Brielan Andersen is an Unabashed Tuba Player
Why did you choose UMKC?
I was enticed by the studio and 100 percent job placement. I don’t want to break that record.
Where are you from?
Northern Michigan. I grew up on a cherry and cattle farm.
How has college inspired you?
College has been an opportunity to discover and become the ideal version of myself. I’ve been in school since 2006 so my entire adult life so far has been spent in school.
My bachelor’s degree was about learning to navigate the world without the guidance of my parents. I really had to demonstrate that I could make decisions and manage my own time, money and social life.
My master’s degree was a time to discover my true interests. I spent it traveling around the U.S. and Canada, taking lessons and attending as many lectures and master classes as I could. Being a musician, I found this essential to my musical growth.
I have spent time working on my doctorate and second master’s degree in Kansas City. Here I have discovered how to be confident in everything I learned. The professors with whom I have had the chance to interact are unlike any people I’ve met before. They are as interested in me as they are in my music. At UMKC, my mentors have focused as much on how to shape students into good people as they have me how to play tuba. It has been a remarkable journey, discovering that I have the privilege to call so many wonderful educators my mentors and friends.
Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?
The greatest gift I’ve given myself since entering college has been allowing myself to be nerdy. Call it nerdy, geeky, devoted, enthusiastic, whatever you choose to call it, allowing myself to have interests outside normal expectations was a gift. In order to truly invest in any career, I believe a student must be passionate. I remember all the speeches about finding your passions when I was a teen, and the pressure to enter a field that would prove to have a return on investment. What really matters is that I’ve found something that I never dread.
Teaching young musicians energizes me. It was very fortunate that I found my passion when I was so young because it has allowed me to grow as a teacher while I still have the guidance of my own mentors.
What got you interested in performance?
My mother is a piano teacher. She’d make me play for church on Sundays. I hated piano but I loved music.
Why did you choose the tuba?
I was told I wouldn’t be able to do it by a band director. I thought I had to be the best to prove him wrong.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?
I don’t know exactly how to put it into words but my tuba teacher at UMKC Professor Tom Stein, heard something special in my playing long before I could. After a few weeks, his frustration with me was getting palpable in our lessons, and finally he made me put the horn down and say “I am a damn good tuba player.”
It was surprisingly difficult to say because I always wanted to follow it with “…but…” He wouldn’t let me qualify it though. He made me say it over and over in that lesson until I could say it with a straight face, confident voice and the resolution to live up to it.
He was teaching me that it was essential for me to realize how far I had come as a musician in order to make full use of the skills I so tediously developed. He taught me to celebrate my hard work as a way of encouraging more hard work.
I’ve only spent just over two years trying to recognize the positive in my playing and consequently I have improved as a musician faster in the past two years than ever before. Celebrating the successes, noting improvements and only then finding room for improvement will be a cornerstone of my teaching from here on out.
Who do you admire most at UMKC?
If I were forced to choose only one person, I would have to choose Professor Tom Stein. His devotion to his students is evident in so many ways. Simply the number of hours he spends with students each week is astounding. I’ve known so many professors who only do the bare minimum, whether or not they have tenure. Professor Stein makes himself available for extra lessons, coachings, seminars or simply if a student needs someone to talk to. He has helped me grow as a player and as a person by being an example of a teacher I want to emulate.
Are you a first-generation college student?
No. Although, I am the first person in my family to complete graduate work! I’m the only one in my close family pursuing music, which adds some uncertainty and a bit of “learning the business as I go.” My parents and I are learning together how to navigate a very unfamiliar degree path and what to expect after graduation in the music industry.
What’s your greatest fear?
I’m afraid of complacency. I never want to feel satisfied. I never want to plateau. I never want to settle for “good enough.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Being the age I am, the desire to build a family is weighing more and more in my decisions. I hope to have a career that is fulfilling, with constant challenges both musical and intellectual, and yet I also want a family. I want the opportunity to share the world with children of my own as well as my students.
What is one that best describes you?
Unabashed. I choose this word not for negative connotations — shameless, brazen, outspoken — but for the positive qualities it brings to mind. I want to be unashamed of my work and myself. I want to give freely of my talents and the things I have learned. And I always want to be genuine and honest about who I am and things I represent.