Jeffrey C. Brown, instructor of Percussion and Music Industry at Valparaiso University, enriches the community with music. Not only does he inspire students, he shares his talents by performing.
Brown was destined for music because it flows through his veins. His grandfather, Harry Nigro, was an acclaimed musician. Brown grew up surrounded by beautiful music.
“My entire family is in the arts,” Brown explained. “You could call it family infused influence.”
Brown first learned to play piano in his hometown of Munster, Indiana. Piano led him to percussion instruments. In his youth, Brown felt called to transform his love of music into a career. He attended DePaul University and the American Conservatory of Music for his undergrad, and then continued to Valparaiso University and the Eastman School of Music. As a student, he studied percussion under legendary Roy C. Knapp.
After Brown graduated, he lead an exciting, successful career. Some of the highlights include playing on staff at Disney World and accompanying stars like Aretha Franklin and Bob Hope.
“I’ve been lucky. I followed what I enjoy in a professional and creative vein,” Brown said.
Brown traveled the country playing professionally, and when he returned to Indiana, he had unique, valuable experience to share.
“Along the way there are extraordinary challenges as a professional musician, and you learn to trust intuition, and to forge ahead with confidence,” Brown said.
These life lessons make Brown an excellent professor.
Nowadays, when Brown isn’t teaching, he is doing what he loves most: performing. Jeff is a percussionist in a popular local band, the “Jeff Brown Trio.” He is also Coordinator of Jazz Studies for Valparaiso University, and takes his students directly to the community. This includes restaurants, corporate events, and even bars.
“In this town, I share music with the public in a lot of different ways and we perform at a variety of venues,” Brown said. “Not all performances are in a concert hall. It’s important to bring the music to the people.”
Brown enjoys a schedule packed with performances. But, when Brown isn’t teaching or playing for a crowd, he is focused on his four grandchildren.
“My family and one very special friend get any and all of my extra time,” Brown said.
With the holidays fast approaching, extra time may be sparse. Brown pointed out that Northwest Indiana is an opportune area to be in any kind of service, including music.
“There is a very viable music scene in Porter County,” Brown said. “It’s vibrant.”
Brown encourages all prospective musicians to get out in the community and play, saying that there are lots of opportunities to live the dream. But being a musician means being a lifelong learner.
“Continue to educate yourself because you’re involved in a field that changes rapidly you have to stay current and hip,” Brown advised. "If you aren’t, you’re left behind.