Mentoring in music

LIHUE — David Braun’s mission is simple. 

The Waimea Canyon Middle School music instructor and Kauai’s 2015 Teacher of the Year wants to do one thing: Cultivate the next generation of leaders.

Braun represented the Garden Isle at the annual teacher recognition celebration at the governor’s mansion on Oahu over the weekend and while he didn’t win the coveted award, he said he was “humbled to be chosen as Kauai’s Teacher of the Year”

“It’s such an honor to be part of it,” Braun said of the award that went to Stephanie Mew, from Kapunahala Elementary on Oahu. “There were so many good teachers there and I actually got nervous, even though all I had to do was stand there and smile.”

Braun began his career as an elementary school teacher in Chicago and was there for two years before moving to Waimea Canyon Middle School in 2006, where he teaches band, choir and the ukulele.

“Mr. Braun is such an amazing teacher,” said Waimea Middle School principal Melissa Speetjens. “He’s a great example and I’m proud he [represented] us at the governor’s mansion on Friday.”

While he is now dedicated to his middle school students, Braun said he hadn’t planned on working with younger kids when he decided to become a teacher.

“I was going to be a college teacher,” Braun said, “but, honestly, it just happened. There was an opening in the elementary school and I took it.”

He has no regrets about that decision; in fact he loves working with middle school students.

“I really have a heart for music and I have a heart for youth,” Braun said. “I combined the two of them and became a teacher. It was very natural for me.”

Braun’s goal is to empower his students to reach their highest potential, he said, and to open their eyes to all of their opportunities.

“The best reward for me is helping to create powerful leaders, and showing these kids that they have what it takes to do whatever they want to do,” Braun said.

Even in his off-time outside the classroom, Braun stays wrapped up in instruments and tunes.

“I have a real passion for music,” Braun said. “I compose and perform for my church quite a bit.”

He’s composing original ukulele-based works with a folk flavor, mixed with pop and country undertones. He also has an album, released in 2013, titled “Audience of One.” The record features trumpets, vocals and ukulele.

“I like to experiment a little with composing music,” Braun said. “But I compose and play a lot of jazz and praise and worship music when I’m not in the classroom.”

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