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Columbia College Musician Finds Calling

photo by Don Porter
Rebecca Brunner singing. Photo Credit: Don Porter

To find your true calling in life at an early age can either be coincidence or a stroke of luck. For Rebecca Brunner, being a musician was all about exact timing, location, constantly evolving and learning from her idol Alicia Keys.

“When I was super young, my mom showed me this video playing on TV, and I was mesmerized,” Brunner said. “It was Alicia Keys’ music video of ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ and I remember thinking, I have to do what she’s doing.”

Brunner grew up in Mason, Michigan — a small country town right outside Lansing — and she had already managed to pick up a microphone at the age of 2.

“I grew up singing country music and [performing] at country festivals but I [then] really started to develop this big love for soul music and got a passion for it,” Brunner said.

She took part in her first talent show when she was 5 years old, and she began learning how to play the piano through private lessons when she was 8.

“Ever since that day, Alicia Keys became perfect in my eyes,” Brunner said. “She helped developed that inspiration for me and after that, I began songwriting at the age of 10.”

After finding her calling within music, Brunner continued to put herself out there as an up-and-coming musician. While participating in sports, Brunner got multiple opportunities to perform the national anthem before most of her games, and she took voice lessons for six months during her senior year in high school.

“[Brunner] has always been unbelievably dedicated to her passion for music,” said Ana Thornton, Brunner’s manager. “You can see it in every performance she gives.”

When looking for colleges and universities, Brunner found herself choosing between three schools, Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, Belmont University in Nashville and Columbia College Chicago.

“Coming from a small town, I wanted to pick a city where it felt like I could grow as a person and musician and also have that security of not being so far from home,” Brunner said. “Chicago seemed to fit that spot for me.”

After being accepted, Brunner made the big move with her family supporting her.

“Luckily, I have always been really supported to do music,” Brunner said. “My mom is super supportive and has always encouraged me to follow my dreams.”

Her mother had worked hard for a living and not followed her passions, and she encouraged her daughter to do what made her happy.

At Columbia College, Brunner has had the opportunity to participate in numerous competitions, including “American Idol” and NBC’s “The Voice,” where she managed to make it to the second round two years in a row. She has also managed to perform at multiple local venues throughout Chicago and has started to record her debut EP “Escape,” which is to release sometime in 2015.

“As an artist, I don’t ever want to be closed minded or put myself in a certain genre. I want to always have a theme and story like a real artist,” she said. “Escape is a growth process of myself and through each song, subconsciously without really knowing it, there’s a story being told.”

Brunner is working with different producers, including Elie Sabeh and members from her side project, Obe.

“This EP could have been released in January but I want to take the time to really perfect it and all the elements surrounding it,” said Brunner.

People who work with Brunner offer only praise.

“I think what separates her from every other artist is that she is a true musician,” said Savannah William, Brunner’s marketing director. “She writes, sings, and is a pianist, also the fact that she wants to grow, which drives this project and our team.”


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