2018 Incoming Grad Series: Tanner Cassidy

by Daina Tagavi, Professional Development Peer
Wednesday, September 19, 2018 10:00 AM

The 2018 Incoming Grad Series continues, featuring backstories and fun facts on 8 students who are part of our most diverse incoming class in recent memory.

Tanner Cassidy is coming to UCSB from Chicago to pursue a Ph.D. in ​​Music ​​after completing his undergraduate degree ​at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. Tanner has a passion for music and movies, and even owns several hundred movies that he brought with him to UCSB.

Read on to learn more about ​Tanner's ​background, research interests, and his toy poodle named Raincloud!


Tanner grew up in Aurora, Illinois, in a modest house with a pretty small family. Tanner report​s that "there were moments that [his family] struggled, and college and the prospect of financial security wasn't always a given." Despite that, his parents worked very hard to give him and his sister a successful time growing up. His hometown of Aurora is a large suburb of Chicago, and at times he felt dwarfed by his family's struggles and the town around him. What got him through was his love of music, and when it came time to think about his next step after high school, he decided he wanted to study music in college. Tanner was fortunate to be accepted into a "tiny but mighty" school in the town of Naperville. ​There he fell in love with music and academia, which put him on the path to UCSB!


Tanner first heard of UCSB from his favorite professor and mentor. His mentor's wife went to UCSB and during discussions together, he would mention fond memories of visiting his wife when they were still dating. After looking into UCSB, Tanner was drawn to the incredible music program right away and realized UCSB was the place he wanted to be. As soon as he saw the campus, he accepted his position! Tanner spent the rest of his senior year of undergrad anxiously awaiting his cross country move to Santa Barbara.



Tanner is a music theorist, which he describes in this way: "People know what music performance is, and what history is, but theory for me is akin to grammar or syntax in language. If music is your language, then music theory is like your vocabulary. You can choose to use this vocabulary or not when composing new works, and theory itself is born typically from looking at existing works."

Tanner loves investigating the theory of music that he likes to listen to, especially jazz and German Romantic music. He uses a theoretical approach to abstract music and harmony down to shapes and geometrical representations that show relationships, which is a system that works for any type of music (whether it's opera, metal, or folk)!



Tanner describes himself as a "huge cinephile." He brought several hundred movies with him to campus and most of his non-musical free time is spent watching movies; he sees 30-40 movies in the theater ​every year. Tanner also loves to swim and go for walks, so UCSB will certainly be a good place for him!

Tanner recently got to swim with a 2,100 pound whale named Aurek at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, who he described as a "giant puppy." Speaking of puppies, back home in Chicago, ​he has a black 6 pound toy poodle named Raincloud (with Tanner's 6'4'' stature, the two of them make for some great photos!).

Welcome, ​Tanner!

Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost and check back each day until the start of classes for the continuation of our Incoming Grad Series. Up next is Fernanda Montero, an incoming ​master's student in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management from Mexico City.