The Gustavian Weekly

Gustie of the Week: Thomas Prahl - The Gustavian Weekly

By Michaela Woodward - Staff Writer | November 6, 2020 | Gustie of the Week, Variety

This week’s Gustie of the Week is known to many as a prolific French horn player, a talented artist, a loving dog owner, a great friend, a plant aficionado and a dedicated future educator.
Senior Instrumental Music Education major Thomas Prahl is busy on and off-campus. While at Gustavus he’s been in all three bands, horn choir, jazz band, choir, orchestra and chamber ensembles. For all four years he has spent on campus, Prahl has worked in the admissions office and he also currently works as a mental healthcare provider and is an artist-in- residence at the Arts Center of St. Peter.
His future career path and teaching philosophy lie in the intersection of mental wellbeing, the arts, and accessibility. Prahl found his way to Gustavus as he was looking for an institution that could best serve these values.
“I went to a small, small rural high school. I graduated with 56 people. My current passions in life are mental health care and advocating for accessibility of education for underserviced students. That was largely informed by how underfunded my education experience was growing up. There was just a lot that wasn’t offered. I was looking for an institution that valued education as a means to change societal roles. In addition to that, what really struck me about the Gustavus community is how we value people. We take a very individual humanistic approach to education, and I really like that. I really like that we focus on people and individuals,” Prahl said.
Through his leadership on campus, Prahl has demonstrated that he is committed to the individual, and this is recognized by his peers.
“Being in horn choir, largely under [Prahl]’s direction last semester, changed my life for the better. His enthusiasm both for music and for life is infectious, and his kindness is incredibly inspiring. Thomas is an excellent example of the Gustie Horn community, and I can’t wait to see the amazing things he does in the future,” Sophomore Ingrid Welna said.
“He has always shown an amazing commitment to the larger Gustavus community through his work and activism on campus, but he also builds community on an individual basis with his peers. I have watched Thomas mature a great deal over the past four years, facing and overcoming personal challenges with resilience, perseverance, and a positive attitude,” Adjunct Instructor of Horn Melissa Morey said.
Prahl’s leadership and teaching revolves around making an impact and providing more opportunities.
“It’s about being an advocate for developing people. For me, education is about being a resource to help people go on to lead complete and productive lives. I find it’s really easy to help people grow and develop as individuals with a medium like music, with art involved. I’m really interested in how we can impact people’s mental well-being through art,” Prahl said.
Through his future in teaching, he wants to share the liberal arts philosophy with others.
“I really believe that I would do well in underserved or rural communities. I want to make Gustavus-caliber opportunities accessible to students who don’t have the resources that would traditionally allow that,” Prahl said.
While he is certain of the impact he wants to make in the future, other plans are up in the air due to COVID-19. Prahl had originally planned to perform a Junior Recital last year, and now that recital has been put on hold until this winter. He says the frustration of rescheduling has not been for nothing.
“The unexpected advantage of preparing two recitals and then not giving them is that I got all the growth and practice and experience and I had all the motivation to practice and perform at a really high caliber, and then I had none of the performance anxiety involved in actually giving the performance. As a musician and as a student, it’s been really great as an exercise in how to learn. And getting to prepare a whole program and consider the whole program, an hour of music, as a continuous work of art, to consider the arc of a storyline, that’s been a lot of fun. It feels like a very applicable product of my degree,” Prahl said.
In the meantime, Gusties can catch Prahl’s installation in the front window of the Arts Center of St. Peter during the month of November.
“If Gusties are looking for a good socially distanced activity they should go to the Arts Center. There’s a new show every month. They should wear a mask. Go look at art, it’s good for the soul,” Prahl said.

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