Part of a well-rounded education and integral to our rich military school tradition, music plays a significant role in shaping cadets' lives at Missouri Military Academy. At the heart of our cadets' musical journey is Academy's new choral director Ted Brauker. With a background deeply rooted in music and a passion for teaching, Brauker brings a wealth of experience to MMA and helps instill a profound appreciation for music in cadets.
A month in, the musical semester is already off to a great start. Cadets have been hard at work, focusing on the gospel-style tune “Praise His Holy Name,” which they performed on September 24 for Vespers, and preparing for district choir auditions (read about cadets who earned district choir spots!).
“After our first rehearsal, two cadets approached me wide-eyed and said, ‘Wow.’” Brauker says. “They already see the fruits of hard work and musical discipline in our rehearsals, which translates into a sense of pride and enthusiasm for the choir.”
Brauker’s musical journey began in middle school when he began singing and playing the flute. He received a Bachelor of Music in voice from Central Michigan University and a Master of Music in choral conducting from Central Michigan University. While at CMU, he participated in multiple choirs, operas, and church choirs and offered voice lessons. When Brauker completed graduate school, he moved to Texas to serve as a professor of music and director of choral activities for Ranger College. Brauker is currently working towards a Ph.D. in church music from Baylor University.
“Ted is an outstanding role model and great educator for our cadets," says MMA President Brigadier General Richard V. Geraci, USA (Ret). "He is a gifted musician with exceptional qualifications and experience. That background, combined with his unrelenting pursuit of excellence, perfectly fits our military educational model supporting the development of the whole man.”
As the choir director at MMA, Brauker demands excellence from the cadets. Rehearsals are fast-paced, emphasizing repetition and vocal exercises to develop good techniques and habits. In his class, mistakes are not overlooked but seen as opportunities for improvement. Brauker encourages personal responsibility by acknowledging mistakes and working collaboratively to find solutions.
“I am a firm believer that learning happens in the struggle,” he says. “While wrestling with something difficult, true understanding and learning can occur. For students to learn, they must be pushed out of their comfort zones to rise to the challenge. Often, they will rise to the challenge. If they don’t, that too can become a learning experience that better prepares them for the next challenge.”
Brauker has implemented a new focus on sight-reading and musicianship skills in the choir curriculum this year. He calls these skills the “vegetables” of music, as they are not always enjoyable but incredibly beneficial. The ability to read music is a vital skill that enhances the quality of rehearsals, increases performance scores and instills a sense of pride in cadets as they learn to read and interpret music independently.
Music can deeply enhance a cadet’s experience at MMA, and Brauker says it is important for several reasons:
- It fosters a supportive and collaborative community, building friendships and deep comradery.
- It allows a space for creative thinking and problem-solving. It provides an opportunity for leadership and self-accountability.
- It fosters a sense of confidence and pride in a cadet individually and the choir as a whole.
- It is a fun means of self-expression and a great way to remember their time at MMA.
Outside of the music room, Brauker says the lessons of self-reflection and accountability can transfer to a cadet’s life post-graduation. Instrumentalists and singers become better with self-reflection by constantly asking, “What can I do better?”
“This is a useful lesson for life as a whole. We, as musicians, are honest about our strengths and weaknesses, not being negative or harsh with ourselves, but seeing our shortcomings as an opportunity for growth. This habit of self-reflection can be used in any realm or stage of life.”
Through Brauker’s innovative approach to music education, cadets have the opportunity to experience the transformative power of music, develop essential life skills and create lasting memories of their time at the Academy. As the semester continues to unfold, cadets can look forward to enriching musical experiences, such as MMA’s cherished tradition of Evensong: A Festival of Lessons and Carols, and continue to grow under Brauker’s guidance.