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Student Spotlight: Tom Breyfogle

Tom Breyfogle - with Relient K photo by Jenn Harrington

Tom on stage with Relient K :: photo by Jenn Harrington

Songwriter, orchestrator, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Breyfogle has an impressive history. He currently plays bass and drums with Relient K, his previous bands include Bleed the Dream and Secondhand Serenade, and he even records his own solo projects under the name Birds In the Airport. Clearly, Tom is a busy guy but his many roles haven’t stopped him from furthering his musical education.

Tom was based in Las Vegas, Nevada when he first decided that he wanted to learn more about orchestration. He began searching for affordable, convenient music classes and soon discovered Berklee Online. Tom enrolled in his first course using some of his Vegas winnings. That was in 2011. Since then, Tom has completed a Master Certificate in Arranging and Orchestration. He has also taken several additional songwriting and music theory courses.

birds in the airport-live photo by Chris Newman

Birds In the Airport live :: photo by Chris Newman

Though he’s been playing drums since he was 11 (he jokes that as an adolescent, he spent his weekdays playing in the school orchestra and his weekends playing in sloppy punk bands), Tom credits Berklee Online with teaching him a myriad of important skills. He claims that his music theory classes really helped him grasp the concept of harmony, allowing him to become a better producer. His new arsenal of guitar and piano chords allows him to choose the types of moods he wants to set in his compositions. Having a working knowledge of harmony also helps him in his role with Relient K. Tom joined the band as a drummer. He quickly had to learn about 60 songs, something which sounds daunting to most but came easy to Tom after the lessons he had learned at Berklee Online. When Relient K set out on a special tour in celebration of the 10th anniversary of their album Mmhmm, they brought the album’s original drummer with them. Tom learned the band’s songs all over again on the bass.

As a solo artist, Tom not only writes and produces all of the songs, he also plays all of the instruments. His first EP, How’s It Going to End, was released under the name Birds In the Airport in spring 2014. The track “The Sky Is Falling Down” got its start when Tom was enrolled in Songwriting: Melody. He also credits Andrea Stolpe‘s Commercial Songwriting Techniques course with helping him master the art of descriptive, destination lyric writing. The EP’s closing track, “End,” was his final project for Orchestration 2: Writing Techniques for Full Orchestra. Birds In the Airport is best described as bubbly, orchestral indie pop (even when he’s singing about the nuclear apocalypse on the track “Under the Mushroom Cloud”). Tom helps Relient K with their arrangements but doesn’t write music for the band, so he’s grateful to have Birds In the Airport as a creative outlet.

birds in the airport photo by Jenn Harrington

Photo by Jenn Harrington

What’s next for Tom Breyfogle? He plans to release another Birds In the Airport EP this summer. He also intends to continue his studies with Berklee Online with his eye set on Music Composition for Film and TV 1. You can listen to How’s It Going to End in its entirety below and “like” Birds In the Airports’ Facebook page for all updates.

Kayley Kravitz is the Social Media and Event Manager at Berklee Online. She has previously written for Vanyaland, the Huffington Post, the Boston Phoenix, and Filter magazine. When she's not editing this blog, updating our social media channels, or coordinating our events, she can be found spinning forgotten Britpop singles in Kendall Square.
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