Daniella’s Monthly Character Study — Tamsen Mckerley




By — Daniella Marx

Upon retiring from the academic and emotional rigors that Tuscarora High School provides,  some students labor on homework for hours at a time, others vibe with the squad at the local watering holes, and others, like Tamsen Mckerley, opt to rock and roll. Over the past year, Mckerley has juggled the following: an intense course-load, three crazy siblings, and an all-girl indie band. 

When I first approached Mckerley for this interview, she was deeply embedded in the throes of Mrs. Etuk’s Academic English 12 course. Every ounce of my moxie was utilized in the feat of extracting her from the course, but as soon as I sat her down in the 500 Hallway bathroom, she was determined to give the interview her all. 

If there’s anything to know about Tamsen, it’s that she is incredibly dedicated to what she loves. 

Tamsen’s love for music has always been intrinsic. Even though she started later than many successful pianists and once lacked a foundation for her music, she was never deterred.  “I’d spend hours on making up songs on this consistently out-of-tune piano, and years on trying to convince my parents to let me take piano lessons.” 

Eventually, they relented. Tamsen’s love for music would soon become inextricable, and would expand to genres outside of her comfort zone. Her tastes range from the improvisational jazz of Thelonious Monk to contemporary artists like Tame Impala and Grimes. “I fell in love with my grandfather’s jazz records, and now I enjoy collecting CDs and vinyl.” She appreciates the way that music can provide everyday people with clarity and peace of mind. 

However, this music aficionado never envisioned herself performing anything but piano. In what she calls a “stroke of fate,” Tamsen was drafted into the local band Alaska & Aurora as a last minute substitute in the spring of 2019. The lead singer, Lia Johnson, was so impressed by her skills that she offered Tamsen a permanent and official spot in the group. 

Without skipping a beat, Tamsen joined their ranks. 

Tamsen informed me that studio sessions and band practice take a lot out of one’s schedule. This has not discouraged her in the slightest, and she has cultivated one of the most impressive transcripts among the senior class. So long as she remains optimistic, Tamsen knows that she will be able to maintain her workload and pursue her musical passion.

As she looks towards the future, Tamsen grows pensive. She is incredibly appreciative of the influence that educators have had in her life, and would like to do the same for others saying: “I’d like to be a teacher someday.” 

For now, she’ll keep playing music. She’s excited to see the direction the band is taking, especially as they prepare to release their first album in 2020. Alaska & Aurora have previously released music on multiple platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.