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


Music graduate’s passion for music and Holocaust studies leads her to new path: jurisprudence

April 25, 2019

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

In her four years at Arizona State University's School of Music, Caitlin Kierum accomplished a lot, exploring her passions and finding new ones. Caitlin Kierum Caitlin Kierum Download Full Image

She is graduating in May with two degrees, a minor and two certificates — a Bachelor of Music in clarinet performance, Bachelor of Arts in English literature, minor in German and certificates in Jewish studies and human rights.

In addition to being enrolled in 23 to 26 credits each semester  and working part time in the School of Music performance events area all four years, Kierum was involved in the Greek honors fraternity ASU Order of Omega and Sigma Kappa sorority, where she served as vice president of finance and then as executive vice president.

“One of the main highlights of my time at ASU was serving as an intern for Violins of Hope Phoenix, which tells the remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust,” Kierum said. “It was an incredibly rewarding experience for me as I am very passionate about Holocaust studies and educating others about such an important time in world history.”

Kierum, also a Barrett, The Honors College graduate, said the experience of writing her undergraduate honors thesis further reinforced her interest in the Holocaust. After taking a class on various issues surrounding the Holocaust and engaging in discussions about its representation and memorialization with Daniel Gilfillan, associate professor in German studies and information literacy, Kierum said she selected Gilfillan as her thesis chair before even deciding on a topic. With the ability to focus on any area of her choosing, she decided to compare the various film and literary representations of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel.

Kierum’s time at ASU studying music, the Holocaust and more, also led her to a new path — the law.

“After graduation I will be attending the University of Michigan Law School in their Juris Doctor program,” she said. “It is one of the top law schools in the United States and I am incredibly excited to be at such a prestigious, beautiful place.”

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

Answer: I came to ASU as a music education major, hoping to double major in biochemistry and eventually become a pediatric surgeon. By the end of second semester, I realized I didn’t like science and was having to sacrifice my music in order to keep good grades in science. I changed my double major to English literature and re-auditioned into the clarinet studio as a performance major so I could focus on the things I really cared about.

My second “aha” moment happened when I took my first class at ASU’s Law School and realized how interested I was in the law as a career.

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

A: I learned that it is ok to not be 100% sure of what you are doing — that it is okay to be “in process.” Starting college, I assumed that I needed to have my life planned out completely and that I would just need to follow that plan to be successful. I learned that life is much more complex and it is important to be flexible and receptive to new opportunities. With my experiences of a series of double majors, I learned that it is incredibly important to have a sense of direction but it is ok when that trajectory changes. College is a great place to discover your true interests and gifts and to be inspired by professors and colleagues.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I initially discovered ASU because of Barrett, The Honors College. After researching ASU, I learned that the honors college had a great program and that Robert Spring was one of ASU’s clarinet professors. As I was choosing between the schools I had been admitted to, I found that ASU offered everything that I wanted for my college experience.

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

A: I learned a great deal from my two studio professors, Dr. Spring and Dr. (Joshua) Gardner. My time in the clarinet studio as a performance major was a very formative experience — I grew tremendously as a person and as a musician. I was a shy, nerdy freshman who had very high, perfectionistic expectations for myself. Dr. Spring and Dr. Gardner helped push me out of my shell and I gained a tremendous amount of confidence in my playing and in myself as a person. They also helped me learn to balance my life and be successful, despite being extremely busy.

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

A: Make it a priority to figure out what you are truly passionate about and then devote the time to actually pursue those passions. As a student, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the daily responsibilities of being a music major. I found it helpful to think about the things that make music fun, whether listening to a different style or instrumental group or making time for a fun ensemble like Gospel Choir or Gamelan. I also believe it is important to consider and pursue passions outside of music to find balance in life. It is important to actually live and immerse yourself in the world, because growth as a human being often equates to growth as a musician.

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

A: My favorite place is the School of Music courtyard. It is a frequent congregating place for students at the school, especially in between classes and before ensembles. It is a beautiful and peaceful area.

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

A: If I were given $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, I would use the money to start a global nonprofit whose goal is to provide relief and aid to those experiencing modern genocide.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music