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BriLee’s Brian Busch: Man With a Mission

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From time to time, I turn over the helm of this forum to a colleague. It is hoped that the reader will benefit from a variety of viewpoints. In this case I am doing so for an additional reason: to highlight the important and influential work of Brian Busch, founder and president of BriLee Music. Brian founded BriLee to meet the unique needs of choral music educators who work with changing voices and young singers. Composers who specialize in these age groups flocked to the company, and teachers came to rely on BriLee’s annual release of new choral pieces. In a devastating blow to the choral profession, Brian succumbed to cancer on June 11. My friend and very able colleague, educator-composer Lon Beery, has undertaken the effort of coordinating the following contributors as homage to Brian’s life’s work of supporting educators, composers, and the students they serve.

-Drew Collins, forum editor

Several BriLee composers were present at Brian’s memorial service. They, along with others, wrote tributes about Brian which were collected by Ruth Elaine Schram and shared with Brian’s wife, Lee. Some of these tributes have been excerpted and interspersed among the reviews of their most popular works in the BriLee catalogue.

– Lon Beery, guest contributor

Peaceful Silent Night (arr. Ruth Elaine Schram) Unison, opt. Two-Part #151; BriLee BL106
This partner song would make a somber addition to a holiday concert for treble choirs in grades 4-7. Ruth shares that “Brian loved the setting of “Silent Night” in 4/4, with its elongated phrases and easy, relaxed feel. He was so enamored with the accompaniment that he [joked that] he was going to promote that as a piano solo! [LB DC]

“When Brian started BriLee, he intended to fill a niche in the market. His vision was clear: to make the BriLee catalog timeless and classy, filled with musical works that singers would cherish, works that guaranteed musical success to any size choir with any ability level, works that educators would value for many years.”

– Ruth Elaine Schram

Simply Gregorian (arr. Donald Moore) Unison, opt. Two-Part #151; BriLee BL126
Moore lifted the popular chant melody “Adoro Te, Devote,” and reset it with the Kyrie text. The arrangement begins with a unison (or solo) statement of the chant, and then breaks into a sixteenth note arpeggiated accompaniment in a more contemporary style. The piece ends as it began – with the chant in unaccompanied unison. [DC (from a previous issue)]

“Brian was a true authentic believer and he believed in my talents as a choral music composer. In 1986, Brian, took a big chance and accepted several of my creative works. That was vintage Brian Busch, seeing something special in a rookie composer and running with it. He was a one of kind, willing to take chances. Years later, I got a phone call that went something like this: ‘Hi Don, this is Brian Busch and I’m starting a new company called BriLee Music and I want you to be one of the first ones to write for me.’ His enthusiasm was overwhelming. He single-handedly built a world-class music publishing company that is highly respected around the nation and world.”

– Donald Moore

One Wish (Dave Jean Perry) Unison, opt. 2-part #151; BriLee BL192
Here is a simple, yet beautiful unison piece for young treble choirs. With an original text about universal peace, it is useful any time of the year. An optional second part is provided for the last four measures which allows the chorus to end in harmony, yet with minimal rehearsal time. This would be a great piece to introduce quarter note triplets as that rhythm pattern occurs several times throughout. [LB]

“Brian has always had the interests of the middle school and upper elementary teachers at heart. His concern for relevant texts and beautiful melodies for students to sing was an inspiration for us when writing for the BriLee catalog. His focus on quality literature for young singers filled a niche in the music publishing industry. The devotion, concern and energy that Brian brought to a project was tremendous. And his efforts were always directed at producing something first class. That’s how we will always remember Brian Busch: a caring, first class person who made a big difference in the choral publishing world and in our lives.”

-Dave Jean Perry

Rise Up in Festive Song (Clereau, arr./ed. Patrick Liebergen) SAB a cappella, opt. Perc. #151; BriLee BL216
This piece is incredibly singable, whether in the SAB or SSA version. The optional percussion part adds a nice color, and is entirely appropriate to the period and style. The text is a great way to start a concert. It is basically homophonic, and singers enjoy the harmonies. I have conducted this in a festival situation, and the singers loved it. It is a fantastic way to introduce young singers to the joys of early music. [DC]

“Brian and I first connected as musicians in the early 1980’s when he accepted one of my first original choral works. At that time he was in Miami working for a publishing company and I was brand new to the choral publishing scene. Little did I know that we would continue to connect for over twenty-five years. I have lost a tremendous editor, mentor, and friend. Perhaps it’s the zillions of people who have sung the many works selected, edited and arranged by Brian who should also sing great praises about what Brian has left behind. But I am also very grateful for Brian and I will surely miss him.”

-Patrick Liebergen

How Can I Keep from Singing (arr. Ginger Littleton) Unison, opt. Two-Part #151; BriLee BL228
This popular Quaker hymn text reflects upon life, and responds with “how can I keep from singing?” No wonder it is a favorite hymn with choral directors and composers! Although the text is written from a position of personal religious faith, it is general enough to apply to all who rise above the trials of life and find peace in the song behind life. The beautiful pentatonic melody is first set simply, then with rolling arpeggios. The third verse includes an effective, optional second part which is predominately imitative. [LB]

“The choral industry has definitely suffered a blow with Brian’s passing. He was a bright light to all that is good, solid, and possible in an industry filled with mundane, frivolous and repetitive music. I hope I can keep his teachings in my heart and in my music. He was my composition teacher in the real world, helping me to understand the problems faced by directors all over the country and he always wanted to know if my students had tested the piece. We not only talked music, but nature, health and family. I feel honored to have been part of his musical family.”

– Ginger Littleton

La Loo, La Low (Sandra Howard) Two-Part #151; BriLee BL232
Brian discovered new writing talent, and was not afraid to promote a piece by a new writer. Sandra Howard notes that “‘La Loo, La Low’ was that first piece I submitted, and the first piece I ever had published. I was so thrilled to have my first piece published — I walked around for weeks with the fax copy Brian sent me for editing. Brian asked me to write another piece for him, and I wrote a little piece called “Hodie”, which was published the same year. Brian shared my pride in those first pieces.” [LB]

“Brian was not only my publisher, but also my mentor as a composer. He would continually encourage me to write and submit manuscripts. With each piece, he would edit with care, guiding me through the process. Even on the pieces he rejected, he would offer advice and encouragement to continue writing. Brian also mentored me as a chorus teacher. Every time we talked, he would ask about my teaching and how my choral program was developing. He would make suggestions for solving problems I was dealing with and encourage me to keep up my confidence as a teacher. When I would get discouraged, Brian would remind me of my successes and let me know that my successes far outweighed the difficulties of teaching. I am forever changed from knowing Brian Busch. He had the mind of a music editor and the heart of a music educator. He was my publisher, my mentor, and my friend.”

-Sandra Howard

How Can I Keep from Singing: A Gospel Setting (Greg Gilpin) Three-Part Mixed #151; BriLee BL338
“Brian Busch was one of my first editors as a choral writer and arranger. As our professional and personal friendship grew, I learned what a dynamic musician Brian was and how he wanted to make a difference in the lives of teachers and students with his talents in choral music education. It just won’t be the same not experiencing his vibrant energy, but I’m so blessed that his love of music has been instilled in me and I will always be thankful for what he taught me.”

-Greg Gilpin

Peter Piper (Lon Beery) Three-Part Mixed, opt. Baritone #151; BriLee BL355
Brian called me a few years ago to share that my song, “Peter Piper,” was doing quite well. In fact it had become one of his top sellers. He then confided that he almost didn’t accept it for publication because he thought it might be too much of a novelty piece for his catalog. Then he added that now he was glad he did! I laughed and confided in him that I almost didn’t send it to him! I too thought it might be too humorous for the BriLee catalog. Of course now I too am glad I did! Brian was willing to try new things and take risks. That’s what kept his catalog fresh and appealing. [LB]

“I always enjoyed it when Brian would call. He was so knowledgeable. When he talked about publishing, it seemed more like a mission than a job to him. He knew that there just wasn’t enough quality choral music published for middle school choruses. He set out to change that. He created a strong catalog of quality, accessible choral music specifically for middle school choirs, and one, I believe, which is second to none. That’s why I respected him so. Brian made a difference because he had a conviction that our students deserved to perform quality music. He met that conviction with knowledge and experience to create a company and a catalog that is respected by middle school choral conductors everywhere. In publishing such music, he has touched innumerable young people’s lives who will perform quality choral literature because of Brian’s vision and mission.”

-Lon Beery

This Shall Be for Music (Mark Patterson) Unison, opt. Two-Part #151; BriLee BL363
Brian recognized the need for various voicings for adolescent choirs. He felt there was a need for unison and unison with optional two-part pieces. Mark Patterson notes that “‘This Shall Be for Music’ was the first piece I did for him that was in the Unison /opt. 2 part voicing. I remember him encouraging me to send him something with that voicing (which not many other publishers were really interested in) …once again, he was able to fill a niche so much needed by choral directors. [LB]

“Brian Busch found a way to give others a voice. To choir directors who previously lacked a reliable source for middle school choral music, he provided repertoire that was artistically appealing and vocally appropriate. To young singers who were just beginning to find their voice, he made available songs that were uplifting, enjoyable to sing, and carefully designed for their success. To writers, he gave the opportunity to create music that was beautiful and meaningful and enabled us to share that with singers and choral directors around the country. Brian was an amazing person – an incredible colleague, encourager, and friend. His work has made a tremendous impact on the world of choral music and music education. He leaves a legacy of incredible professionalism and an example of character in all that he did.”

-Mark Patterson

Forum editor Drew Collins is a choral musician and educator living in Ohio. He currently conducts choirs and teaches Music Education courses at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio). He is in demand as a clinician, festival conductor, and consultant. He has several compositions and articles in print. Contact him directly at Drew@DrewCollins.com.

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