Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Invincible Eagle: The Career of Keith Brion

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

Invincible Eagle: The Career of Keith Brion

Article excerpt

As an innovative music educator and prominent conductor, Keith Brion has had a rich and varied career in music. His resume includes eighteen years of teaching in public schools, working as a music supervisor, performing professionally as a piccolo player, directing the Yale University Band, conducting hundreds of orchestral pops concerts, and most recently, founding and directing the New Sousa Band. Brion has arranged and published countless works, particularly those by Percy Aldridge Grainger and John Philip Sousa. He has released over thirty professional recordings highlighting the works of not just Sousa but also of Victor Herbert and Alan Hovhaness. Brion's impact on the American wind band has been both diverse and far-reaching.

The primary purpose of this study was to document an oral history of Brion's professional career. In addition to compiling a comprehensive professional biography, this study sought to identify various thematic elements that characterized the stages and turning points of Brion's career.

Brion consented to participate in the fall of 2011 and provided personal information (e.g., professional biography, discography, relevant publications, etc.) to aide in selecting appropriate interview topics. After reviewing these artifacts, Brion and the author agreed on the following five topics for discussion:

1. General overview of Brion's early life and teacher training

2. Brion's K-12 teaching career, emphasizing years in West Caldwell, New Jersey

3. Middle career at Yale University

4. Orchestral pops conducting

5. Development and evolution of the New Sousa Band

A series of open-ended research questions was developed for each topic. Following the development of these questions, Brion and the author established dates for in-person visits to conduct the interviews. A total of six interviews occurred over the course of two days at Brion's home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and each interview lasted between sixty and ninety minutes. Follow-up questioning was regularly implemented to elaborate on specific topics or events mentioned by Brion. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed by the author. To check for validity, Brion reviewed all interview transcripts for correction and clarification purposes.

The author also conducted multiple site visits to locations significant in Brions life and career. These visits included Brions personal library, Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut), James Caldwell High School (West Caldwell, New Jersey), and the Carnegie Hall Archives (New York City, New York). During these site visits, the author collected relevant artifacts, took photographs, and conducted additional informal interviews with others who knew or worked with Brion. The oral narrative approach to this study effectively combined Brion's life interviews with thorough artifact analysis to uncover themes across the various stages of Brion's career.

Early Life (1933-1951)

Keith Brion was born in July of 1933 in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. Though he spent the early years of his life in Philipsburg, in 1941, during the second World War, Brion's father was transferred to Bloomington, Indiana, through his position with Signal Corps. It was in Bloomington that Brion had his first memory of music education: "We lived not far from the University of Indiana campus. I went to school at the University School in Bloomington.... That was my first musical experience in a school. This was during the war, but yet we still went to see Hansel and Gretl, the opera, and we had singing classes, as well. It was a model program." (1)

Though his first musical experiences in Bloomington were positive, the Brion family spent only one year in Indiana before returning to Pennsylvania. The remainder of Brion's childhood was spent in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. From that point forward, Brion's public school music education experience always felt lacking to him. …

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