Jeremy Braun has discovered what many since the beginning of time have experienced--that music can help us express what we have difficulty putting into words on our own. Singing with Sonnenberg Station has also helped Jeremy work through some difficult life experiences as well as celebrate life's joys.
Jeremy grew up in Goshen, Indiana with his three brothers, Joe, Tim, and, closest to him in age, Marc, an accomplished piano and guitar player, and one of Jeremy's musical heroes who, like Jeremy, loved to sing. As a young boy, Jeremy sang in his church's children's choir and joined a barbershop quartet in high school, which he figures didn't sound nearly as good as they thought they were, but they had fun anyway. His earliest musical memory is of singing German Christmas carols after the family's Boxing Day meal in Canada.
"I still don't know German," Braun says, "but those Canadians sure can sing."
He headed to Northern Michigan University and worked at Camp Friedenswald during college as summer staff and then, after college, spent a full year there as maintenance assistant. There, he met Carli, who was also a summer staff member, and they fell in love. By 2007, Jeremy had decided to move to Ohio to be near Carli, who was then battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. The two married and started a family, and the lymphoma surrendered. In 2013, Jeremy decided to add singing to the mix, so he joined Sonnenberg Station in the fall.
For Braun, singing with the ensemble is a way to express a side of himself that he doesn't often show people. While he admits to belting out a tune in the work van (he's an HVAC installer and pipe fitter), Sonnenberg Station gives him the opportunity to polish up a few pieces to share with people who want to listen. He also enjoys the challenge of joining his voice with the voices of others who sharpen his skills.
"Sonnenberg Station has a great many singers with excellent tone and knowledge of musical theory, most of it that I can't begin to understand," Jeremy says. "This is humbling for me, and I hope I catch on quickly enough that they don't find out I have no clue what they're talking about in Latin, or how to count through the difficult rhythm sections."
When asked to choose his favorite piece, Jeremy says it's difficult to choose. He's a sucker for mushy songs about loved ones, especially missing loved ones. Singing these pieces has been great therapy for Jeremy to work through devastating loss. His brother Marc, who was closest to Jeremy in age and someone he greatly admired, made the decision to leave this earthly life in 2012 after struggling for years with depression and bipolar disease, an illness that carries with it 10 to 20 times the suicide rate of the general population. March 9 marked the two year anniversary of Marc's death, something Jeremy struggles to process and accept. And yet, it continues to shape him in ways he finds it difficult to define.
"Marc was my role model, and now he's no longer here, which just sucks," Jeremy says. At this year's Frohliche Dorf, Jeremy introduced a song that puts some of his feelings into words. "Wanting Memories," a piece in Sonnenberg Station's repertoire this season, is one he can relate to well.
"It speaks of missing a person who said they would help us through life but is no longer around. The refrain repeats this, but the verses transition from longing to the realization that this missing person abides within me, declaring, 'I know that I am you, and you are me, and we are one.' That line grabbed me right away.
"It's difficult to sing sometimes," Jeremy says, "but it's good to express these feelings through song.
"Truth is," Jeremy says, "I just love to sing, and this group enables me to do just that. I feel like so much of our popular music is made great by recordings and computer calibrated intonation, but Sonnenberg is raw. A cappella singing is such a naked expression of art that it becomes intimidating to perform sometimes, but when the performance is strong, it feels great."
Jeremy lives in Dalton with his sweet children and his beautiful wife, who has been cured of Hodgkin's lymphoma. And, whenever he gets the chance, he grabs the opportunity to lift his voice in song, whether sharing it with an audience at a Sonnenberg Station concert, or singing for himself alone in the work van, because music is a significant and healing part of Jeremy Braun's life.