At Lab, Brickner found sanctuary to be authentic


Ishani Hariprasad

In his 25 years at Lab, music teacher Brad Brickner has impacted the music curriculum greatly, and touched the lives of many students.

Taariq Ahmed, Digital Editor

Just over 25 years ago, Brad Brickner walked through the front doors of Lab as a visitor with simple intentions: spend the morning on the campus, have lunch at Medici, stop by a couple bookstores and return home. However, Mr. Brickner was still wandering Lab’s halls late into the afternoon.

“I fell in love with the place and the people,” Mr. Brickner said. Later, he added, “I thought to myself, ‘If I ever had the opportunity to work here, I’d love to do it.’ Then, 1998 rolled around, and there was an opening.”

Now, after 25 years of teaching elementary, middle and high school bands, as well as courses like Music History, Mr. Brickner will retire this month having had a great influence on Lab’s music program, as well as the students and faculty within it.

Sophomore Asa Bordelon said he finds Mr. Brickner’s nature to be playful and lighthearted, bringing positivity to the environment.

“He makes music class fun,” Asa said. “Instead of just sitting down and playing whatever, there’s plenty of talking back and forth between himself and the class. He’s often so relaxed, which makes people around him feel less stressed out.”

Music department chair Ryan Hudec said Mr. Brickner has a rare presence in the classroom, and that his calm and collected character rubs off on students.

“I’ve never seen someone like him in a room full of over 70 sixth grade students,” Mr. Hudec said. “There can be a mob mentality, and you can either control it by yelling at the kids, which is never going to work, or you can try not to control it at all. But he doesn’t match their craziness. He’s just cool as a cucumber, and then all the kids calm down, because that’s just the energy he exudes.”

Mr. Hudec said Mr. Brickner’s student-first mentality is one of his most admirable qualities. On a recent Sunday, he and Mr. Brickner went to north suburban Highwood to watch a high school band member perform with a select youth ensemble. And Mr. Brickner was committed to attending the event, even if it meant driving over two hours away from his home in Indiana. Mr. Hudec said Mr. Bricker was there for his students, no matter where or when.

Beyond the caring he shows for his individual students in and out of the classroom, Mr. Brickner’s developments to the Lab’s music program over the years have been significant: from re-enrolling U-High in the Illinois Music Educators program and initiating an annual recital for U-High students who do not have a musical outlet at Lab, to introducing a Music History curriculum that includes women and composers of color. According to Mr. Brickner, giving everybody an opportunity to shine is his main objective.

“I love bringing those opportunities to our students,” Mr. Brickner said. “A couple of weeks ago, we brought in my friend Keith Baer from the reservation, and I think experiences like that mean a lot to the school.” 

Mr. Brickner said Lab’s open-minded culture gives him the freedom to run classes however he chooses.

“Lab, at least for me, is a place where I can be me, and where I can teach what I feel is important to teach,” Mr. Brickner said. “Lab is a place where I don’t have somebody looking over my shoulder and questioning every curricular decision that I make.”

As the school year comes to a close, Mr. Brickner will soon stroll out of those same front doors he swung open for the first time two and half decades ago. But with him, he takes his many years of sweet memories, and behind him, he leaves a legacy of love for his students and the program.