Many academic institutions force new professors into rigid work parameters, but that wasn’t what Trent Brown encountered when he joined the Bower School of Music & the Arts as choral director in 2010.
“Most people in academia want to find someplace that’s already established, and it’s not often you find somewhere you can shape it from the ground up,” said Brown, assistant professor of music who earned his D.M.A. at the University of Arizona.
He threw himself into helping establish music degree programs and developing choral ensembles open to all students. Once the ensembles became seasoned, he took them into the community to perform.
“We are invited guests at artist series hosted by churches or arts organizations, so individuals who hadn’t thought of coming to campus and didn’t know there was a music program are exposed to what is happening by us bringing it to the community,” he said.
He also led FGCU’s choral program to the international stage with a 2014 tour of Austria and the Czech Republic. This year the group heads to the Baltic States to perform.
Brown extended the Bower School’s influence by helping establish the Gulfshore Opera, which performs from Marco Island to Port Charlotte.
Now he serves as the artistic director of the Symphonic Chorale of Southwest Florida as well. The organization recently hosted its fourth “Sing Out! Southwest Florida Choral Festival,” an event for high school through adult singers that attracts attendees who fly in from around the country.
“There’s a real appetite for the arts in Southwest Florida, especially for vocal music, so I’m at the right place at the right time,” Brown said. “Not only are people coming here for the weather and beaches, they’re coming because of the arts. They’re spending money on events associated with the arts. That’s an important entrepreneurship opportunity that’s presenting itself in this area.”
Conducting at events such as the local choral festival as well as statewide festivals affords Brown the opportunity to interact with secondary school students, enhancing FGCU’s ability to recruit them.
He also encounters Bower School graduates who now teach in secondary schools and recommend FGCU to their students.
“There’s less glam with teaching, but if you see what some of these people are doing, taking choral programs that had maybe 20 kids and a few years later our graduates have hundreds of students singing,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of our students who are out in the community right now. Some of the stories they have about the way that they have changed lives through the power of music are very inspiring, and I’m humbled to have been a part of their journeys along the way.”