University of Michigan Alumni Association

Christopher O'Brien

2012's Alumni Club Scholarship Recipient

Christopher O'BrienChristopher is a Trumpet Performance Major with the UM School of Music

In his own words ...


My high school years have definitely been the best years of my young life. My dad always advises me to take full advantage of each step I take in life, wherever I am. I have so many friends in high school who say “I can’t wait to get out of here. I just want to get to the next place in my life.” I never feel that way. I want to enjoy each stage of my life to the fullest. I dearly love high school and hate to leave, but I clearly want to move on to an equally happy place when I choose my college.

When I examine a place like Michigan, I see that everything is “on the table” for me to take advantage of. I see that Michigan is a place that will allow me to extensively explore my chosen career of music and to broaden my understanding of music in ways that I can scarcely imagine today.  I know I’ll be surrounded by the best and most talented faculty members and among the brightest, most promising musicians in the country.

My private trumpet teacher has advised me that it’s not only vital to attend a great music school, but to attend one that is placing their graduates in the best jobs in the music business. I understand that Michigan has a great track record of placing its graduates in some of the best orchestras in the country. Michigan graduates are leaving school thoroughly prepared to succeed in the insanely competitive music world.  I want to have that kind of chance at success – to be the greatest trumpet player I am capable of, but also to earn the kind of living that rewards my lifetime of dedication I will devote to my craft. That’s the big payoff of attending a school like Michigan.

I also relish living in an idyllic college town like Ann Arbor. I’m a small-town boy and don’t want a big urban university experience.  But I do want to take advantage of the myriad large-scale opportunities that exist on a major university campus like Michigan. I want a well-rounded college experience because music is not my only interest in life.

I look at where I want to be 10, 20, 30 years down the road and realize that Michigan makes it all possible as long as I work diligently. I understand that Michigan stands for the highest quality not only in music but across the spectrum of the various schools on campus. I want to join those students who are at Michigan because they are the best America has to offer, students who are focused and committed to their goals far beyond the quality of students found on the average American campus. I demand the highest standards from myself and I know that Michigan will push me to achieve my greatest success in life.

"Why Michigan?  What Being a Wolverine Means to Me"

Dad told my sister the other day with tears in his eyes that I was clearly the LEAST likely kid to succeed. From 7-10 years old, we prayed nightly that I might just, please, become a "normal" child, my Tourette's Syndrome was so devastatingly debilitating. I had it really bad. I also had terrible asthma, frightening, painful skin ailments, and was painfully shy.


My learning disabilities were so severe I couldn't focus my mind on a single math problem for 30 minutes straight. But I persisted nightly at the homework table and never walked away in frustration through those years.  I always pushed forward, determined.


But we decided we didn't JUST want to try to be "normal", so we went against teacher advice and enrolled in advanced math in 5th grade, I rose to top ten in the class, doubling my efforts. My dad and I hiked and biked together extensively EVERY weekend for years, giving me much-needed confidence that I could handle physical challenges far beyond my peers despite my extreme physical limitations. We eventually scaled Half Dome together after 2 years of training, America's most difficult one-day hike, 3 people died that year in their attempts.


Dad asked the elementary band director on my first day as a trumpeter if he could sit next to me EVERY day, to play trumpet with me, as I began learning trumpet, I was so shy/quiet, so fragile. The director was dumbfounded, no parent had ever suggested such a thing in his 30 years. Dad and I both played trumpet in that elementary band together side by side every practice, all year.

In the coming years, I eventually won every trumpet prize I pursued and was aggressively recruited by the greatest college trumpet faculties across America.


The least likely child had climbed to the top of the trumpet world.

What does becoming a Wolverine mean to me and my family? Attaining admittance to the greatest trumpet/music university in America.? –-- Far more than I could ever put down in meager words.