Bruce began a performing career on the modern oboe in 1960, playing with orchestras in San Francisco and Jalapa, Mexico. In 1964 he began studies in Baroque performance with Frans Brüggen and Gustav Leonhardt in Holland. Receiving diplomas from the Royal Conservatory, the Hague, in 1967, he apprenticed to Friedrich von Huene in Boston, learning to make copies of original Baroque woodwinds. In 1969 he opened his own workshop in California. In 1972 he was again in Holland, substituting for Brüggen at the Hague and starting a class in hautboy, the first in Holland. He taught at the Hague until the early 80’s, recording a number of solo discs and taking part in the Teldec Bach cantata series. In the mid-70s, he reintroduced the hautboy to 20th-century France, and was the first (or among the first) to perform and teach the instrument in Britain, Italy, and Israel.
Bruce moved to Montreal in the 1980s, raising a family there with his partner, the gambist and cellist Susie Napper. In his mid-50s, he was awarded a Ph.D. in Musicology by the Université de Montréal for a study of historical pitch standards. Now retired as a performer, Bruce holds various doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships from the SSHRC (Canada), was Senior Fellow of the Canada Council for 2003, and is Professeur associé at the Université de Montréal. He has published six books (the latest is The End of Early Music, 2007) and is a contributor to MGG and the New Grove Dictionary of Music. He is currently at work on a new book on Eloquence and the Passions.
Bruce is now resting in peace (17 mai 2011)