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Crestwood grad a leader by nature

Olivia Brady ready to move on to Smith College

By DAVE O'BRIEN | Staff Writer Published: June 20, 2017 4:00 AM
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There was a lot on Olivia Brady's plate during her four years at Crestwood High School, but music, leadership and family are three major pieces of the past four years of the life of the valedictorian of the Class of 2017.

One thing she doesn't know right now is exactly what she'll major in when she sets foot on the campus of Smith College in the fall, an all-girls liberal arts school in Northampton, Mass.

"I'm going back and forth between international relations and music," she said, then pausing before adding: "Also pre-med."

Olivia said visiting the campus of about 2,600 students and chatting online with other incoming freshmen convinced her it was the right choice.

"Everyone (at Smith) is really well-rounded, and I need to be in a place where I can study a lot of things," she said.

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A "lot of things" are what Olivia focused on in high school. Primary among them were her love of music and the oboe, though she also plays upright bass, piano and flute.

Oboe came into Olivia's life in seventh grade. Excited to play the flute in orchestra, she realized a lot of other musicians also played that instrument.

That's when an instructor told Olivia "'I can make you into a great oboist,'" she recalled.

And great she became: Her talent allowed her to become principal oboist in the Cleveland Youth Symphony and co-principal oboist of the Cleveland Youth Orchestra and Contemporary Youth Orchestra, while also playing in Crestwood's wind ensemble, pit and jazz bands.

Olivia said she enjoys the oboe because of its "unique tone" and the challenge it presents.

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"That's also why I love it, because it's really difficult to master," she said.

Olivia's family -- parents Ronda and Joseph Brady, twin sister Haley, older brother Tyler and younger brother Ethan -- live in Mantua Township. It was good being one of four, because "there was no middle child," she said with a laugh.

She got into swimming thanks to her older brother's friends, practicing at the Theodore Roosevelt High School pool in Kent, and from fifth-grade through early high school both swam competitively and played basketball.

That made for some long days, she said: Up at 4:30 a.m. for swim practice, then to school, band practice, basketball practice and, if she was lucky, "home at 11:30 p.m."

Olivia said she would "definitely thank my parents" for helping her succeed to this point.

"They always gave me the resources and opportunities to do what I did," she said.

Besides her family, Olivia said one of the people who inspired her most was former Crestwood band director Kate Ferguson, who is now at Firestone High School in Akron.

Though she only instructed Olivia for one year, Ferguson "has a way of seeing something in somebody they can't see in themselves," she said. Ferguson helped Olivia to her first leadership position in band, always challenged her with difficult solos. She "always gave me difficult solos in Wind Ensemble," she said.

Though Ferguson "never said what she was doing, she always picked the best route for us and set us on it," Olivia said.

She said she had a leadership role in "every club" and activity in which she participated, including band president, drum major, class secretary, Student Council secretary and National Honor Society secretary.

"I never thought about not" taking on a leadership role, she said. "I was always drawn to that, working in a team to better the school and the community around us."

"Me and my best friends kind of had a monopoly on it," she added. "We did normal teenage things, but we'd still be talking about student council. There was a good community in that. It's always great being with these kids."

Olivia's classmate and friend Madeline Turner will be joining her at Smith College in the fall, and it will help having a familiar face on campus, she said. Her twin sister, Haley, will be attending Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Mich., in the fall to study music therapy. That's more than 10 hours away by car.

"It'll be weird," Olivia admitted, "but she's only a call away."

Her final words of wisdom for future Crestwood graduates?

"Find what you love and never stop doing it," she said.


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