Academics

Thomas Otto, '02 music
Professional musician with Bala Brass in Boston

I chose to attend WLC for several reasons.  Growing up in a Lutheran grade school and high school, it seemed right to attend a college with the same Lutheran teachings.  I was also recruited by Coach Steve Travis to compete in track and cross country, something I was interested in doing at the college level.  Finally, I knew I wanted to keep on pursuing music and I knew studying with musicians from the Milwaukee Symphony was something that I could do at WLC. That is not possible at many other schools.

My first two years at WLC were focused on completing my math major. However, I began to realize how much I wanted music to be a continuous part of my life. Having a mentor like Don Haack, my trombone studio teacher, gave me the confidence to make the leap and change my major. It was a tough decision at the time, but with WLC being a liberal arts college, I had completed most of my general degree studies in my first two years and was able to completely focus on music for the majority of my final two years. 

WLC did a fantastic job preparing me for graduate school. I graduated in 2004 with a master's degree in music from New England Conservatory in Boston. I felt like I was able to step right into a world class conservatory. My music history and theory classes helped me immensely with the graduate music tests that I had to pass. It was interesting seeing people struggle with writing on the exams when I had done it for two straight years with Dr. Braun!  Again, Don Haack leading me through very rounded studies in playing trombone gave me the confidence to jump right into with lessons with Ron Barron, principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Living in Boston and freelancing in New England has brought about many opportunities to play in different styles with multiple orchestras, ensembles and instrumentalists.  I was chosen to be part of the Tanglewood Music Center for a summer, which allowed me to play with peers who are the very best, young musicians in the nation and conductors from all over the world.  I am currently in a brass quintet called Bala Brass, a group which has brought me all over the world, including Bangkok, Thailand, in 2005.  We are currently putting together a CD to be released in the summer.  Anything is possible if you have the right tools, and you put your mind to it.  WLC gave me these tools and I took advantage of that.

Visit the Bala Brass website at www.balabrass.org.