Batavia grad reflects on his road to success as a choral director, composer and trumpeter
During the month of March, we celebrate music in our schools. It's a time when we remember the teachers who have dedicated their lives to teaching music and to the students who spend time each day practicing for performance.
For the last few months, music students across the state have been busy competing for spots at ILMEA (Illinois Music Educators Association) and ACDA, the American Choral Directors Association. Five students made it to state from Batavia; Faith Cramer, Daniella Kerr, Molly Schuster, Nathan Knautz and Emily Tratar. Schuster and Cramer distinguished themselves even further by earning spots in the honors orchestra and honors band.
Andrew Bruhn won a spot in the ILMEA honors orchestra when he was a band student at Batavia High School.
"The guy I played next to was and is still a friend, and is now second trumpet in the New York Philharmonic," Bruhn said. "The guy on the other side of me is a close friend, and he's in the President's Own Marine Band in (Washington) D.C. now. ILMEA was such a formative part of my music education. I am so grateful for it."
Today, Bruhn is a successful choral director, composer and trumpeter.
"I sort of came to composition late in life and perhaps it's just beginners' luck, but the first piece I wrote was published and got a JW Pepper Editors' Choice," he said.
Bruhn discovered a hidden talent. He has had over a dozen published choral compositions and more coming out in the next few years. He has won the Illinois American Choral Directors Association Composition Contest, and is a semifinalist for the American Prize in Choral Composition.
"All of those things have really opened doors for me," he added, "and I'm so grateful to get to share my music more widely through these avenues."
In addition to composition, Bruhn is an award-winning teacher who directs the choral music program at Rockford Christian Schools in Illinois.
One of his choirs was one of four choirs featured at ILMEA this year. The 53-member choir is called the "Come Y'all Choir" -- because anyone can join and sing. There are no auditions or strict entrance requirements.
"Kids from freshmen through seniors are in the group," Bruhn said. "Some couldn't even read music when they started. That means they spend time at the start of each class doing exercises on notation, rhythm, pitch, and other aspects of reading and interpreting music."
Bruhn strives for musical excellence, but he also tries to connect the music to his students.
"I hope that students leave my classroom better people, and their lives are transformed by this amazing gift of music. One of my mantras is, 'Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice, it takes the whole person to sing and rejoice.'
"Music education has been proven to raise test scores," said Bruhn, "but I believe it's worth studying and putting in the lives of young people simply for its own purpose -- to give these kids a safe place to express themselves and experience the joy and beauty of the community of song."