Campus Closeup: Annette Brown
Annette Brown (Business) showcased her hidden talent as a pianist when she accompanied NMU’s Lake Effect Show Choir for two performances last week. While Brown generally prefers serving as the musical backdrop—someone who’s heard, but not necessarily seen—she will allow herself a rare moment in the spotlight at a community piano concert scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Peter White Public Library. Pianists of all ages will participate.
“I usually hate to be the center of attention, which is why show choir accompanist works for me,” Brown said. “One reason I didn’t want to take lessons as a kid was my anxiety over having to perform at a recital. I get nervous and stressed at the thought of all eyes being on me. But I accepted this opportunity at the library because I thought it was a way to challenge myself in a relatively low-key situation.”
Brown took her first-ever lessons a few years ago from Nancy Redfern (Music) to improve the skills she had nurtured since childhood. The Detroit-area native moved to Three Lakes in the Upper Peninsula as a young girl. She first played by ear and learned to read notes and rhythms in grade school. At 12, she started playing in church. It was a natural extension of her religious upbringing and continued into adulthood, despite a 15-year stretch when she had no piano in her home. She is one of the pianists at Bethel Baptist and subs at other area churches.
“Music speaks to my heart; I can get very emotional about it,” Brown said. “And music done in a fresh way affects you differently. The first time I heard a contemporary version of the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy,” I was blown away. The words jumped out at me. I think God allowed me to play piano quite naturally and easily and it became my passion. Marilynn Ham, who went to NMU and is a friend of my family, is an internationally known hymn arranger and she’s had a great influence on me.”
Piano is a hobby. Brown’s occupation since 2006 has been principal secretary for the dean in the College of Business. Her attention to detail is helpful in “keeping him organized, scheduled and on track.” She assists with planning special events such as the New Business Venture Competition, the college’s scholarship and awards breakfast and visits by executives in residence and others. Brown also handles the college’s budget, including professional development for administrators and faculty, and helped with the inaugural Entrepreneurship Academy. Effective July 1, she will have a new boss when Jamal Rashed becomes dean.
Brown was recently honored for reaching the 30-year milestone at NMU. She was hired out of high school and spent her first 21 years in financial aid. She served as principal secretary for the director, which included working with students appealing the loss of aid because of their grades.
“I have a bleeding heart, but after dealing with enough repeat offenders and hearing all of the excuses, my personality changed in a way I didn’t like. I became crabby and cynical. My stress level was high. Doctors told me it was time for a change. I went from there to working in education with seniors excited to apply what they learned in the classroom in a student teaching environment. The change of pace was refreshing, but it was an 11-month job. I couldn’t sustain that after buying my first house, so I held on as long as I could before transferring to the College of Business.”
Outside of work, when she’s not at the piano, Brown is an “amateur” gardener, cat and dog lover and avid reader. She also likes traveling to warm destinations and handcrafts such as knitting, cross stitch, jewelry making and scrapbooking.
When asked what people would be most surprised to learn about her, Brown replied, “I have a nephew, Tim Shaw, who plays for the Chicago Bears. He’s a linebacker, but currently on special teams. I have six nephews and one niece. Family is very important to me. ”