By: Kristin Conrad
Power of Change
Brittan Braddock learned young that change can lead to excellent new experiences. After starting saxophone in fifth grade, Braddock’s family changed schools, which caused ripple effects when it came to her music education.
“I switched schools, and they didn’t start beginners on the saxophone at my new school. So, the band director said, ‘Here’s this clarinet – why don’t you try this?’ And I fell in love with it immediately,” Braddock said. “I spent a lot of time practicing in the band room, and I was lucky that many of my band directors were clarinet players, so I ended up getting that band director, applied lesson combo. Even though I wasn’t taking official lessons, I was getting specific instruction, so I got great training from a young age and just got hooked on it.”
A Great Inspiration
Braddock continued her musical studies in high school, where she started to love conducting. She became the drum major and conducted in the Spring musical productions. She enjoyed learning from her first high school band director, Kenneth Crenshaw. Dr. Donald Christian, Headmaster of Lutheran High North, conducted rehearsals for the spring semester of Braddock’s freshman year after Mr. Crenshaw tragically passed away over the winter break. Dr. Christian received a master’s degree in conducting from CCM (University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music) before pursuing administration and eventually becoming the president of Concordia University Austin.
“He was an inspiring conductor and music educator that semester as we learned, as a band, that music could heal,” Braddock said. “I just gravitated toward his conducting and was inspired to work on my musicianship. And you kind of find that person that is feeling music the way that you’re feeling it. He was a great musical inspiration. I think that semester was vital to my future. That’s when I started to really dig into practicing my clarinet and found my love of conducting.”
Braddock further explored conducting in college and received a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Concordia University of Chicago. While pursuing her degree, she took advantage of $10 student tickets to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra every weekend she could.
“Going to the Symphony was hugely important to my development,” Braddock said. “They have a section of terrace seats behind the orchestra so you could look at the conductor, and it was incredible. I was there at a time when they didn’t have a resident conductor, so I got to see amazing guest conductors cycle through that incredible orchestra.”
After completing her undergraduate degree, Braddock was director of bands for Custer County School District in Westcliffe, Colorado. She also held teaching positions in Cotopaxi’s Unified School District in Colorado, and Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy in Chicago. Braddock earned her Master of Arts in Conducting from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and completed the DMA in Wind Band Conducting and Literature at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her primary conducting mentors include Dr. Donald McKinney, Dr. Timothy Paul, Dr. Jack Stamp, and Dr. Richard Fischer.
Presently, Dr. Braddock is in her first year as assistant professor of music, director of bands, and coordinator of music education in the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. In addition to teaching, she is excited to be researching the chamber wind ensemble music of Ruth Gipps, a 20th century British composer, and the repertoire performed and commissioned by the Portia Wind Ensemble. This professional, all-women wind dectet was active in London in the 20th century and commissioned several important works for winds.
The Challenge of Being a Great Educator
It is a challenging time to be an educator, and Braddock discussed burn out and teaching in difficult times.
“The stress of our current times – it’s so hard to be a teacher right now. I’m afraid that we’re going to lose dedicated, incredible people in our profession. And it’s so important that they stay,” Braddock said. “I’ve watched people I admire who are great teachers, great musicians leave to go do something that’s going to pay more or be less demanding on them. I don’t worry about the future of music education – I teach brilliant students and they keep me going, they give me hope. I worry about losing quality, incredible teachers because we might not be handling this period of time very well.”
Helping Other Educators
Braddock is co-chair of the Mentorship Committee for Women Band Directors International (WBDI) with Dr. Julia Baumanis and is in the initial stages of a project that could provide a tangible solution for teachers hoping to connect with others in the profession and combat some of the challenges teachers are facing.
“We’re in the process of creating a collection tool on our website so that we can connect mentors and mentees, and we’re excited about that,” Braddock said. “So, if you’re a young middle school band director in the southeast, we’d like to connect you with a middle school band director in the area who has 25 years of experience. And then maybe she’ll be able to come to your classroom to watch you teach, help you develop as a music educator, and become a trusted mentor.”
When asked what advice she might give the next generation of music educators, Braddock discussed the importance of remembering why you found music in the first place.
“Stay in it, continue to play, play for the rest of your life. Remember why you got into it in the first place. Because, at some point there was an attraction to your instrument, an attraction to making music with a group of people, and meeting a wonderful musical community. And if you can remember why you got into it in the first place and try to tap into that passion, then it will sustain you for a life in music.”