On Jan. 14, the Azusa Pacific community learned of the passing of Kimasi Browne, Ph.D. After over 15 years teaching in the College of Music and Arts, his presence will be missed on APU’s campus.
Browne was known for founding and directing the APU Gospel Choir. He played an integral role in developing the group and changing it into a viable ensemble within the School of Music. Browne also taught classes that focused on soul music, the history of music and African heritage.
His time at APU was spent pouring into the music department and into the lives of students who sat in his classroom and sang in Gospel Choir. Dr. Browne served as a member of the Faculty Senate, the Diversity Council, the Masters Studies Council and the Faculty Research Council here at APU as well. He also served on the advisory board of the APU Black Male Success Initiative.
Before teaching at APU, Dr. Browne earned his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at UCLA. He later earned a B.A. in Music Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He was a composer, an arranger and a vocalist whose musical abilities gave him opportunities to play and sing all over the world.
Romellus Wilson, an APU junior music major, enjoyed having Dr. Browne as his personal mentor.
“He was a great blessing to me,” Wilson said. “Last year, I struggled with school a lot and contemplated dropping out. We met up one day in the cafeteria for lunch and I told him of my plans and he told me ‘not on my watch.’ He encouraged me and spoke to me as a man and as a student to keep pushing no matter what.”
Dr. Browne’s words of encouragement still resonate with Wilson today.
“Those words last spring spoke to me and here I am almost a year later still striving because of his persistent encouragement to my journey,” Wilson said.
Wilson isn’t the only one who saw Dr. Browne as an encourager.
Lavone Barnett-Seetal, the new director of the APU Gospel Choir, learned the ropes from Dr. Browne. Barnett-Seetal regarded Dr. Browne as not only a great musician and colleague, but also a friend to whom she could look for advice.
“He’s the epitome of love and encouragement. His wisdom was so simple; he could say simple stuff and it would be so deep,” Barnett-Seetal said.
Tom Hynes, an assistant professor in the College of Music and the Arts, was a colleague and personal friend of Dr. Browne, and considered him a mentor as well.
“Dr. Browne was an was extraordinary example of faith in action—outstanding in his calling, committed in all his relationships, joyful and exuberant in all that he did,” Hynes said.
“It is a terrible loss for us, but we are comforted in knowing he is with God, whom he loved with all his heart,” Hynes said.
The APU Gospel Choir released a statement to their Facebook page the week of Browne’s passing urging the choir family to “keep his family in prayer during this difficult time.”
On Jan. 24, a memorial service was held at the Faith Community Church in West Covina in honor of Browne. Colleagues, friends, students and family attended to celebrate his life. The APU Gospel Choir attended the service and performed a song arranged by Browne called “Joy, Joy.”
Barnett-Seetal described the service as beautiful and moving, reflecting on Browne’s life and his favorite Scripture found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”