CLASS OF 2024: Tatum Earp composes music with storytelling, family and faith at the core



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By Amy Wolf
Tatum Earp is a musical storyteller, and her memories are her muse.

Tatum Earp, Class of 2024 (John Russell/Vanderbilt)

The music composition major credits her time at Vanderbilt and the Blair School of Music with cultivating her craft and honing her ability to shape raw emotions into sophisticated multi-instrument narratives.

“Art, especially music, definitely has the power to carry stories,” the north Texas native said. “I think opening up to that level of vulnerability and saying, ‘I am going to write about a story—a real life experience,’ has really been my biggest transformation.”


Earp focused her Immersion Vanderbilt project on a 10-piece composition tied to the loss of her father, who passed away when she was young.

Earp’s father was a photographer. In a special parallel, she used his final college photography project as the inspiration for her musical immersion project.

Program for Tatum Earp’s Immersion Vanderbilt project honoring her late father (Submitted photo)

That connection was so powerful for me—like we were creating art together through time. I had never really connected to my dad as an artist or as somebody in this similar stage of life as me,” she said.

“I think I grieved more through this process, but also healed more, by unearthing grief that I didn’t know that I had—and healing from that,” she said.

One of the photos shows a rugged Texas rancher, Earp’s great-grandfather. Through her work, Earp was able to honor and learn more about her dad’s side of the family.

“Each of the pieces was really a chance to explore the actual lived experience of the person in the photo, but also my dad’s connection to them. And then, on another level, my connection to my dad and to those people,” she said.


Earp said collaboration and community are keys to her personal and academic success. She first found community as a percussionist in her Texas high school marching band.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about high school band, but it really was one of the most formative experiences of my life. It forces you to work as a team with other people in a way that nothing else does,” she said.

That experience with collaboration helped her step out at Vanderbilt—building an inspiring community among her classmates and connecting with valuable mentors, specifically music composition professors Michael Slayton and Michael Alec Rose.

“My professors really care about all of their students—and not just about the material that they teach, but about the well-being of their students and about creating spaces for them to become articulate people, critical thinkers, and to really challenge them and ask them to grow,” she said.

Tatum Earp composed sacred music that was performed at Vanderbilt Divinity School. (Submitted photo)

Earp has a strong Christian faith and has been focusing part of her studies on sacred music. She said Rose has challenged her in ways that have greatly improved her music.

“As well as being a passionate advocate of immersion in music of every kind, Professor Rose is Jewish, and we’ve been able to interact in this interfaith space,” she said. “It has actually made me better as a person and a musician. I hope that my life and my career in the future can be a larger version of that, where I can interact with people—Christian or not, religious or not, and we can come together to create more goodness in people’s lives.”


Outside of her music, Earp has also been encouraged through the faith group Vandy Wesley, which focuses on being “intentionally diverse and radically welcoming.”

Tatum and friends on Ash Wednesday (Submitted photo)

I think that Vanderbilt is an environment that really encourages critical thinking about where you came from and where you’re going to and what is true to you, instead of just what you believed in the community that you came from. So, this has been a really wonderful place to explore what I believe, what I value and how to operate in the world, knowing those values,” she said.



“I love the word dare in that in that phrase because it is really scary to put yourself out there to be vulnerable, to try really hard. Everyone wants to make everything feel so effortless. Like with social media, everybody is like, ‘Oh, I woke up like this.’ So I think the idea of daring to grow is trying and daring to accept the possibility of failure.”


“I think it’s important to cultivate a trusted community and to be kind and respectful of people and say ‘hi,’ even when it’s weird or scary.”


“Vanderbilt is community. Vanderbilt is support. Vanderbilt is all about caring for each other and supporting each other through really rigorous academic study, but also through really meaningful, important times.”

Watch “Four with a ‘Dore” below to hear more from Tatum.

Learn more about VU2024’s Tatum Earp via our Instagram. (Link in bio) #fyp

♬ original sound – VanderbiltU