Bluffton University - James Brake
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
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.
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.