelong avocation of singing and acting - seeing him through lead roles in high school, college, and community performances of well-known musicals and relatively obscure operas. Setting aside his stage aspirations in favor of a more traditional career path, the thought of returning to his love of performing returned after retirement. “My wife asked me if I tried acting and failed, would I sit and pout in my brown chair,” he laughs. “I told her - ‘I’m not sure, but I know if I don’t try I will most certainly sit and pout in my brown chair!’”
When I asked him to be profiled for this feature, Ross replied, “How on earth could I narrow it down to 10 things!”, but with some probing, his deepest interests were revealed; notably the symphony. “The first time I went to a concert, it was like the scales fell off my eyes and I saw the world completely differently.” Because of his early exposure as a kid, Ross is passionate about the impact of music education and exposure to live musical performances - something we have in common. Nearing the end of our visit, we discussed how fortunate we are to have an incredible and engaged symphony in Columbus. Ross said it beautifully: “there are a lot of little Rosses and Amelias out there, and our symphony is changing lives each time they reach one.”
1. Our house, is a very, very fine house...life use to be so hard. Life is wonderful with Pat (my wife) and Birdie (our cat). 2. Spring and summer flowers in Ohio. 3. My sobriety without which I would not be here.
4. Friends, particularly those who are “trudging the road to happy destiny” with me. 5. Music, all kinds. Favorites too numerous to mention. 6. Singing, which has been a source of joy and spiritual contact with others and my higher power from age 4. 7. Comfort food - I am a bit of a gourmand as opposed to gourmet.
9. Travel: new places, new experiences, new people, new hikes, mountains, oceans, cities, museums etc.
10. Working with others.
11. Acting, performing, presenting. sl
For more information about Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the many community programs they support, visit columbussymphony.com.