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Alum hones musical talents in academia, on Broadway

Person on a red carpet at an event in front of a sign that reads "Here Lies Love."

Alexander Tom, courtesy photo

December 11, 2023

Since graduating from Arizona State University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition with honors from Barrett, The Honors College, Alexander Tom has taken his musical talents to both the halls of academia and the bright lights of Broadway.

Recently, Tom, who serves as music supervisor for the Bachelor of Fine Arts musical theater program at Montclair State University in New Jersey, wrapped up work as a keyboardist and associate music director for “Here Lies Love,” a hit Broadway musical about the life of former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos.

"(Because) of my education at ASU and Barrett Honors College, and the cross-disciplinary nature of my chosen path, I've been able to continually work … in various positions with national and international talent, including five-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo, the Public (Theater in New York City), Paper Mill Playhouse and Signature Theatre, which is known for its kinship with Stephen Sondheim,” Tom said.

Tom started out as a finance major at ASU in 2011, but changed to music after he joined the university’s all-male a capella singing group Priority Male. His honors thesis was a musical drama that included a 13-piece orchestra and 14 vocalists.

Tom went on to graduate school in the Shenandoah Conservatory at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, where he completed a Master of Music in conducting in 2018. For the next year, he served as a visiting assistant professor at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, where he headed the musical theater program.

In 2019, Tom, a Phoenix, Arizona, native, made the move to New York City and worked as a lecturer, clinical assistant professor and associate program head at the Pace University School of Performing Arts. In addition to his academic posts, Tom worked steadily on Broadway and in regional theater as a keyboardist and music director.

In addition to his most recent gig with “Here Lies Love,” Tom also worked as a rehearsal pianist for the revival of “The Music Man,” starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. Working on Broadway requires striking a personal and professional balance to meet the diverse needs of his jobs, Tom says.

“Broadway is about balance. It's equally demanding as it is fulfilling, but never at the same time,” he said, adding that it takes time, study, practice, persistence and networking to land work as a musician on any Broadway production.

“I'm still learning, working and networking. As an early-career music director and keyboardist, I spend a lot of time playing auditions, workshops, out-of-town contracts and masterclasses. The networking aspect is embedded in this line of work, and there’s never a moment you stop learning,” he said.

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