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Brachman picked by NPR's "From the Top"; UND Aerospace; Fargo Police & Fire

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Erin Johnson





Adam Brachman

Today's Segments:

Adam Brachman, Davies High School Musician
Adam Brachman, a Davies High School senior, has been chosen to perform in an upcoming episode of NPR's "From The Top." The segment will be titled "Musicians from Rural America" and will be released nation-wide beginning April 29 and aired on Prairie Public May 5.

Police Fire Recruiting
Fargo's police and fire departments are undertaking a joint recruitment push to encourage people to apply for firefighter and officer openings at their respective departments. (FPD is accepting applications now; Fargo Fire will be accepting applications from April 1 until April 12).

UND Aerospace Day
UND Aerospace invites the public to its Community Day on April 6, 2024, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This free event, suitable for all ages, will be hosted at Odegard, Clifford, Ryan, and Robin Halls, and at UND Flight Operations at Grand Forks airport. It's a chance to explore the world of aerospace with tours, simulators, and hands-on activities. Highlights include weather balloon launches, aircraft viewing, and educational videos. The first 500 children receive a free T-shirt, with additional giveaways available. For more details, visit the event's Facebook page or the UND Aerospace website.

Prairie Plates
Food at the Baseball Park. It's time for Prairie Plates with Rick Gion.

Adam Brachman Interview Transcript

Main Street

We introduce you to Adam Brachman, an exceptionally talented musician and composer, currently a senior at Davies High School. Adam has earned the honor of performing in an upcoming episode of NPR's From the Top, a special segment titled Musicians from Rural America, is set to be released nationwide starting April 29th and will be broadcast right here on Prairie Public on May 5th. Adam, welcome to Main Street.

Adam Brachman

Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Main Street

You betcha, I'm really happy that you're here. How did you begin this process of ultimately being selected to play on From the Top?

Adam Brachman

Well, it started out last summer. I was doing my Eagle Scout project over at Discovery and the orchestra teacher at my high school was there and she told me that NPR had emailed her and asked if she had any students who were composers and had written a piano piece. So I spent the next couple months before the school year composing and I wrote two piano pieces and then I applied for the show.

I had to submit my two compositions, tell them a little bit about myself, and answer a few questions. Honestly, I'd forgotten about it for a while. They took a couple months to go through all the applicants and then when they emailed me a few months later, I was really shocked.

I didn't really know what to expect after reading the email because as we got closer to it, I learned more.

Main Street

Well, I want to congratulate you again and we're going to give our listeners a sneak peek of your work here in just a moment. Adam, but I want to know more about you. When did you start playing the piano and then when did you realize you were pretty good?

Adam Brachman

Well, I started playing piano halfway through kindergarten.

Main Street

Kindergarten?

Adam Brachman

Yes, but I didn't really enjoy it until sixth grade. I had kind of just gone through the motions of learning what my teacher told me to, but then once I got to sixth grade, I started playing what I wanted to play. I played things that I enjoyed.

Specifically, my mother would always play a piece, Canon in D, and I made it my mission to learn that piece and then after I learned it, it was just like I couldn't stop. I just kept learning pieces that I thought were fun to play.

Main Street

And what about the composition side of your world? When did you start writing your own music?

Adam Brachman

Well, honestly, I started writing right away. I found some old videos on my YouTube channel when I was 12 of some compositions I had written. They weren't amazing, but I didn't even remember writing when I was that young.

It wasn't until sophomore year though that I really got into composition. I wrote a lot for piano, but then I started to expand and I wrote more for chamber music, music that I didn't know, and most recently I've written for larger works like symphony orchestra and wind band. Is it harder for you to perform or is it harder for you to compose?

There's a pretty big difference. It's definitely harder for me to perform. Performing is you get one chance to show the world what you have to offer.

All the preparation goes into that one moment. It's a lot of pressure and with composing, it doesn't matter where I do it. I could do it in my bedroom whenever.

People aren't wondering how long did it take you to prepare, how long have you worked on this. They just look at the product that you've offered. You can spend time working on it and you can show people your best work.

Main Street

When you're composing, give us a sense of or give me a sense of how that process works. I know when I write, and I used to write a lot, I'd have a process to think about that which I wanted to say. Then I would say it and I would go back and say it again and say it again until I thought that it was as good as it was going to get.

How does your composing process work?

Adam Brachman

I start by improvising on the piano. I find a melody that I like. If I'm writing for solo piano, I'll honestly sometimes just keep exactly what I had improvised.

But if I'm writing for a larger work with instruments other than piano, I might find a melody that I like, put it on a couple of instruments, and then from there I almost work through it like a mathematical equation. I give the background chords to some instruments like the brass. I harmonize everything.

I think about the bass. It's really an interesting experience because you kind of solve your own problems that you create. It really is a good way to show emotion and how you're thinking through music.

Main Street

I'm guessing that you do this in a high tech world very differently than your predecessors did decades ago.

Adam Brachman

Mostly I work with just scoring. There's a lot of people that do online music production with DAWs, but I haven't really explored that yet. I definitely will have to in college, but honestly so far I've really just done notation.

I use a program called Musescore 4. I really like it because the MIDI playback is outstanding, and I'm able to see what it would sound like when it's played in real life.

Main Street

You have selected some clips that you want to share with our listeners. Adam, set up the first clip for us.

Adam Brachman

Sure. The first clip I have is a composition I wrote this last summer for solo piano. It's more of a jazz contemporary style, but it's something I've worked on for a while.

<< MUSIC >>

Main Street

Adam, once you create a piece like this, what do you do with it?

Adam Brachman

Well, I play it a lot. I play it everywhere I can. I show my teachers, and I really think about what I can do with it.

Around early this year and last year, I searched as far as I could for all of the composition contests I could find. Piano contests, everything. And I submitted it to everything.

Everything that I could.

Main Street

How was it received?

Adam Brachman

It was received very well. I went to the Medora piano camp with Dr. Nariaki Sugihara from UND, and he actually asked me to play both of my compositions for the ending recital. I thought it was a really fun experience, and I was surprised he let me play them, but I was very happy with it.

Main Street

You talked about improvisation. Is that a skill that is just fun and assists you in other ways with your music? And if so, how?

Adam Brachman

Absolutely. Improvisation is one of my favorite parts of being a musician. Once you know enough music theory and enough how the instrument works, you're able to just sit down and play anything.

That's honestly how I compose. I just pick a key, I pick an emotion, and I just play whatever comes to mind.

Main Street

Do you have other instruments that you're very interested in to play besides the piano?

Adam Brachman

Yes. I play piano, bass guitar, drum sets, and I just started tenor saxophone. I'm not amazing at it, but I play it.

Main Street

Adam, this second piece that we want to share with our listeners. Set it up for us, too, please.

Adam Brachman

Sure. So for this piece, I listened to the jazz standard Misty, and I did my best to play it by ear. It might not be a perfect representation, but I like to play things by ear and improvise the chords.

<< MUSIC >>

Main Street

Do you have a favorite genre that you like to play? Particularly.

Adam Brachman

I like romantic era classical music and jazz, but I can't really pick which one is my favorite.

Main Street

Adam, how do you continue to learn? Are you still taking lessons, and how does that process work for you for someone who's already really accomplished?

Adam Brachman

Yeah, I'm still taking lessons for piano, but something that I've noticed has definitely changed is I've been spending a lot less time practicing piano and a lot more time composing. You can't do both to the same level. You have to choose.

So I've chosen composition, and while I still definitely will practice piano, I'm actually, one of my majors is piano performance. I think that I will divide my time favoring composition.

Main Street

How does it work for you being a senior in school now with your music? You have orchestra classes? Do you have classes where you practice on your own?

Are you able to as much time as you would like with all of the other things that happen with high school seniors? Most of my classes are actually music.

Adam Brachman

My mom isn't too fond of this. I'm not taking a math or a science this year, because both of my majors next year are music and music business, and I'm taking mostly music classes. I'm taking composition.

I'm taking all three jazz bands, sort of, and I'm band. So in all of my, I have three off periods, and in most of them, you can find me in the practice room composing or practicing, and really it gives me a dedicated time frame to practice and compose.

Main Street

I just want to tell our listeners just a little little secret here. Your mom is sitting right next to you in the studio. You're not telling anything out of out of tail here.

How many folks in your school are interested in music relative to other things? Is this something that is becoming again more popular or maybe even waning in popularity?

Adam Brachman

I'm always shocked by how many students are in music. There are so many students just at Davies in music. We have three jazz bands, and in the first jazz band for newer players, it's the size of about three jazz bands.

There are so many students interested in music, and I think it's almost a shame that the public has not appreciated music in schools as much as I'd hoped.

Main Street

You talked about wanting to study the business of music. Where are you going next year?

Adam Brachman

So next year, I'm going to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I'm double majoring in multimedia entrepreneurship, which is music production with business and marketing factors, and then I'm also majoring in piano performance. I'll learn all the steps of music production from composition all the way to business classes.

I'm actually also getting a minor in business, so I think in this new age of music, people going into the industry need to understand the business and marketing to make it, so I'm making an effort to learn the business side of the industry, too.

Main Street

I almost don't want to ask you this question, Adam, but I feel that I need to in today's world because I'll bet you've thought about it. What about AI in music? Does that concern you?

Adam Brachman

A little bit. I mean, I think there isn't a career that you can't be scared of with AI. Music particularly is interesting because so far, AI hasn't made that much progress in music.

It's really easy to pick out the emotion in music, and it's just not the same coming from somebody who's not a human. I'm sure that it'll adapt and change and improve, but I see AI as a tool that we can use in our future to cut down on some steps that might just be unnecessary.

Main Street

As someone who's about to make this transition from high school senior to college freshman, when you look back to that sixth grader when music finally just grabbed you, what advice would you give yourself back then?

Adam Brachman

I would tell myself to not put so much pressure on myself. I always told myself that I needed to be the best. I always told myself that I needed to do certain things.

When I set my mind to a goal, I would stop at nothing to accomplish it. I would spend summers practicing piano all day, even forgetting to eat, which is not great. I would just tell myself that as long as you're passionate about music, you will get there.

You don't need to sacrifice other parts of your life to do what you want to do.

Main Street

I want to tell our listeners too, Adam, you didn't come here this evening. We're recording this in the evening in Fargo from music practice. You came from track practice.

Yes. First of all, what do you run? I run 800.

How do you balance wanting to do things like that, wanting to have some fun? Like you were talking about telling your sixth grade self still with this desire to be really good in your upcoming profession.

Adam Brachman

Balancing it has always been a little tricky, also because there's a lot of extracurricular music activities, both in and outside of school. I do my best to make it work where I can, but honestly, I have to make a few sacrifices. This year in track, I'm missing a couple of meets for honor bands, but really I've noticed that just by talking to the coaches, they're really eager to work with me.

They're just very happy I'm on the team. I think just as long as you talk to the coaches or whoever, you can find a way to do both and make it work.

Main Street

We're going to ask you right now, Adam, what your biggest challenge is today with your music? What is it?

Adam Brachman

I think my biggest challenge right now that might become a bigger issue when I go to college is that I'm not where I'd like to be for producing music online with DAWs, D-I-Ws. I've really only focused on notation, which is more classical, but if I'm going into the industry side of music production, I'll need to be more fluent in using these online programs to produce music.

Main Street

We're really enjoying our conversation with Adam Brachman. He's a Davies High School senior, and he's been chosen to perform in an upcoming episode of NPR's From the Top. That segment will be titled, Musicians from Rural America, and will be released nationwide on April 29th.

You can hear it right here on Prairie Public on May 5th. You are going to be with others, and you've had a chance, kind of, to meet the folks who will also be performing with you. Tell me about that.

Adam Brachman

Yeah, so twice a week we have these Zoom sessions where we talk with people from NPR, and they talk about different aspects of the music industry. Two times they brought in guests, and we were able to ask them questions about what it's like to be in the music industry, and these are successful people. So it was really a great opportunity to ask the questions that I had, and we did some other activities talking about our future and other things that we can expect when moving forward.

Main Street

Do you think you can make a career of music, Adam?

Adam Brachman

Well, I certainly hope so. I think that it's definitely risky, but I realized that I really have no other option. It's the only thing that I want to do.

My old piano teacher told me, don't go into music unless you can't imagine yourself doing anything else, and I honestly, truly cannot imagine myself doing anything other than music.

Main Street

What did you take from the other performers that will be performing with you in that upcoming episode of From the Top?

Adam Brachman

I've talked to them a little bit. I thought all of them were extremely kind, and I was kind of shocked at the variety of the instruments that they played. There were a couple harp players, there was a banjo player, and there was a fiddle player.

As a pianist, I wasn't expecting to see such a variety of instruments. It was a really amazing experience.

Main Street

You told me before we started this interview that your ultimate goal is creating a score for a movie.

Adam Brachman

Yes, that would be the dream.

Main Street

Tell me what you think about that will require, and how you may want to get there.

Adam Brachman

Well, I should clarify, it's not just a movie score that I could... I'm really open to doing anything for the commercial industry, whether it be movies or TV shows, games even. I just want to have my works used in another format where I can show them to the world easier, rather than staying in just music or classical music.

With composing for other media aspects, I was surprised about how orchestral it can be. When you listen to movie scores, they're extremely orchestral, and that's really helpful for me because I'm a classical composer. I really don't need to stray far outside of my preferred region of composition.

Main Street

As we end our conversation today, Adam, we're going to go high-tech on our listeners here. It's composed with this file type, is what I would call it. You're going to call it something different.

It's a MIDI composition, artificially created music with synthesizers and things. Is that the right way to look at it? Well, sort of.

Adam Brachman

I composed it. The piece you're going to play is my first piano concerto for symphony orchestra and solo piano. I wrote all of the instruments separately, and then this program will take my notation, which you could give to a performer, and they'll simulate how it sounds with an online MIDI.

Main Street

Before we start it, tell me what a MIDI is.

Adam Brachman

It's an online representation of what an instrument may sound like when played in real life. It's not always perfect, but the program that I'm using I think is one of the best.

<< MUSIC >>

Main Street

Adam, this is just really, really beautiful.

Adam Brachman

Could you do this two years ago? Absolutely not. It's taken trial and error and countless failures to get where I am today.

I have failed so many times I can't even count. When I first looked at an orchestral score, I was so terrified of it. I had no idea what I was doing.

For this first piece, actually, I wrote it for two pianos and then converted it to a symphony orchestra.

Main Street

Have you been able to share this with an orchestra to perform live?

Adam Brachman

Not yet, but I showed it to some of the professors at Augustana University, and they said that I might be able to play it, so I'm really excited. That would be very exciting.

Main Street

Adam Brachman, he's a Davies High School senior, and he's been chosen to perform in an upcoming episode of NPR's From the Top. The segment will be titled Musicians from Rural America and will be released to the nation beginning April 9th and performed here on Prairie Public on May 5th. Adam, you're very gifted. Thank you so much for joining us on Main Street.

Adam Brachman

Thank you.

NOTE: Prairie Public transcripts are created on a rush deadline by turboscribe.ai. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of "Main Street" is the audio record of the show.