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Whitworth alumni in their own words

A Divine Nudge to Pursue Music

By Ben Brueggemeier, '96

If someone had told me as a teenager that six months after graduating from college I would be right back at my high school, teaching music, I would have said that person was crazy. Because I grew up in Spokane with music all around me, it was no surprise to anyone (but me) that music would become my career.

As the children of a mom, Sue, who was a piano teacher, and a dad, Paul, who was band director at Sacajawea Middle School and later the choir director at Ferris High School (the high school I attended), the three Brueggemeier kids were destined for lives of music. But for me, music was recreation; sports were what I did every minute I was not in school or sitting at the drums. Sports medicine fascinated me and I was ready to focus on a career in physical therapy.

My journey into a career in music and back to Ferris started during my junior year of high school, when I had an encounter with God and the Whitworth Choir. My sister Ann, '94, was in the choir, so my family attended the spring concert downtown at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes to support her and enjoy the concert. During the choir's performance of Lamentations of Jeremiah, I sensed God's plan for me; in one of his "mysterious ways," he nudged me to pursue music at Whitworth.

That musical encounter grew into many, many more when I was a student at Whitworth. I was transformed by performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the Britten War Requiem, and Orff's Carmina Burana. I was shaped and influenced by professors who had a contagious passion within them; they helped me find that love and passion for myself. My professors (especially Randi von Ellefson, Debbie Hansen, Doc Evans, Michael Young and Jim Waller) and my wonderful classmates were the catalyst that lit the spark within me to teach. I never looked back, and I've enjoyed the journey immensely.

My Whitworth experience, including four years of classes, study sessions, music tours, performance ensembles, and theory and ear-training, was second to none. The time I spent in the Whitworth Music Department pursuing my teaching degree was not only critical to my training and success as a teacher; it was monumental in shaping the type of teacher and person I wanted to become. Whitworth taught me that music is about life experiences, relationships, historical perspective, cultural sensitivity, theoretical practice, and, most important, freely giving and sharing the life-changing joy that is music.

Whitworth's mission is to provide "an education of mind and heart." What I learned and lived while at Whitworth influences the young people I teach at Ferris every day. My hope is to pass Whitworth's mission on to all of my students. Ultimately, what the Whitworth experience gave me is what makes teaching high school band incredibly rewarding: Through music, I teach young people to think, to feel, to emote, to express and to create.

Ben Brueggemeier is director of bands at Joel E. Ferris High School, in Spokane, where he leads eight large bands/ensembles. The groups perform in Paul G. Brueggemeier Hall, Ferris' new performing-arts facility named in honor of Ben's father, who retired in 2003.

During Ben Brueggemeier's 19 years at Ferris, the instrumental ensembles have garnered consistent superior ratings at state, regional, and international festivals and competitions. In spring 2015, for the second year in a row, the Ferris Jazz Orchestra was one of seven high-school bands nationwide invited by audition to participate in the Seattle Jazz Experience. The Ferris Advanced Percussion Ensemble has won the Washington Music Educators Association regional competition eight of the last nine years and has placed in the top three at state six of the last seven years.

Brueggemeier's older sister, Ann Benson, '94, is director of children's music at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, in Spokane. His younger sister, Carrie Roberts, who attended Whitworth, serves on her church's worship team. His wife, Sarah, is an elementary-school music teacher in Spokane; their children, Josh and Ellie, sing and enjoy musical theatre; Josh is also a percussionist, and Ellie plays the trumpet.