1979-1983 The St. Olaf Years

LiaBraaten was recruited to St Olaf College (Northfield MN), where he immediately began teaching his peers in the areas of music theory and sight singing and keyboard fundamentals as an understudy of the head of the Music Theory Department. As a freshman, LiaBraaten became one of only two men accepted into the baritone-bass section of the famed St. Olaf College Choir.  His peers elected him Chaplain and spiritual adviser for the group, and LiaBraaten led scripture lessons, devotions and prayers for this national touring group for three years. When the director Ken Jennings needed help leading choir warm-ups, vocal exercises and opening rehearsals for this prestigious group, Prof. Jennings selected LiaBraaten as student leader for the group.

During this time LiaBraaten’s performances included places like the Seattle Opera House, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, Disneyland in Florida, and a nationally televised concert titled “Tonight Scandinavia” with Victor Borge and the Minnesota Orchestra with then director Neville Marriner.

While at St. Olaf College and a protégé of A DeWayne Wee, LiaBraaten began capturing state and national awards for Olympic style music contests, such as MTNA National Collegiate Artist, the Schubert Club, and Concerto Soloist with Beethoven’s “Emperor Concerto” with the St. Olaf College Orchestra under the direction of Steven Amundsen.

LiaBraaten was invited during his Junior Year to attend a master class by the world-renowned Gyorgy Sebok, and this week-long class subjected young virtuosos to serious critiques by Maestro Sebok.  Student performers included LiaBraaten and Rebecca Penneys, a child prodigy herself whose career has included teaching at Eastman School of Music.  LiaBraaten was the final participant to perform for Sebok. Immediately after LiaBraaten performed “Mazeppa” from Liszt’s “Transcendental Etudes”, the class marveled as the late master teacher Sebok rose from his seat and stated to the audience “This young man [LiaBraaten] is a born pianist and a born musician.  He does things at the piano you cannot teach.”  A Mentorship bond was formed and Sebok recruited LiaBraaten for study privately with him for five years at Indiana University (Bloomington). Sebok’s letter of recommendation of LiaBraaten is found at www.livingwatermusic.com/artistbackground-testimonials.html