“Learning to perform was actually a very useful skill to develop,” explained architect, musician, and Grebel alumnus, Brian Rudy. “It’s all about being able to tell a story and read the audience.” This was the unique perspective that Brian picked up at the intersection of his two pursuits – music and architecture, guiding him through a life of tunes, design, and craftmanship.

Brian arrived at Grebel in the fall of 1985 to begin the grueling pre-professional architecture program at the University of Waterloo. With the intensity of the course load paired with endless late nights spent in the studio, Brian looked to music as a way to wind down after a long day. “I’d always been fascinated at the connections between architecture and music,” he explained. “Both, in their own way, require considerations of structure, rhythm, proportion, pacing, crescendo, and mood.”

A vocalist and acoustic guitarist, Brian reminisced about his favourite memories at Grebel – talent show performances and teaming up with friends to throw concerts and music parties. “I even worked as a musician after graduating,” he laughed. “I didn’t actually earn any money doing it, but the interest carried me.” This interest has stuck with Brian and today he is a critically acclaimed composer, arranger, producer, and leader of the band, Brian Rudy + The Architects. The band’s two original albums, Museum and Divided Man, have been mined for several independent Canadian films.

“People do a lot of growing up at Grebel, including myself,” Brian explained. “I started off as the shy kid just playing music in the residence stairwells, but I was able to break out of my shell through Grebel’s focus on community culture.” He recalled that invitations to various concerts and talent shows were major avenues in honing his talent, loosening up on stage, and feeling comfortable expressing his musical side. “It’s a weird connection to make,” Brian said, “but there is definitely a connection between performance skills and public facing skills in the real world. It’s something that’s helped me grow as an architect.”

Brian’s main career is grounded in architecture, where he works as a Partner at internationally renowned design firm, Moriyama & Teshima Architects. He is known for working on projects such as the Canadian War Museum, Waterloo Regional Museum and Union Museum in Dubai. An artist at heart, Brian considers himself a curator, as he is heavily immersed in the design process of all his projects. “I find pleasure in the early stages of high-level thinking and concept - seeing an idea turn into a visual solution is what I really enjoy about it all.”

But above all, the most notable project for Brian was the expansion of Grebel’s kitchen and dining hall from what he described as a “dingy, dark room” into the grand, luminous space that it is today. Staying an active alumnus is one thing, but how many alumni can say they returned to redesign their alma mater’s entire dining room and kitchen? “It was great to come back and connect to the College in a different way,” he said. From playing his guitar in the reverberant stairwells of the residence during his time as a student, to returning years later and revamping the way a new generation of students enjoy their meals, Brian has certainly made his mark into the Grebel history map.

Alongside Brian’s professional ties to Grebel is a profound, personal connection. It was during his undergraduate degree in the ‘80s that he met his wife, Judy Penner, and the two have been happily married for over thirty years now. The Grebel tradition runs deep in Brian’s family as his two sons, Alex and Adrian, are also recent Grebel alumni.

“Take advantage of that spirit there at Grebel,” said Brian as advice for current students. “Whatever you’re drawn to, whether it’s music or not, play around with it, get up in front of people. Now’s the time to blow that shelter away and open your mind to different ideas and ways of thinking.”

Brian's story is part of Grebel's 60 Stories for 60 Years project. Check out our 60 Stories page for more articles in this series. If you would like to nominate a Grebel alumnus to share about their experiences at Grebel, please submit a nomination form.

By Farhan Saeed