Jan 7, 2022, 08:00 AM
Rhythm Scene Staff
Alex Braud is a percussionist and educator from Kansas City, Missouri, and a graduate student at Lamar University, studying Percussion Performance with Dr. Francisco Perez. Previously, Alex was the Assistant Director of Bands/Director of Percussion at Howe High School (Howe, Texas). A graduate of the University of Central Missouri, he holds bachelor’s degrees in Percussion Performance and Instrumental Music Education. Alex was a performer in WGI and DCI with Gateway Indoor and the Oregon Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps. Since aging out, Alex has served on the administrative staff of the Oregon Crusaders and as an instructor for Compass Drum and Bugle Corps. As a performer, he has been a percussionist with regional orchestras and bands in Missouri and Texas and was a five-season member of the Kansas City Chiefs Rumble Drumline. Alex also spent a summer as a counselor and percussion performer at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Alex is a member of PAS, the Texas Music Educators Association, and the Young Band Directors of Texas.
R!S: How do you find new pieces that you are interested in playing? What factors do you consider when seeking out and/or choosing new solo or chamber repertoire?
Alex Braud: I have been fortunate enough to join several consortiums over the past couple of years. I also like to consult university repertoire and audition lists for more standard pieces that I feel are on my level. Lately, I have been searching for works written for unconventional or found instruments with voice or with electronics. I really like to feature works by living composers in my recitals and enjoy getting to communicate with them about my performances.
R!S: What do you find changes about the way you play a piece as you “live” with it for a while? Do you typically perform a piece once or multiple times?
AB: As a piece lives with you for a while, you begin to associate certain feelings or memories with that piece. For example, I have performed Ivan Trevino's "Memento" several times since first learning it for my junior recital, and each time I work on it, I begin to think of where my life was leading up to each performance. Most pieces I have learned I have only performed once. However, as I have gotten older, several pieces have entered my "back pocket" as pieces that I like to perform. For example, over the course of my graduate degree studies, I will have performed Druckman's “Reflections on the Nature of Water” five times. My hope is that I continue to play this piece for the rest of my life, and that each performance gets progressively better, not only technically, but musically as well.
R!S: How involved and in what ways is your instructor involved in your repertoire selection?
AB: In the early years of my undergrad, my instructors were pretty involved with selecting repertoire for me. Towards the end of my time at UCM, I began to choose more of what I played, while consulting my teacher for suggestions on filling the gaps. Now, in grad school, I present a list of repertoire to my teacher, and we discuss it to make sure what I am programming for a recital is attainable, and then I get to practicing.
R!S: Do you finish every piece that you start to learn? If not, why not? If a piece seems like a poor fit or you struggle unusually with a piece, how do you proceed? Do you “bail” on the selection, or what changes do you make to allow yourself to complete it?
AB: I try as hard as I can to finish every piece I start. As challenging as it is, I try to first find pieces that I know are attainable for me at that point in my life, so that I don't have to bail out on a piece. There have been a few pieces that I have played that I felt weren't a great fit for me, but I have tried to power through and see what I can learn about the piece and myself or how I learn. Further, I think it's important to learn why a piece is not a good fit, and how to adjust for the future.
R!S: What is one particularly favorite piece of repertoire you’ve performed and why?
AB: My favorite piece that I have ever played is Michael Burritt's “The Offering.” It was the first solo for marimba that I learned after being out of school for three years, and although I have only officially performed it once, it holds a special meaning to me and has been there for me at two pivotal moments in my life. The first was at my junior recital in 2016, just a few days after the 2016 election. I remember feeling a lot of anxiety and uncertainty about the future and hoping that my performance offered a brief moment of peace for those listening. The second and most recent time was when I found out my grandfather was dying from COVID-19 in October of 2020. I played that piece every night when I practiced, and I sent a recording of it to my family, many of whom had no idea I was a musician. It is my hope that anytime someone hears or plays that piece, they are able to forget about the pain of this world and be captivated by the beauty of the music.