Where are they now? 2016 Barrett graduate Alexander Tom working on master's degree and directing music in Virginia

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November 8, 2017

Alexander Tom started out at Arizona State University in 2011 as a business major in the W.P Carey College of Business. Within a year, he changed his major to music and joined the Herberger Institute’s School of Music. One constant for Tom during this educational journey was Barrett, The Honors College, where he lived and studied among a community of other honors students.

Alexander Tom

Tom graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition.  He now is a graduate student and conductor. We caught up with Tom to find out where he is now and how Barrett helped him get there. Here is what he had to say.

How did you decide to attend ASU and Barrett? Did you have the opportunity to attend another university? What drew you to ASU and Barrett?

I originally started as a business finance major with W.P. Carey and then transferred out August 2012 after my audition in November 2011 at the Herberger Institute’s School of Music. So, as a prospective business major, the main draw was W.P. Carey’s national attention and ability for interdisciplinary and cross-discipline majors/minors. I had some interest in Columbia University, but ultimately scholarships determined my choice.

What was your Barrett experience like? Did being an honors student bring you opportunities that you may otherwise not have had?

My experience at BHC was great. I lived in the “Agave Penthouse” which was an interdisciplinary cohort of students; I roomed with my friend from my high school who was a political science major. It was great to be able to experience ASU/BHC living with friends who had different coursework and schedules. BHC offered a lot of opportunities similar to ASU but at a smaller scale that actually opened doors for the larger opportunities at ASU and across the greater-Phoenix area. It’s a very different dynamic but in an encouraging way. Having the smaller honors courses was great.

When I transferred into the School of Music, class sizes were already smaller but the professors often had added requirements that allowed me to research more in-depth discussions on music history, musicology, and composition. I am super thankful for all that writing and research experience because it got me into graduate school!

What was the thesis process like for you? What was your thesis about? 

My thesis was a monster. It culminated into a 662-page document including a research paper, orchestral score, and piano-vocal score. I was fortunate to experience a similar senior project by a peer that inspired my thesis project. It was a 2 ½-year program that required a major fundraising campaign and a lot of cross-discipline work and a creative team of 7 students at large.

Of Leto – a staged concert premiered on November 5 in Katzin Concert Hall. It was a major musical drama composition, that also was a discussion on the collaborative efforts of Stephen Sondheim and Harold Wheeler, Benjamin Britten, and myself and a fellow BHC student, Daniel Oberhaus.

What are you doing now and how did being in Barrett help you get there?

Alexander Tom conducting music

Alexander Tom conducting an orchestra.

I am currently a MM candidate at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia, about 90 minutes west of Washington, D.C. I’m the graduate assistant for the program and the associate music director for productions (thus far, Spring Awakening, Onward Victoria, Guys & Dolls, Cabaret and the upcoming Lysistrata Jones). I do additional work with the opera department in the fall semesters, so I have ve continued my love affair with cross-discipline work and education.

Alexander Tom orchestra conducting

Alexander Tom sets the musical pace while conducting an orchestra.

The thesis work with BHC really helped push my career as a music director, researcher, and continual learner. The ability to constantly collaborate and have open dialogues with professors has translated into my teaching philosophy and how I function at the university level.

If you were speaking to a prospective Barrett student, what would you tell them about the honors college? What advice would you offer?

Really look at BHC and ASU. People often forget that BHC is really a part of ASU and being able to know as much as you can about both is crucial in your success as a student. While BHC offers a lot of great ways to succeed, ASU is one of the largest universities in the nation; use that fact to your benefit!

What advice would you give to a current Barrett student?

Take advantage of students your floor – don’t isolate yourself from the people and the places around you. I learned to love my fellow floor residents and their worlds and still see them in all the places where they are now (D.C., Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc.).



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