Music students come to Westminster Choir College from all over the country. They have a wide variety of different training, experiences and backgrounds. Matthew Brady, a first-year graduate student studying Choral Conducting, came to Westminster from an environment that many might find surprising: the United States Army.
In September 2001, the nation was attacked by foreign terrorists; thousands of young men and women enrolled in the armed services shortly after in an effort to ensure America’s safety. Brady was among them.
“I sat there for days watching the attacks over and over, feeling like there was nothing I could do about it,” he said. “That feeling just didn’t sit well with me. So I enrolled in the Army Reserves the March following 9/11.”
At the time, Brady was a sophomore music education student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. As a member of the Reserves, he was able to return to school for the fall semester of his junior year before he was activated for service in Iraq in October 2003. He served overseas as part of transportation company providing convoy security. After deployment, Brady switched his military specialty and became a infantry drill sergeant.
“My experiences with the military add an element to my person and my teaching that I wouldn’t have gained elsewhere," he said. "I’m an avid patriot with a broad view of the world we live in."
When he returned from Iraq in November 2004, Brady was able to finish his undergraduate degree at Western Michigan University. However, he was disappointed to learn that Dr. Joe Miller, his previous faculty supervisor, was moving on to teach at Westminster Choir College.
Brady went on to teach music in Michigan public schools for a number of years before deciding to follow Miller to Princeton to pursue his graduate degree in Choral Conducting.
“I chose Westminster, not only because I consider it the most prestigious place to study choral music, but because of Dr. Miller,” Brady said. “If he had gone anywhere else I probably would have gone there. He teaches with such passion. He’s really the most brilliant man I’ve ever met.”
Miller is not the only Western Michigan connection that Brady has at Westminster. Dr. Amanda Quist, associate professor of Conducting, was also a graduate student at the university during Brady’s time as an undergrad.
Brady continues to exercise both his musical side and athletic/competitive side. He is currently an ROTC and military science instructor at Princeton University. He also recently participated in the Tough Mudder obstacle course competition, which raises money for The Wounded Warriors Project. His team of army buddies qualified for the World’s Toughest Mudder competition by finishing in the top 5 percent of more than 500,000 Tough Mudder participants worldwide.
As for his career in music, Brady’s ultimate goal is to teach music in whatever capacity possible. When faced with the decision of what to do with his life, he knew that he wanted to work for the betterment of the people while doing something he loved.
“I don’t feel like I picked music, I feel like it picked me,” he said. “I believe that everyone has a bag of talents and if you can use those talents to help people, you’ll enjoy life.”
Brady understands why his love for music and his competitive, athletic nature might be considered a strange combination of traits, but to him it makes sense.
“In music, we’re always talking about that balance of sound. Sometimes you need a unique combination of elements to make something whole.”