“The people I’ve been fortunate to study with have been absolutely incredible,” said Owen Brady, a Lawrence University senior pursuing a Bachelor of Musical Arts (BMA) degree.

Not only does that sentiment ring true for his instructors at Lawrence, but also for those in Amsterdam. In the fall, Brady honed his composer-performer skills at home and abroad. He studied composition and performance at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (CvA) while an original composition was being premiered at Lawrence.

Originally from Barrington, Rhode Island, Brady is a BMA student focused on jazz performance with a cognate in economics. He specializes in alto saxophone, having begun playing the instrument at a young age.

Acknowledging his appreciation for Lawrence faculty such as José Encarnacion, Brady values exposure to different teaching perspectives. He singles out three important aspects of his CvA experience: high standards, direct feedback, and encouragement to freely explore personal interests.

“The most musically fulfilling experiences I’ve had are playing with other students,” Brady said.

Integrate intellectual and musical virtuosity in a supportive, creative community that will empower you to find your musical path.

In ensemble work, he gained his first experience with the baritone saxophone, now completing his exposure to all four main saxophones.

Amsterdam is home to a vibrant jazz scene, which nicely complements the Lawrence Conservatory. Besides the preponderance of jazz clubs, the city is frequented by world renowned musicians. This makes it a popular destination for the jazz-inclined, and indeed it was Brady’s first choice for study abroad.

“[Studying abroad is] a great opportunity to have a short trial run of another option of what life after Lawrence could be,” Brady said.

Easing into post-college life has its challenges, but experiences abroad are ideal for early exploration.

With more than 50 programs in 30 countries, Lawrence aims to make it easy to find a program that works for you.

Although physically separated from Lawrence last fall, the musical connections remained. Brady’s composition, Bear in Mind, was the annual student commission for the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. Brady was handpicked for the task by Patty Darling, a Lawrence instructor of music and one of the organizers of the annual jazz festival.

“I was very grateful,” Brady said. “There are a lot of great big band writers on this campus who would have done a great job as well.”

Bear in Mind was preceded by Brady’s first big band chart, Sonder, written in 2021 under Darling’s supervision. A successful premiere by the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) prompted Brady to pursue composition further.

When composing Bear in Mind, Brady set clear goals for himself. He knew it would be performed by high school musicians attending Jazz Celebration Weekend.

“I really wanted the piece to be something that had a simple, catchy, singable melody that would be engaging for younger musicians—something for them to latch onto without being overly simplistic or condescending,” he said.

Roy Hargrove—"a really beautiful musician, writer, trumpet player”—was the primary inspiration for this approach. Brady fondly recalls playing Hargrove’s music in high school.

An area of emphasis was orchestration, the creative management of different instrumental timbres. In this respect, Brady carefully adds instruments: first an opening drum groove, then the bass, followed by piano, saxophones, and finally the brass.

Both the Lawrence University Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble have tackled Brady's work, giving more exposure to this emerging composer.