Tommy Carpenter '09: Concert Cellist

For Tommy Carpenter ‘09, the road to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began in middle school when he opted to play the cello in the School’s required fifth grade string program.

“I think it is one hundred percent the right thing to have that requirement,” he said recently. “Music education is vitally important, especially now. It helps so many other facets of School life. For example, mathematics. There is a lot of math that has to do with rhythm and intonation. A lot of people just listen to the music and say ‘that sounds nice’ and while it does sound nice, there is a format or blueprint to a piece of music that uses an extreme complex of chord structures, musical form, and musical style. Also, cognitively, music fires on the same cylinders as learning a language because that is what music is - a language.”

After his required year in the Fifth Grade Orchestra, Carpenter went on to study with Debbie Lyle through his time at the School, as well as with other musical mentors. He also looked for opportunities to hone his skills through exposure at School events and traditions.

“I used to knock on the door of Bob Clark every other weekday to ask if he needed someone to play solo Bach for Chapel,” Carpenter remembered. “By then everyone at the School probably realized that I was getting serious and really loved playing the cello, and they were willing to give me opportunities.”

Following his commencement from the School, Carpenter earned a B.A. in cello performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music before working with the New World Symphony in Miami. He is currently a member of the 17-time Grammy Award Winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which sees him rehearsing or performing six days per week. During the summer, he is a cellist at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, WY and is also the principal cellist of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music - one of the most prestigious festivals for new music and living composers. Despite the heavy schedule, he is incredibly happy with his musical life.

“I love what I do,” he said, simply. “We need more music in the world right now. I do hope people give this specific musical art form a chance because once you understand it, there is no other genre or art form that taps into the human soul more.”