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Students Who Soar: Tanner McMullen Finds Calling with Music Education

Students Who Soar: Tanner McMullen Finds Calling with Music Education

Posted: May 7, 2019

Buffalo State junior Tanner McMullen grew up in a household steeped in science. Both his parents are registered nurses. For fun as a kid, he and his friends created homemade experiments such as making a potato launcher out of PVC and an arc welder using a microwave transformer.

Along with taking a slate of advanced placement (AP) courses at Orchard Park High School, McMullen played the bass and saxophone in multiple ensembles. When it came time for college, he decided to pair his affinity for science with his musical talent, double-majoring in physics and music at Buffalo State. 

“I figured I’d prepare for a career as an astrophysicist,” said McMullen who was who was invited into the college’s Muriel A. Howard Honors Program.

But a group of preschoolers had different plans for McMullen.

This year, he began teaching music to toddlers and four-year-olds in the college’s Child Care Center. It became the favorite part of his week. He also participated in the Early Childhood Music and Movement classes the college offers on Saturdays to the community.

That experience, coupled with previous work as a day camp counselor for Orchard Park’s Recreation Department, convinced McMullen that he should become an elementary music teacher, so he changed his major.

“I took calculus my first semester,” he said. “It was really interesting, but I didn’t see myself doing it for rest of my life.”

At Buffalo State, McMullen had the opportunity not only to teach children tonality and improvisation and musicality, but also to instill in them a love for music.

“There were a couple of kids in the beginning who wouldn’t talk or engage with the group,” he said. “But within a couple of weeks, they were singing entire songs, even predicting the songs when I’d pull out instruments.”

When he dove deeper into music courses, he discovered talents he didn’t realize he had.

“Before coming here, I had never studied music privately,” he said. “I had never sung.”

He now sings in the Buffalo State Chamber Choir. He also plays the bass in the college’s Jazz Ensemble and the auditioned college-community Philharmonia Orchestra. On Wednesday, May 8, he will perform with a string quartet accompanying the college’s first fully staged opera.

“I’m playing at a level I’ve never thought I’d be able to play, and I’m doing things I’ve never saw myself doing before,” he said when discussing his Buffalo State achievements.

The intimate size of the music education program has helped him grow as a musician and future teacher.

“You see all the faculty almost every day,” he said. “You know all of them and they know you.”

He said he would encourage all Buffalo State students to take advantage of the multiple resources the campus offers and to explore every option that could help them figure out their future.  

“If you want to try something new,” he said, “this is the place to do it.”

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