Impacting Others Through Music

 

About Kurt and Katie Braun

Kurt Braun is the President of the Higgins Braun Foundation. Kurt gained his appreciation for music as a student in Alameda, CA where he learned to play the trumpet- a talent that helped him earn the Bank of America Fine Arts Achievement Award. In 1982 he graduated from UC Berkeley in Mechanical Engineering/Naval Architecture. In 2002 he sold his business, Waterworks Acoustics Inc., which specialized in manufacturing loudspeakers for use in aquatic settings. Upon selling his business he accomplished doublehanded circumnavigated with his wife Katie- a voyage which lasted until 2013. During their travels they took the time to promoted music education in different countries around the world.

Katie Braun attended UC Berkeley where she received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Economics of Industrial Societies. She had a successful career on Wall Street as an institutional stock broker, the majority of which she worked for Montgomery Securities. In 2002 she retired to circumnavigate with Kurt. Katie learned to play guitar with Kurt in her early forties- a talent which she learned to share with many of the people she met while sailing around the world. Katie continues to promote the performing arts and the philanthropic cause of the Higgins Braun Foundation.

 

Interview Transcript:

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Kurt and Katie Braun and the founders of the Higgins Braun Foundation. Welcome to today’s show. Thank you. So you have a very interesting past and I’m for the listeners, I’d like you to take me up on your your career path and kind of some of the things that you’ve done in your life. And before we get into the establishment of the foundation.

Kurt
Well, we’re both products of the California or Alameda public school I’m from Northern California, Katie’s from Southern California, but public school system, and we both went to Cal Berkeley, and graduated there and bachelor’s degrees. But we basically like the the idea of having a life I grew up as a as in during during high school, I was a band geek. So music as a focus for kids is what we what we like to promote, at an early age, kids. Research shows, Brown University, Northwestern University, UC Irvine, there’s studies that show that brain structure for kids changes. If they study and learn to play a musical instrument, it’s it’s undeniable, they do better in math, and other subjects. So me being a band geek, I, I ended up being an engineer. I didn’t, but I did get a scholarship for fine arts from, you know, Bank of America, they acknowledged me in high school. But it was a, I went on to be an engineer and get my degree in engineering. So even with three or four hours of music a day through all my public school years, it’s translated and I want to sort of bring that to two kids as much as I can, as much as we can. Because we’re fortunate with our lifestyle and our our means and what have you, we’ve started this foundation.

Katie
And I’m kind of I came into music a little bit more later in life in so much as I didn’t study it at all, while being in school. Once I got out of Berkeley, I started work on Wall Street, I had a career on Wall Street for 20 years, the bulk of which was with Montgomery securities, where I was a partner in institutional sales. And it was our dream because we had met bareboat chartering in the Caribbean, back in 1983, to go sailing. So one in our early 40s, we Kurt sold his business, I quit my job. And we took off to circumnavigate we spent the next 10 years sailing around the world. While while we were doing that, we noticed that you can go into a community where nobody speaks English. And clearly you’re not speaking, you know, cure boss or, you know, Samoan or language that you didn’t learn before. But yet, if you sit down with a guitar and start playing music, with, with other people, it’s a it’s a universal language that everybody can relate to. And it’s an a way to exchange a little bit of contact with locals without necessarily just being a cargo cult where you’re giving them things, you know that that you don’t just bestowing them with gifts. So instead, it’s it’s a gift of your time and your effort cultural student, and they really appreciate it and respect that. And we actually didn’t start off sailing and playing guitar because we want to make sure the boat was working and everything was fine. But as soon as we got comfortable, because I didn’t know anything about sailing with the actual moving of the boat, we decided to pick up playing guitar because we had been we were buddy boating with another cruiser friend who at the time was 74 years old. And he had started to play guitar when he was 65. So when we made the comment while we can start because we’re, you know, in our early 40s He said why didn’t start till I was 65. So, you know, it’s and that’s one of the things about music. It’s never too late to learn to play music, or to have some involvement with music. So that I started basically in my early 40s And Kurt, having been trained classically as a trumpet player, he can read music, and he was a great inspiration to me, although I think a lot of people say can you sail around the world and still be happily married. That part was easy learning to play guitar with my husband was probably.

Kurt
We cant appreciate what it takes for a band to stay together.

Katie
That’s right. Although that is part of what’s interesting about music too is that, you know, when you have two people playing together, it’s just you, you, you know, the hormones and the endorphins that get released out of your body, having this joining, of experience, you know, with another person where you’re so in sync, because you have to listen so carefully. And then the sound that you create is so much more powerful than something you can do on your own. You know, it really gives you that sense of community and teamwork.

Alan
I’m visiting here today with Kurt and Katie Braun and, and I need to take a quick break. And we’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
In the first segment, you touched on something lightly, I want to go into a little bit more of it. It’s sailing around the world, how many people have done that in in their own in their own boat? And what was the inspiration behind that?

Kurt
Well, it is a lifestyle that I would say there’s a few 100 people a year that are out there floating around the planet. Usually couples, we’re not talking big yachts with crews here. We’re just talking maybe families, mom and pop a couple of kids as an alternative lifestyle. And I was introduced to this through my dad was a sailor and his dad was a sailor. And we basically I did do a two trips through the South Pacific as a young guy right out of college and met Katie somewhere along the line and she shared the the dream to do that. It’s, it’s, it gives you a bigger perspective, I feel the world, it gives you a most people are kind of stuck in their own little hometown view of things or what the media feeds them, you know, through their TV or the internet or what have you. But to get out there and actually see the world for yourself, and just arriving at a country having to deal with the officials checking in then the locals what I’m we’re talking everything from a small island nation in the middle of the Pacific to, you know, some Singapore, Singapore or, or the an EU country or something you can really get to. We’ve been to probably around 90 countries, you know, in our travels.

Alan
So what are some of the more unusual places that you visited?

Katie
Carabosse we were we were on an island where they hadn’t had a visiting boat in seven years. So the children that were seven years and younger, had never seen a white person before. And the rumors that they the parents would tell, or the stories that they tell the young kids is that white people are basically ghosts and if you’re bad, they’re going to grab you and and take you away if you’re a bad kid. There’s a little bit of history to that, in so much as black burning occurred by the English to come into those areas in those countries to basically get the young man and take them off to work the cane fields to sugarcane fields. So there was that did occur to a certain point. But obviously that stopped long, long ago, but the but the parents found a reason to continue with this story.

Kurt
We’ve been white kids, white people showing up for the first time for some of these kids that would they were quite intimidated when we’ve set foot on the beach there with our dinghy.

Katie
Right and the people were living in houses where every single part of the house and what they their shelter came from a pan Danis plant or a coconut tree. I mean handmade twine and thatch roofs and you know, grass mats, you know just it you know no nails, no glass, no plastic, no, you know lectricity Oh, no electricity, no electricity and they did have maybe the John darme the police East would have had electricity just for a satellite phone, but not, you know, the regular houses didn’t have electricity nor running water. And yet that island was probably one of the cleanest places we’ve ever seen on the planet. Because it was that the culture of that particular island of about 200 people was to keep their houses tidy and neat and clean and to have orderly lives. And, you know, so it’s getting back to what Kurt was saying. It helps you to get more of a better understanding not only about the planet, but also about humanity, because it shows you how much influence you know, the leadership of that island can have on helping the population as a whole, live more productive lives.

Alan
You have language where they speak English, or was it their native tongue, or?

Katie
Well, there’s a few English speaking people because they’re there. Outside means of income is Merchant Marines. So as the some of the men get to be of adult age, they’ll go off for maybe six months out of the year and work on commercial ships. And then they come back to the island and send the money back. So they learn to speak English. But a lot of people a lot of times a lot of the places we then they don’t speak any English at all. Which again, is why music was so interesting, because it was a way to communicate with them. And it’s it’s funny, no matter where you go in the world, everybody knows Hotel California, la bomba. Country, Rhodes is like these iconic songs that we grew up with as kids, as somehow transcended the cultures across the whole globe.

Alan
So I’m visiting here today with Kurt and Katie Braun, they’re the founders of the Higgins Braun foundation and we’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
In the last segment, we talked about some of the trials that you had around the world. But I imagine that is an icebreaker, you use music a lot.

Kurt
Yeah, coming ashore, you you’re a total stranger. You basically you need to seek out some sort of official, either police or a lot of these island nations, they’ve got hardly any officials there. So it’s, it’s you know, so we, we basically asked them if we can play for the kids at their school. And as just a way to introduce ourselves to the little village, you know, it’s just a couple 100 people there. Again, language is a barrier. But we started playing these start playing our pop rock songs on guitar. And it’s amazing that they they actually, they some of them know the songs. It’s, you know, John Denver and the Eagles and it’s amazing. But we do find it to be an icebreaker. And sometimes we see they want to play for us. So that some of their instruments are pretty rough sometimes. I mean, they’ll have an old guitar and it’s down to four strings strung like a ukulele with fishing wire and some rocks to tighten it up, you know? And so we would we have parts on the boat, we’d fix the guitar up to what it’s supposed to be and they they’re just overjoyed with that especially the the guy who originally brought the guitar there was since get passed it off to his kids or whatever to, to maybe try to learn how to play it but anyhow, it’s it’s it’s a real icebreaker and, but the, our whole purpose of using music it’s basically a more than just an icebreaker. It’s, it’s we wanted to find out if in when we finish our trip around the world for philanthropy, you know, some people just write a check to you know, what, some sort of a charity or what have you but in our travels, we found that we want to do something that actually helps people help themselves so we’re talking Education here. And so that’s kind of how we got into this whole education thing. And with focus on music and the studies that have been done with using music education to help kids focus and give them better, just in general, a better education. That’s what these studies show. So are by traveling around the world, we did get the, this, this idea that this is the best way for us to pass on. Because we don’t have any kids. We, we really needed to figure out some some sort of a philanthropy, philanthropic vehicle. And that’s what we came up with this, this foundation. And sure there’s, there’s other organizations out there that have also discovered this, but there’s a lot of them. And it’s hard to get people to, you know, find these organizations, it’s they’re scattered all around different parts of the country, what have you. So we just decided to just see how it goes, start this foundation, and try to maybe start locally, here, just here in town, the Oakland, Alameda Bay Area, you know, there’s a few in LA, whatever harmony project and LA, YMCA, oh, here in Oakland, Bay Area musicians. Here, so anyway, we’re just getting this thing off the ground. And these are all organizations that we would support. open string. El Sistema is an international organization. So it can it can expand, you know, but most people have never heard of any of these these organizations. So maybe that that could be one of our goals is to get this information out there and get people to support these existing because we’re not prepared to be an active charity at this point.

Alan
But you are trying to instill it that the public school system today has a lot of challenges with financing and the programs and since some of the first drop, are these arts programs like music and and you know, when when you’re when you’re out to work with individuals, is there a certain age group you want to target?

Katie
Minors, basically under the age of 21? Because well, first of all, we should say that we think that anybody at any age learning to play a musical instrument or sing can benefit from that intellectually, because music helps to the discipline of music. And the practice is like learning a foreign language, those are two things that can actually increase the synopsis within your brain. So the connections that connect your brain cells, so it helps to keep Alzheimer’s at bay. If you’re younger, though, because we do like to see young people succeed in life, then, you know, it helps with studying and focus and discipline and teamwork, you know, as soon as you start playing with other people in a band or an orchestra. So it is mostly less than 21 years old of age. But we do think that anyone any age and we’re we’re a testament to that, you know that learning to play guitar in our 40s we got a lot of benefit out of it, or a lot of joy out of it, we still do. And we continue to take vocal lessons and sing and practice. But mostly minors we think could benefit the most because of the cutting and the public school system. And, and it you know, so many parents, and we’re both athletic. We believe in sports. But you know, so many parents get the sports connection, of teamwork and discipline with their children, and getting them some exercise. But when you’re seven years old, you’re not going to be playing soccer. But when you’re seven years old, you might still be playing a trumpet, you know, or clarinet or a saxophone or the drums or the piano. So that’s a skill that you can use your whole life to, to practice the international language of communicating with other people on on any sort of level. And even a bad musician is better than no musician. Yes, it means you’re making an effort, you know, to try to communicate with somebody else.

Alan
So Kurt and Katie, we’re out of time today, but I’ve really enjoyed having you here, listening to the cause of bringing more music into the lives of the miners. I’ve been visiting here today with me Who run and they’re the founders of Higgins Braun foundation right back after these messages

 

 

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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.

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Kurt Braun on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Kurt Braun

Kurt Braun is the President of the Higgins Braun Foundation. Kurt gained his appreciation for music as a student in Alameda, CA where he learned to play the trumpet- a talent that helped him earn the Bank of America Fine Arts Achievement Award. In 1982 he graduated from UC Berkeley in Mechanical Engineering/Naval Architecture. In 2002 he sold his business, Waterworks Acoustics Inc., which specialized in manufacturing loudspeakers for use in aquatic settings. Upon selling his business he accomplished doublehanded circumnavigated with his wife Katie- a voyage which lasted until 2013. During their travels they took the time to promoted music education in different countries around the world.

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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