Meet two-time Emmy award winner and instructor, Christopher Brady

Photo by: Janie Tate

Story By: Janine Tate, Reporter

Darkness fills the hills of the Grapevine leaving only a dark silhouette for its drivers to see. Car headlights shine down on a small portion of the road and stars twinkle in the 2 a.m. dark sky. 

For professional composer, musician and producer Christopher Brady, travelling to his destination in the early mornings were calm and meditative while the afternoons on the way home were exhausting. 

He remembers the long nights driving from Los Angeles to Fresno on Mondays at 2 a.m. and staying until Thursday afternoon. 

Brady was originally hired at FCC on a temporary basis and he said the drive was hard on him. He doesn’t recommend the commute.

“A few times, when I pulled over to catch a few winks on the way back to LA, I forgot where I was for a moment after I woke up,” Brady said. “I would also occasionally take a short walk in the desert to wake up or make many, many phone calls.” 

Brady said he could only do it for one semester, but it was kind of a trial run to see if he really enjoyed teaching. He did. 

Brady applied for a full time position and has been an instructor for a year and a half at FCC. Now, the two-time Emmy award winner teaches five music classes.

The move from LA to Fresno was a nice change for Brady, who enjoys Fresno, the culture and the students. 

Brady said teaching at FCC has also been an incredible experience and he feels gratification from his job. “When I see the students succeed, to me that’s a better feeling than even my own successes,” he said.The students energize Brady and he’s inspired by them everyday. In LA he had constant deadlines, traffic was bad and he was stressed, but in Fresno he feels inspired. 

“It’s easy for me to get up early in the morning and create because I feel inspired everyday as opposed to feeling a crushing weight,” said Brady. Watching how his students’ skills progress through the semester makes him excited to see what they will do in the future. 

Every Thursday in his music production class, students have a micro project day where they create a little project in class and at the end all projects are combined and it’s played as one big piece.

“Everybody can hear what everybody else has been doing, as well as their own thing, and oh my gosh it is amazing what they do within two hours and then present to the class,” said Brady. “It gets better every week and I can’t wait to see what they do after they leave the college because I have no doubt that there is going to be a lot of amazing artists that are going to do amazing things.”

According to Brady, listening to the students work makes him feel like a kid on Christmas morning. 

Since music and audio has changed over the years, Brady is able to teach students through computers. Brady said students just need the software and everything is much more inexpensive. 

“When I started out, most music you listened to on the radio was recorded on 24 Track Multitrack and the tape recorder cost between $1,000 – $2,000, the tape you used had about 15 minutes and costs about $300,” said Brady. “Today, you can do it all on a computer and you don’t need to buy tape.”

Aside from being an instructor Brady has two businesses in LA, Alien Music Labs and Camera Obscura Music. The first is a music production company for film, television and commercials, while the other is a music publishing company that administers copyrights to record labels and TV shows.

Brady created the music for one of Activision’s “Call of Duty” video games, Walt Disney World’s Tree of Life attraction, Universal Studios’ Dr. Seuss Land, many movies and TV shows on Disney Channel and the NBA theme song for Fox.

When Brady visits Universal Studios and Disney World with his family, he still hears the music playing at the attractions. He said it feels amazing and a little surreal when he hears his music playing throughout the day.

Brady has been musically talented since he was young. Brady said he was always interested in composition, but in high school he started working as a professional musician.

“I played keyboards and programmed synthesizers for recording studios and I played in some bands,” he said. Brady said he started composing because the people he worked with wrote songs and he decided to write his own. 

Brady laughed as he remembered that his songs were horrible in the beginning. “It’s funny, my brother will tease me because he’ll sing the first song I ever wrote which I can’t stand hearing, it just totally gets on my nerves,” added Brady.

In college, Brady got an opportunity to write music for a documentary that aired on PBS. It was a referral from one of his teachers and it was his first composition project that he worked full time on. 

He wrote music for another documentary that aired on PBS. Both films were successful by Brady’s standards. When he was in graduate school at University of California, Los Angeles, Brady was mentored by three professors who were also working musicians. 

Brady said Paul Chihara, one of his mentors at UCLA, hired him because Disney hired Chihara to write music for Hayao Miyazaki’s films like “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” and he wasn’t savvy with the technological side. He was humbled and felt lucky to be able to work alongside his mentors, but also that his skills and expertise opened doors for him. 

He attended and received his bachelor’s degree in recording technology from Brigham Young University in Utah, studied composition and got his master’s at UCLA and plans to receive his doctorate from UCLA in summer 2020. Brady said he also went to graduate school with the intention of teaching at college level.

Throughout Brady’s career in the music industry, he has enjoyed working on music in the recording studio. He said working on films is his favorite. TV has tighter deadlines and commercials are nice to work on because you can be done in 2-3 days, Brady added.

He laughed while recalling an experience he had while working on a commercial for Boston Market’s casserole campaign. 

“The advertising agency said, ‘I want you to make it sound really warm and family friendly and everybody’s gathered around the fire,’” said Brady as he began to laugh. “‘But one thing make sure you keep it sexy,’ and I was like, ‘what?’ Somebody else said, ‘make it sound like snow falling on the roof,’ and I’m like, ‘that’s silence, that doesn’t sound like anything.’” 

Brady has had many accomplishments, including the two Emmy awards he won for music on TV. He’s won a Clio award for advertising and marketing, international prizes for his music in an Australian film, and around 20 other awards.

He worked on a Super Bowl commercial alongside a 90 piece orchestra—the biggest ensemble he ever got to write for and conduct. 

Brady says he has been grateful for the limitations that were put on him throughout his career. “I think lots of times that forces you to think outside of the box a little bit,” he said. “Sometimes having more resources is actually limiting in a weird way and having less can open doors that wouldn’t be opened otherwise.”

For all of his accomplishments, Brady has met as many failures. 

“The music industry is all about failure,” said Brady. “For everything that I’ve accomplished, I’ve failed 10 times more. There’s a lot of rejection and there’re a lot of times when things don’t go your way so you have to build up a lot of scar tissue, but everybody that’s successful has failed many times.”

His experiences from his adolescence to adulthood helped make him successful, but Brady said his family was the key behind influencing his interest in music. He was born in San Francisco and lived there until he moved to Martinez, California in the Bay Area suburbs.

Brady’s father was in the U.S. Army before working as a finance executive with Chevron Oil. His mother worked for a preschool and managed paper distribution employees at the Contra Costa Times newspaper. 

His parents loved music so their home was always filled with it and they had a big record collection. His siblings were also musically talented.

“They were really incredibly supportive of me and my siblings as far as what we wanted to do in music, so I never would have accomplished anything without their support,” said Brady. His parents taught him to be dependable and to work hard, Brady said. 

“I think one of the things that made me really a great musician was when I was growing up I couldn’t play sports until I practiced the piano first and if I ever had to do the dishes I could get out of doing them by practicing the piano,” said Brady. “Those two things made me play the piano a lot.”

When Brady attended BYU,  he met his wife Alison who works as a part time political science instructor at FCC and teaches at California State University, Fresno. They have been together for 26 years, said Brady. 

They have five children together who Brady says are all musically talented. “When we lived in LA, lots of times when you get involved in some of these projects it can just be life engulfing so I actually get to see my family a lot more,” said Brady. “That was a big reason why I tried to have a career pivot and go in this direction.” 

At home Brady is able to balance work and family time. 

“I get pretty focused on what I’m doing but at least I’m five feet away and they only have to call my name like five times,” said Brady with a laugh. “I wouldn’t say I’m the greatest multitasker but at least I’m there if they need me right? I think that means something and I absolutely value that.”

One of the reasons Brady wanted to teach at FCC was because he had lots of advice to share with students. He encourages collaboration because it’s important to have friends and networks. 

Brady enjoyed the process of mentoring interns at his company which is also why he decided to teach. Brady’s mentors inspired him as teachers and gave him encouragement and the confidence that he could succeed. “I don’t think I could’ve done it without their mentorship and I want to give the same thing, the same feeling of confidence and knowledge in—because like I said the talent here at city college is more than I even anticipated, it’s pretty spectacular,” said Brady.