Simpson professor is international man of music


by Clayton Bowers, Staff Reporter

Among the halls of the Amy Robertson Music Center you will hear a voice that has sung all over the world.

Bruce Brown, the assistant professor of music, began his journey in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He grew up next to a Sioux Lakota tribe during the Wounded Knee crisis.

His father was a United Methodist minister and played a crucial part in the peace treaties between the Sioux and the Americans during Wounded Knee.

Brown went to college at Westmar University in Le Mars to study accounting.

On top of performing in both band and jazz band, he also decided to take a few voice lessons.

His music professors, who said that he could make a very promising career in the opera industry, encouraged him to pursue his vocal talent. Instead of changing to a vocal major, he switched to music education.

“I never admitted that I wanted to pursue opera,” Brown said, “but I went to graduate school with my eyes wide open.”

Brown continued his education by enrolling in a master’s proram at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He continued to receive encouragement from students and professors to pursue opera after taking part in many roles at graduate school.

After receiving his master’s, he followed his girlfriend to New York City, where he got a job at Saint John the Divine in the sculpture studio.

“Sculpting has always been a hobby of mine since childhood,” Brown said.

He continued to audition for opera roles. Everything then fell into place, and he decided to become fully involved in opera.

He obtained an apprenticeship from the Des Moines Metro Opera, which led to his professional debut in 1988. Shortly after his debut he moved back to Texas for a two-year training program at Houston Grand Opera.

Europe soon grabbed the attention of Brown, and he went to Vienna, Austria, to audition for roles. In 1995, he was offered a full-time job at two opera houses: the Wiener Volksoper (Vienna People’s Opera) and Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera).

“I was singing about 70 to 75 performances a year, which started in September and ended in the last day of June,” Brown said. “Then in the summer I’d either sing at a festival in the summer, or we’d come back to America to visit relatives.”

He graced the opera halls of Vienna for eight years. Brown had traveled across Europe with his family and completed all the roles he had aspired to do. However, America began beckoning for his return.

“I began getting moved into roles that were more fatherly figures and older guys,” Brown said. “Also, we had just invaded Iraq so the sentiment towards Americans turned pretty negatively. The climate was tough, so it seemed like an opportunity to teach.”

Teaching had always been one of Brown’s goals, so he applied at three colleges back in America. Simpson College was one of the three colleges, and they flew him in for an interview.

“I was here for two or three days, and by the time I got back there was a phone message for me with the job offer,” Brown said.

He began teaching at Simpson in the fall of 2003, and has been here happily ever since. He is co-directing the opera, “the Marriage of Figaro,” which will debut the last weekend in February.