Everybody loved Collin Anderson.
Blonde and brilliant, witty and warm, cultured and creative, the substitute teacher from Trumansburg seemed to have the world on a string.
Even his pre-teen students knew he was something special. Instead of calling him “Mr. Anderson,” the fifth-graders called him “Mister A-plus.”
In the summer of 2012, Anderson and his partner, Rachel Firak, moved onto his family’s new farm in Hector, where they began building a homestead. There he discovered new passions for simple living, green building, biking, farming and yoga. And always there was music.
Whether singing old Beatles tunes or sampling Smashing Pumpkins, Anderson and Firak reveled in the sounds of the sphere. With his best friend, Matt Chatham, Anderson collaborated on a recording project called The Color Industry.
In 2011 the duo waxed its first CD and started work on a second, but it all came crashing to an end on Feb. 2, 2013, when Anderson and Firak suffered serious injuries in a car accident near Rochester. Firak survived but Anderson died. He was 26.
“Collin was extremely passionate about music,” said Chatham, who lives in Liverpool’s Grenadier Apartments. “I knew he’d want me to finish what we started together.”
On May 13, Chatham released “Harvestman,” a 17-track disc of sometimes eerie, sometimes euphoric, but always evocative soundscapes by The Color Industry. Eight of the tracks are Anderson’s compositions, five are Chatham’s and three are collaborations.
“We had already recorded a lot of his songs for the record,” Chatham recalled, “but I asked his partner, Rachel, to send me any unfinished demos he had on his laptop to see if I could get some more of his songs out there.” Three of those ended up on the record: “Long Drive,” “Sieve” and “Last Time.”
“His passing had a pretty huge impact on the admittedly already somber record,” Chatham said. “I wrote and recorded the song ‘How to Bend’ in the week following his death based on something Rachel had written to friends comparing his passing to a hurricane.
Firak remembers Anderson as “one of the most encouraging, genuine and effortlessly humorous people I’ve ever been privileged to know.”
After Anderson’s sudden death, his parents, Daryl and Suzanne Anderson, established the Collin Anderson Memorial Fund at Tompkins Trust Company, PO Box 702, Trumansburg, NY 14886.
“We ask that you think about Collin not as a victim of a harsh and random universe, but as the thoughtful, positive and hilarious person that we all know he was,” his parents wrote in his obituary. “Remember Collin as an artist. Remember Collin as a musician. Remember Collin as an actor. Remember Collin as a teacher. Remember Collin as a writer. Remember Collin as a farmer, a coffee lover, a dancer, a joker, and a runner. And if you want to honor Collin’s memory, it’s as easy as being true to yourself.
Chatham is being true to both himself and his best friend.
“I’m putting the album up for free download at thecolorindustry.com because Collin didn’t believe music should be paid for,” Chatham said. “I’ll include a donate option, though, to let people give money to Collin’s memorial. And physical CDs can also be purchased through the website.”