URI student pulls a few strings for an education
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 3, 2003 -- Charles Brailsford is 76 years old, the father of eight, the grandfather of 11, retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, a pianist, and a violinist. Although the Warwick resident has a collection of unique life experiences, he has added yet another one.
Brailsford is a student at the University of Rhode Island and expects to graduate in 2004 with a bachelors degree in music. Brailsford has never stopped in his quest for knowledge, whether in music, business, or life. As he says: "I dont give up very easy. As long as I have the capacity and am capable to learn, I'll do it."
Hitting the books isnt a new concept for Brailsford who consistently gets encouragement from his wife, Marilyn Bernaiche Brailsford, whom he wed more than 50 years ago. "I couldnt do it if she wasnt backing me," he said.
Brailsford was the first male graduate of the Katharine Gibbs School in Providence where he earned a degree in word processing in 1968. He also earned a bachelors degree in management in 2002 from Bryant College by attending night school for nine years and working for Prudential Insurance. He later established in his own real estate company, Brailsford Associates and now works part-time at Abbot Properties in Warwick.
What brought Brailsford to the music program at URI, however, is a different story. In the early 1990s, Brailsfords mother suffered a heart attack and underwent by-pass surgery. After recovering, she took down the violin she had been using in a floral display and gave it to her son, its original owner. He had the violin repaired and thus was reunited with an old friend, one he had neglected for 52 years. "I am thankful for my mother," he said. "She opened a new avenue in my life." Brailsfords mother died in 1999.
His love of music was ignited at an early age: "My father used to sing the old songs, while driving an ice truck, and thats the first music I ever heard. I learned to enjoy and appreciate it."
Brailsford was first introduced to the violin in 1935 and played for five years while attending Roger Williams Middle School in Providence (then Junior High). "I wasnt a great player," he recalled. In 1940, about the time he entered high school, he developed other interests and stopped playing.
He joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1942. He served for 22 1/2 years , retiring at the rank of chief yeoman. He served on the tall ship Eagle, sailing to the shores of the Canary Islands, Copenhagen, Norway, and Belgium.
Reunited with his violin, he took lessons from Rhode Island Philharmonic member Cheri Markward and eventually joined the Providence Senior Citizen Orchestra, the Warwick Symphony Orchestra and the URI Orchestra.
Of his URI classroom experiences Brailsford said: "I find I may not be as sharp as I used to be. I am sitting next to 20 and 21 year olds. But I hold my own, except for theory."
In fact music theory nearly led him to switch majors. Music Professor James Ladewig called Brailsford at home and talked him out of it. Ladewig calls Brailsford "dedicated, extremely hard working. He loves all kinds of music, classical, popular, jazz and has a broad knowledge of music and a great deal of experience."
Brailsfords music advisor and professor, John Dempsey said: "I admire people like Charlie who want to switch gears later in life, he is really giving it a solid try." Dempsey also said that if Brailsford doesnt find a new concept easy "he will work hard at it and keep plugging."