Ask an Antelope: Brian Alber shares passion for music education with UNK students

Brian Alber’s “wonderful” experiences as a student influenced his decision to pursue a career as a music educator.

The Lincoln native earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from UNK before spreading his love of music as a band teacher for seven years at Nebraska high schools. Some of his students were also interested in music education careers.

“This inspired me to become a professor and help prepare the next generation of music educators,” said Alber, who completed a master’s degree in wind band conducting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a doctorate in wind band conducting at the University of Northern Colorado.

Now an associate professor of music, graduate program chair and assistant director of bands at UNK, Alber co-directs the Pride of the Plains Marching Band, directs the Symphonic Band and coordinates volleyball and basketball pep bands. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music theory, secondary instrumental methods, music research and the history of American music education.

How does your time as a high school teacher inform you as an associate professor?
My public school experience has allowed me to share valuable insights into music education along with the benefits and challenges of working with middle and high school students. I use stories from these experiences in my UNK classes to highlight successes and failures alike. Education is a lifelong journey and I want my students to understand the value of a growth mindset.

How do you best prepare students for their futures?
A mixture of theory and application. Teaching students the necessary musical and educational skills for success, then providing the experiences to apply these skills in a variety of classroom settings. Through this process students gain valuable experience and the capacity to reflect on these experiences for continued self-improvement.

What instruments do you play?
Clarinet is my main instrument and I stay active playing in community band and teaching some high school lessons. I can comfortably play all common band instruments, some better than others. I usually try to play tuba or euphonium each year when UNK hosts Tuba Christmas.

What do you love most about your job?
The students! I love seeing how students mature and develop from the first day as freshmen to the day they walk across the stage at commencement. I also love when graduates return to campus and I get to hear about their successes, but also how they are helping other people.

Share a fun fact about yourself:
When I was an undergraduate at UNK I used to have shoulder-length hair. Pictures of me still survive in old copies of The Antelope newspaper. My wonderful wife Jessica also works at UNK and we have a cat named Millie. I have one younger sister. I spend way too much time learning French on Duolingo.