Tom McKillop: 2023 Commencement Soloist


Photo courtesy of Emily Paine/Bucknell University.

Kelsey Werkheiser, News Co-Editor

This year’s soloist for Bucknell University’s Class of 2023 Commencement Ceremony is Tom McKillop ’23, a History and Music double major from Westchester, N.Y.

McKillop’s involvement in the Bucknell music community, and desire for a final opportunity to perform on campus, motivated him to audition for the role, in which he will be singing the National Anthem during the ceremony.

McKillop began his engagement with singing during his middle school years, continuing on to start voice lessons during high school. He also endeavored into more competitive roles, such as auditioning for school musicals and the New York State School Music Association exam. When searching for colleges, McKillop auditioned for voice at various institutions, and was offered an Arts Merit scholarship at Bucknell. 

“My musical time at Bucknell has been shaped by my acapella group, Beyond Unison,” McKillop told The Bucknellian. 

McKillop came to Bucknell during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which limited the involvement with the music program that he was hoping to have. With student groups such as acapella, it can be easier to coordinate musical collaborations in ways that follow Covid-19 guidelines. Productions such as musicals or instrumental concerts have more logistics, but acapella can be performed anywhere.

Bucknell’s vocal music program, Bucknell Voice Lab, has been able to offer new experiences to McKillop. Each year, the program alternates between a musical and an opera.

In Fall 2021, McKillop performed in the opera “Hansel and Gretel,” a medium he had never worked in before. In Fall 2022, during his senior year, he performed in the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“Broadly, [it] was a time of growth, and a lot of [lived] learning experiences… and getting to know myself, and becoming comfortable with myself in a place that’s not necessarily built for queer people,” McKillop said, when asked about his time at Bucknell.

After graduation. McKillop will be enrolling in an one-year graduate program at Columbia Teachers College, pursuing a degree in Teaching in Social Studies for grades 7 – 12.

When asked if he had plans for continuing to pursue music, McKillop said that he doesn’t know what that would look like for him at this moment, but hopes to find an outlet outside of work. He suggested seeking it out through teaching, by taking on roles such as school musical director outside of teaching hours. 

Despite all of his musical experience, McKillop is still daunted by the role of being the commencement soloist.

“I think what’s intimidating me the most is that I’ve always been in performances like musicals… or acapella [where] you’re playing a role or you’re with other people, [whereas] this is just me singing by myself, as myself.”

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