She had written a little song in the third grade as part of a class project and a more developed song in the fifth grade as part of a school writing contest. She didn't finish it in time for the contest but instead we entered it in the Billboard Songwriting Contest and it received an honorable mention! She was encouraged to write by Pulitzer-prize winning author, Edna Buchanan, who was impressed with her lyrics in this youthful endeavor. After that, she lost interest for a time. Music was a "Mom and Dad" thing. However, in high school, she began writing intensely personal songs and playing them for her friends. Three girls asked for taped copies for the summer and she obliged them. An upperclassman heard them and asked Belinda if he could use them in a film. The student, Billy Cohen, had already done one film about AIDS entitled "Waiting," which was shown in the Dade County Schools as part of AIDS awareness.
The new film was his senior project entitled "Seven Minutes in Heaven," which dealt with seven serious problems faced by teenagers and showcased in each of the seven "teen" years. Not only did he use songs from Belinda's tape, but also some new songs Belinda had composed. He asked her to develop the themes from these songs to accompany scenes in the film in a sort of "leitmotif" technique. For a high school junior with little formal training (Interlochen summer of '95 for Shakespearean theater, ballet, modern dance and classical guitar) this was quite an undertaking. The end result was an opus of compositions including the songs and variations on them. The soundtrack was recorded at New River Studio in Fort Lauderdale, employing strings, guitar, piano, percussion and bass, as well as a band called "Grandma's House."
Belinda had music in her blood. She could carry a tune before she could talk and could hold her part in a round by the time she was three. She used to make up counter melodies to songs we played in the car. Instrumentally she was a "quick study," which became obvious as she picked up three chords in the third grade on a child-sized guitar for her little song. She sounded out the chords for Sleeping Satellite on her dad's guitar and asked him to teach her one of the songs he frequently sang, "A Lesson Too Late for the Learnin'" by his friend, Gordon Lightfoot. She said "Put my fingers on the strings and show me!" Oz said, "No! I'll play it for you," and he did. He handed the guitar to her and said, "Now go learn it!" She stomped off to her room, slammed the door and disappeared for a couple of hours. I went in once to check on her and gave her a couple of hints, but basically she figured it out for herself. She went into the living room and astonished her dad by playing and singing it for him.
This was her sophomore year and she was showing a great interest in the guitar itself. I suggested she learn a classical piece. My Aunt Wilma had played a Bach Bourre for me on the guitar some years before and I obtained a copy of the music. No one told Belinda it was a difficult piece. She simply learned it and used it as an audition piece for the guitar portion of her Interlochen audition. She returned from Interlochen with two new songs and something she called a set of variations for guitar, violin and cello. She had written it out on manuscript paper in longhand. I suggested putting it on the computer using Cakewalk so that we could listen to it. I told her that since it had an eight-bar repetition of a harmonic pattern, it was more like a chaconne, although some of my colleagues disagreed with this analysis. The Chaconne was also used in Billy's film with several versions for various scenes.
Granny died during Belinda's junior year and Oz decided the family should move to the mountains. Belinda had met a cellist at Interlochen who attended the North Carolina School for the Arts during the year. She applied for the next summer NCSA in guitar and composition and was accepted. Since it was too late to change majors from theater to music at New World, this seemed like a good plan. Oz and Jonathan took Belinda to Winston-Salem and on the way back Oz called from his friend Dade Thornton's place in NC and told me we were going to sell the house and move to Brevard. I said "Ok, whatever," and Oz said, "Wait until you see it!" He was right. The place was fantastic. However, things did not go well for us. Belinda was not accepted for the regular school year as a student at NCSA which meant spending her senior year in a small high school away from all her friends. Oz developed lung cancer and we had a seven-month struggle with the local VA trying to get treatment.
While in high school, Belinda did begin lessons with Mark Yaxley at Brevard College and she won the talent contest at Brevard High School and also a state instrumental competition. She began her freshman year at Brevard College in classical guitar and composition. However, Belinda's health began to deteriorate after Oz passed away in September 1998 and she had to drop out because of incompletes in her classes.
She met a young man at the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain in the summer of '98 and he asked her dad for her hand in marriage, which Oz granted before he passed away. Belinda and Michael moved to Greensboro in January '99 where she hoped that UNCG, being a state college, would have a more understanding policy about people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. She was disappointed as the school had a punitive policy about missing class regardless of the reason. In addition, the school, like Brevard College, had no student health insurance, even though it is a state university!
The coverage Belinda had previously had expired when she turned 19. Her dad had just been approved for 100% service-connection so the kids should have had ChampVA. Jonathan's went through fine, but a clerical error in Belinda's caused her other insurance to lapse without any interim coverage. She briefly had Medicaid as a student living away from home in the dorm at Brevard College and later with a friend of the family, but again the paperwork for that got messed up and in Greensboro she was without any sort of coverage. She again had to drop out of college and her medical bills piled up following several hospitalizations. Belinda did get a job at Hecht's in Elizabeth Arden, but again, a hospitalization caused her absenses and she lost the job. No health insurance.
I suggested the climate was part of the problem and felt that moving to a mild, dry climate might help. Belinda and Mike moved to Los Angeles. Again, though, every job Belinda could get was lost due to illness and she could not get insurance nor Medi-Cal. She did attend Santa Monica Community College after discovering that USC and UCLA would not accept a student with her record of "dropping out." She enjoyed her classes at Santa Monica, but again had to drop out due to illnesses. No student insurance either!!!
Despite these setbacks, Belinda continued to write. She returned from the summer at NCSA with a Serenata for Strings in three movements and some additional songs. She wrote while in Greensboro and in Los Angeles, sending me MP3s of her work as she wrote. She put together a band, Ockham's Razor, which had some limited success, but again, her health problems got in the way. They cut a couple of independent CDs and she also wrote some tunes for a producer in Fort Lauderdale.
Ultimately, she developed liver failure from an accidental overdose of acetaminophen but the hospital failed to treat her, causing her to develope hepatic encephalopathy. They transferred her to UCLA where an emergency liver transplant was performed which was physically successful. However, the pressure on her brain was already too great and even her brain stem never recovered function. She was disconnected from life support on Nov 12 after UCLA harvested organs and tissue. Belinda had an organ donor symbol on her NC driver's license although it was not on her CA license. Knowing Belinda would have wanted to make this gift available to others, I agreed to the donation of organs and tissue.
The loss of Belinda is devastating to me, to Jonathan and to Belinda's many friends. We all feel we should have been able to make more of a difference somehow. Unfortunately the chronically ill are the silent minority and there is little help for them. I tried to buy her Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage but was told that with her preexisting conditions, she would not pass a physical. I also tried other companies, including Mega, but was told the same thing. I even called the insurance commissioner but got no help there either. I looked into moving to a foreign country, but by then Belinda would not have wanted to leave LA. Her funeral at Hollywood Forever was standing-room-only. She had so many wonderful friends everywhere she lived. There were even classmates from NWSA in Miami at the service in Hollywood.
In November 2008, we returned to Hollywood Forever to celebrate the Dia de Muertos and build a memorial altar for Belinda for the event. A group of Belinda's friends participated although we were all heartbroken that Belinda herself should have been there and wasn't.
The Belinda Bach Memorial Foundation is a
501 (c) (3) nonprofit public charity set up to make contributions to charitable
causes that Belinda supported. In this way, we hope to keep her memory