Gamer and clarinetist shows commitment to service and sisterhood


April 25, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

The term “sisterhood” holds special meaning to Arizona State University School of Music and Barrett, The Honors College graduate Charlotte Burton, who graduates in May with a Bachelor of Music Education, a Bachelor of Music in clarinet performance and a PreK-12 music education teaching certificate. Charlotte Burton Charlotte Burton Download Full Image

When Burton first arrived at the ASU School of Music in 2014, she joined Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music fraternity that supports, encourages and nurtures women musicians of all ages, races and nationalities who share a commitment to music.

“Our local chapter, Gamma Mu, had just begun the process to re-charter,” Burton said. “It was a long, comprehensive process that took a dedicated team of 14 women and additional partners over two years to complete. Since our re-charter, we have assisted many local music organizations such as Rosie’s House, the Phoenix Symphony and the School of Music with our service and sisterhood.”

Also an avid video gamer, Burton encourages other women to join the competitive gaming scene through an organization called Smash Sisters.

She started playing the videogame Super Smash Bros. Melee competitively in 2015 and joined the ASU Esports Association. She was elected president of the Super Smash Bros. division and the main organizer for weekly tournaments with 60 to 150 attendees. While competing, she joined Smash Sisters.

“I have traveled all over the country running women-only events, encouraging women gamers to compete in a male-dominated community,” she said.

She also is a member of the Barrett Leadership and Service Team, is fluent in German and has been on the Dean’s List for all eight semesters.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I went to a lesson with my mom who was accompanying a clarinetist from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The clarinetist played the Hindemith Sonata and by the third movement, I had decided that I would play the clarinet and someday make the same beautiful low sounds. I joined band in 5th grade and played clarinet through high school. I took lessons with Kinsey Fournier, a fantastic clarinetist from Lawrence University, and discovered I wanted to study both clarinet performance and music education in college. After taking lessons at various music schools across the country, I realized that Arizona State University was the best fit for me.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A. When I first joined the clarinet studio at ASU I wanted to become “the best” clarinetist in the entire school and practiced an inordinate amount of time every day. In my second year, I overused my hands with clarinet, color guard, gaming, computer work and biking, and developed tendonitis and could not play for a few months. During that time, I came to appreciate my peers’ clarinet skills and realized that each one of us had different strengths and weaknesses and that no one is “the best.” When I was able to play again, I focused on fixing mistakes and bad habits instead. That was one of the greatest perspective shifts I had while studying at ASU.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I auditioned all over the country and was accepted to some very good music conservatories. Of all the clarinet studios, Drs. (Robert) Spring and (Joshua) Gardner’s studio felt like home. There was no harmful sense of competition in the ASU clarinet studio as I had witnessed in other schools and conservatories. Along with a great scholarship, fantastic color guard, the Barrett Honors College and sunny weather, I knew ASU was the best choice for me.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A. Clarinet professors Dr. Spring and Dr. Gardner both taught me the most important lesson I learned at ASU — support your fellow artists or they will not support you. They told a story about a student who never attended any of his peer’s recitals. When it came time for his recital, there were only three audience members — the two professors and his mom.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A. Make your own path at your own tempo. It is too easy to compare your success to others and want to be someone else. Take a moment and write down what you believe in and what you want to do in life. Then do everything in your power to accomplish those things. It’s easy to feel like you are “falling behind,” but you are just going your own speed.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A. My favorite study spot is the little outdoor patio above Charlie’s Café at the College of Design. It is always very quiet with a nice breeze. I love getting tea and pastries at Charlie’s and going upstairs to study outside.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A. I have been offered a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to teach English in Germany. I don’t know yet where I will be specifically, but I am very excited. In addition to teaching English, I will be working on a not-yet-determined musical community project and hopefully learning how to play the German system clarinet. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A. If I received $40 million to solve a problem, I would try to diminish human starvation.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music

480-727-7189

Music graduate hopes to have positive impact on students


April 25, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

It took losing music for Aliyah Qualls to realize how much making music meant to her. Aliyah Qualls Aliyah Qualls Download Full Image

Music had been a part of Qualls’s life since she was young, but in middle school, she quit the band program.

“I did not realize how much music making meant to me and that it was what I truly wanted to do until I was unable to play,” said Qualls, who is graduating in May with a Bachelor of Music in music education and a minor in criminology and criminal justice from Arizona State University.

After realizing how much she missed making music, she re-joined band in high school and participated in drumline and orchestra until she graduated.

“I decided to study music education to hopefully provide students with a positive experience while they learn in their music classes,” she said.

In addition to creating a positive learning environment for music students, Qualls has a passion for equity, diversity and inclusion for all and uses her love of music making to empower others to seize opportunities and reach for success. She has been an active member of the School of Music Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which addresses issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion, and the Student Advisory Council, which addresses and problem-solves issues among music students.

At ASU, Qualls has held leadership roles in Kappa Kappa Psi Beta Omicron Chapter, a national honorary band fraternity dedicated to music service and promotion of the college and university bands, as president and music chair. Her Sun Devil spirit was exemplified as a member of the Sun Devil Marching Band, where she played the mellophone for four years.

In summer 2018, she participated in a study abroad program to Denmark and Belgium with Up with People, a non-profit organization that travels to different countries performing professionally produced live music shows and volunteering time and efforts for community-specific causes.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: I was in a bad car accident during my sophomore year and though I was not seriously injured, I could have easily been because I was not wearing my seatbelt. It was an experience that made me examine how I was going about living my life in general. I learned that I do not have to do something or take a certain path just because other people expect me to. Since then, I have been more open to taking advantage of opportunities that come my way, even if they are outside my comfort zone.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: As a self-proclaimed horn nerd, I faithfully read articles on Professor John Ericson’s Horn Matters’ website throughout high school. When I realized that Dr. Ericson was the main horn professor at ASU, the ASU School of Music became my first choice to study.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I have learned so much from so many professors, but Dr. Jason Thompson is the person I have had the closest relationship with and learned a lot from. He and I arrived at ASU at the same time and quickly bonded over our cultural connections through the ASU Gospel Choir. There is a weekly worship service every Wednesday night on campus called Oasis where people can come and fellowship with one another. It has been great to be a part of this group and I have learned many lessons through Oasis by observing Dr. Thompson’s teaching style in the Gospel Choir and by his approach to everyday life. He always shows us that it's never too late to try something new and to always be intentional and confident in your actions, even though you may not be 100% competent yet.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Cherish this time and soak up all the knowledge you can. Time goes by more quickly than you think it will. As an undergraduate, the sheer amount of information presented to you can be overwhelming so take time to process, adapt and apply it in a way that is meaningful to your life. Also, don't neglect taking care of yourself. Your health is most important and you cannot reach your full potential unless you are physically and mentally healthy.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I loved going to the top floor of the Lattie Coor Building where I could see the entire campus. I'm a people watcher, so it's very interesting to watch everyone going about their day doing normal activities. It was a place that gave me time to slow down, be in the moment and really appreciate the beauty of the world around me.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be looking for short-term employment because in January 2020 I will be joining the cast of Up with People to tour the southwest region of the United States, two provinces in Canada and at least four regions of Europe for six months. I hope to expand my worldview and improve my teaching and performing practice for when I return and seek a permanent teaching job. Graduate school will also most likely be in my plans.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I have no idea what $40 million looks like, but something I care deeply about is representation and equity in all areas, especially in the arts. Our society oftentimes unconsciously suppresses a large percentage of our citizens which results in disadvantages in many ways. In many communities, people do not frequently see a reflection of themselves in their leaders or a way to establish relationships which make them feel heard, noticed and cared for. There are many examples of marginalized groups based on race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc. who have reached great levels of success in the arts, but they are grossly underrepresented. I have noticed this in other areas besides the arts but as I have chosen a career in the arts, this is of great importance to me. I would love to see a world where each and every person can look at someone that represents them, feel empowered and say, "I can do that too."

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music

480-727-7189