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St. Paul native Bryan Irving Mintz, who played violin with the greats, dies at 66

24December 2021

Bryan Irving Mintz had a musical childhood.

Both his parents played piano, so they exposed all four of their children to the instrument while raising them in St. Paul.

At 12, Mintz took up the violin, too, only to have a music teacher suggest he find another interest.

“They didn’t think he had any talent,” his brother Douglas Mintz, of the Villages, Fla., said about the music program.

“Well, he definitely proved them wrong,” said his sister, Hannah Huberty, of Mendota Heights. “He definitely proved them wrong.”

Mintz, an entrepreneur and professional violinist, died unexpectedly Nov. 11 at his home in Phoenix. He was 66.

The music teacher’s comments pushed Mintz away from the violin, but only briefly. During a dinner with his parents in the Flame Room at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, Mintz was captivated by a strolling violinist, the leader of the famous Golden Strings, Cliff Brunzell.

“He just turned to my parents and said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do,’ ” Douglas Mintz recalled.

By the time he was 16, Mintz was playing professionally along with classmates from Highland Park Senior High School and fellow members of its orchestra. They called themselves the Royal Strings, a play on the Golden Strings, and performed at Diamond Jim’s Supper Club in Lilydale, the Sandpiper Restaurant in Shoreview, and the Radisson Hotel.

“He just had a great feeling for the music,” said Stephen Antonello, who was a cellist in the Royal Strings in his early 20s. “He had an intense personality and that carried over, both in his violin playing and in his personal life. Whatever he did, he threw himself into it, full force.”

Over the years, Mintz would continue to play, both alone and with ensembles he formed for gigs in the Twin Cities. He was a featured performer at Murray’s Steakhouse for six years. He played in orchestras for artists such as Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peggy Lee.

He was classically trained but had an affinity for pop music and improvisation.

“It was magical to watch him,” Huberty said. “He just looked like he enjoyed it so much, and you could tell just by his facial expressions and the way he played. He had the ear where he didn’t need sheet music necessarily to play. … You sing a tune and he could play it.”

Unlike some of his musician friends, Mintz didn’t choose to pursue music full time. Instead, he paved a path like that of his father, Albert Mintz, who was a community theater thespian and business owner before his death in 2012.

Bryan Mintz owned several businesses and became an independent collections agent in addition to his musical endeavors. Each time he was interested in something new, he would research it relentlessly, Douglas Mintz said. “He was almost obsessive about it when he’d do something.”

And that quality stretched into his conversations. Michael Antonello, a longtime friend of Mintz, said when they’d get together, “he was deeply appreciative and aware of the beauty around him, acknowledging it humbly, and then he would launch enthusiastically into conversation about what he was excited about.”

What Huberty treasures most about her conversations with Mintz was his ability to listen empathetically. He was her “brotherly adviser,” she said. “He was really good at slowing you down and saying, ‘Hey, tell me what you want. OK, let’s figure out how we’re going to get there.’

“He just wanted everyone to live life happily,” she said.

Along with his brother Douglas and his sister, Mintz is survived by his mother, Rose Mintz, and his brother Bradley Mintz, both of St. Paul. Services have been held.

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