Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.
When Arizona State University School of Music graduate Fredrick Brown, Doctor of Musical Arts in wind band conducting, decided to pursue music, he knew he wanted to do more than perform.
“My goal was simple — give back as much as I have received,” he said. “In eighth grade, I thought I wanted to be a high-powered Fortune 500 CEO and continued to participate in youth work programs focusing on business related jobs. At the same time, I was playing clarinet and loved it. In my sophomore year my band directors saw potential in me and started paying for my private lessons.”
Not only did he receive private lessons, but also his lesson instructor gave him a mouthpiece upgrade and contacted acquaintances who provided him with a newer, better clarinet to play.
“It was then that I knew that I wanted to become a musician and, even more so, a teacher,” Brown said.
During his time at ASU he followed through with his goal, serving as a teaching assistant, helping the ASU Band directors with hosting the 2019 College Band Directors National Association National Conference, often times directing the ASU Concert Band, and starting an interdisciplinary group for students at ASU.
“Fredrick is on pace to be a true leader in the band and music education profession,” said Jason Caslor, assistant professor and associate director of bands and orchestras in the ASU School of Music. “As a teaching assistant for beginning instrumental conducting, he worked with student conductors in front of the ensemble. His comments and suggestions were always delivered in a positive manner that consistently helped the students grow. He is thoughtful, articulate and always has the needs of the students and community front of mind.”
Brown was nominated for the 2018 Graduate and Professional Student Association Teaching Excellence Award.
Caslor also said Brown was instrumental in the success of the 2019 College Band Directors National Association National Conference hosted by the School of Music. He said Brown did “an incredible job” designing and creating the conference application, coordinating and liaising with over 50 researchers and presenters, planning and executing a post-concert reception for more than 300 people and performed in-the-moment triage.
As an ASU Interdisciplinary Enrichment Scholar, Brown said he believes in the importance of engaging in meaningful conversations with colleagues outside of one’s own field of study, which led him to establish a group for ASU students also interested in forming connection outside their disciplines.
“One of the most enjoyable parts of my time here at ASU has been the opportunity to connect with graduate students outside of music,” Brown said. “Because this interdisciplinary engagement was so important to me, I started my own interdisciplinary group called ‘So What!’ to provide opportunities for music graduate students to develop relationships with academics from vastly different disciplines who can offer different and invaluable perspectives on the same issues that also concern us in the School of Music.”
Brown’s musical focus is instrumental performance, primarily conducting wind band musicians. He is also interested in music beyond the traditional wind ensemble and promotes chamber music performance. His research involves theories of value and philosophies of experience to engage with the understanding of musical culture.
For his dissertation project, “A Guide to 21st Century Chamber Wind Music,” Brown created a database of chamber wind music composed since 2000 to serve as a primary resource for music directors and conductors of wind/percussion-based small ensembles searching for modern chamber music. With many comprehensively covered resources for known chamber music composed prior to 1900, there is little research dedicated to chamber wind music composed since 2000. Brown’s database consists of over 200 works with approximately 60 annotated pieces providing information about the piece, the composer and where to obtain the work. Using the Composer Diversity Database developed by Rob Deemer at The State University of New York, Fredonia, as a primary resource, Brown’s research also addresses and encourages diversity among composers.
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
Answer: I was surprised at how many people did not know that a person could study music at the doctoral level. It has prompted me to consider a music philosophy or method of musical thinking that could possibly be expressed in a useful medium to other areas of life. I am excited to continue to explore these thoughts after graduation.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: The ASU School of Music has a great reputation while part of a strong academic and research university. After attending a very small public liberal arts college and a mid-size regional university, I felt that ASU would give me the most well rounded collegiate experience possible. I never thought I stood a chance getting into the school because many of the students in the program are musicians with strong academics and a lot of experience. I had the opportunity to work with Professor Gary W. Hill during a conducting workshop and decided afterward that I had to at least try to be accepted at ASU.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: The most important lesson I learned came from Professor Hill about the job application process. He told me that every step was about doing well enough for the committee to want to know more about me. I realized that I would often focus on all the things that could go wrong rather than having confidence and focus on myself. I have now learned to focus on providing my best self and best work so that others want to know more about me and my work.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: In the lower level of Memorial Union there are two sets of booths — like Sheldon’s seat on “The Big Bang Theory.” There is great air circulation, large windows for natural light, USB ports for charging and positioned for the right amount of people watching traffic during study breaks. In other words, study heaven!
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would develop a foundation to help disadvantaged students access colleges and universities through arts programs. While I believe the biggest problems in the world cannot be solved with money, those problems can be solved by young thinkers from a variety of backgrounds who need a chance to succeed. I want to be able to provide that chance.