In his signature stern, no-nonsense yet cool and relaxed demeanor, musician and educator Brad Curran conducted his final formal band concert this past Thursday at Webster Stanley Middle School Auditorium. A diverse group of 6th, 7th and 8th graders performed to a standing room-only auditorium, revealing a remarkable level of growth and skill facilitated by the respected band director.
Among his praise for the student performances and thanks to the community for the opportunity to work with the Webster Bands, Curran was quick to let the drum section know it was out of line playing while announcements were taking place.
That is Curran’s style.
He is consistent. He is demanding. He is a brilliant teacher.
And he is humble. In thanking the audience, he made sure that everyone knew their attention was to be on the students and their evening of music.
In a time when respect for tradition and fine arts may seem absent, Curran was able to garner the unequivocal respect and appreciation of his students and families, instilling an understanding of the expectations that come with playing an instrument and performing with a formal band.
While his most lasting impact will be the appreciation for music he fueled among the region’s youth over the past 30 years, Curran’s influence went well beyond the walls of music education.
The UW-Oshkosh music grad has been a staple in the region’s music scene for much of the past three decades. He played principal trumpet with the Oshkosh Brass Quintet and is a featured jazz soloist with the 18 piece Appleton-based Big Band Reunion. He leads the 16 piece Lighthouse Big Band in Fond du Lac, and has performed with artists including Janet Planet, Dizzy Gillespie, John Harmon, and many more.
The sounds of his trumpet and the Packers Tailgaters Band are as much as staple of Green Bay Packers tailgating as is the smell of the grill.
Curran is retiring from his tenure as one of the region’s most influential music educators and accomplished performers – a difficult and unexpected decision forced upon the maestro years before planned, and just weeks after a damaging car accident.
“As I sit in the audiologist ‘s office waiting for my appointment, things are getting increasingly real this week,” shared Curran in his first announcement of his now-planned retirement. “It has been eight weeks since that other driver failed to yield, and I am still experiencing ringing in the ears and balance issues. It amazes me how a single incident like that can change a person’s life.”
Naturally, Curran used his personal announcement to add, “Join us… to hear the accomplishments of my last bunch of students. They have worked real hard on this concert and it will be eventful!”
Each year, Curran leads his middle school jazz band for a set at the annual Fox Jazz Festival. The Oshkosh band is one of just a handful of middle school jazz bands in Wisconsin, and the only to perform at the Fox Jazz Fest. Despite the uncertainty of whether Curran will be there for the show, he can be found each lunch break working with the middle school jazz band students as they prepare for the 2019 festival.
No doubt, as the Webster Middle School Jazz band musicians continue to make great musical strides, a few students will sternly be informed by Curran that they are not meeting his expectations. And no doubt, these students will join their peers in working hard to be, like their director, the finest in the state.
In-article photos courtesy of B. Curran