Bluffton University - James Brake

Following Passion

As a high school senior, James Brake was headed toward a college major in electrical engineering. But his heart was somewhere else and, three years later, he s glad he decided to follow it at Bluffton.

Brake, from Ohio City, Ohio, was preparing to attend a larger university when fate and his mother, Kathy intervened. Bluffton called my house, and my mom was so impressed by how nice the student was on the phone that she set up a visit, he recalls. When he arrived on campus, he met with Brad Moore, an admissions counselor who immediately told him you need to go with your passion. For Brake, that s music, which he had wanted to pursue but didn t think he could find a job doing.

It was really what I needed to hear, he says about Moore s advice, because I had been struggling with not doing music.
And, as much as I resisted it, he continues, he loved the welcome he received and the feel of the campus, too. This is as close to having a college at my house as I could get, says the music education major, who grew up in a home on five wooded acres.
Composing for NYC
Since he came to Bluffton, the junior, a percussionist, has discovered that he wants to be a band director (after teaching at two high-school band camps between his freshman and sophomore years); that the United States is a relatively young nation (after a cross-cultural experience in England and Wales with the university s Brass Society last summer); and that I d like to make a name for myself in composition, toward which he took a first step last fall.
In October, Brake s Let Fear to Madness Evolve was debuted by pianist and Bluffton senior Brandon Fullenkamp when they were among four university music students who presented a recital in New York City s Steinway Hall. It was incredible, Brake says, crediting Dr. Peter Terry, an associate professor of music, for helping him develop the piece and Fullenkamp for his performance. If someone would have told me that would happen my senior year in high school, I would have laughed. I ve grown a lot as a musician.
Always Working
In addition to becoming a band director, his musical goals include writing for school ensembles and composing a piece for everyone in his family, all of whom are also musicians. I m the oldest of five, so I have quite a bit of work ahead of me, says Brake, who started playing piano at age 6, took up percussion in elementary-school band and calls composing almost like a third instrument for me.
At Bluffton, he has been a resident advisor for two years and a leader of Sunday night worship services, as well as a member of several instrumental ensembles and two choirs. I ve learned things I never thought I d be able to do, he admits, citing worship leadership as an example. It s busy, but it s fun. He s also discovered an ability to connect with people, he says, and that everyone has something they can contribute.
I m very glad I ended up here, adds Brake, whose words for prospective students, not surprisingly, are the same that he received. Go with your passion, he advises. It s amazing the things you can discover when you re passionate about something and you work diligently toward your passions.