Bridging Cultures Through Musicianship



Thalea Stokes is a professional musician and aspiring educator. Hailing from Atlanta, GA, Thalea has achieved a great variety of personal and professional accomplishments throughout their life and career. (Thalea identifies as non-binary and uses "they/them/their" pronouns)

Born to military parents and thus having traveled the world from infancy, they started life immersed in many different cultures, gaining a profound interest in learning about people around the world. From developing an intense, self-guided interest in Japanese language and culture, to taking their first of soon to be many trips to China at the age of 16, Thalea has been deeply invested in cultural appreciation and developing this appreciation into meaningful, lifelong goals.

In addition to cultural appreciation, Thalea explored Western European art music appreciation at an early age. They began studying double bass, as well as piano, at twelve. As a teen, they participated in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Talent Development Program, where they studied under professional bassists Chester Griffin, Ralph Jones and Dr. Jacqueline Pickett. By the time they had graduated high school (Salutatorian from DeKalb School of the Arts), Thalea was an active member of four different Atlanta-area orchestras.

They went on to attend and graduate Summa Cum Laude from Western Michigan University, where they were conferred three degrees:

  • a Master of Arts in Music with a focus in Ethnomusicology (their Master’s thesis, titled Across the Red Steppe: Exploring Mongolian Music in China and Exporting it from Within, is a comprehensive ethnography of the unique and diasporic effects of Mongolian music culture in China)
  • a Bachelor of Music in Double Bass Performance, studying under Tom Knific, with a minor concentration in Mandarin Chinese
  • a Bachelor of Arts in International and Global Studies with a geographical focus area on China 

Thalea is also very proud of their various other experiences in Kalamazoo, including working at the WMU Confucius Institute, teaching double bass at the Crescendo Academy of Music and Mandarin at Kalamazoo Chinese Christian Church, and serving as a counselor and Assistant Site Coordinator at Sherman Lake Summer Camp and at Educating for Freedom in Schools respectively.

Thalea is now a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago where they are continuing their focus on Mongolian music, specifically the cultural leveling effect rap and hip-hop music appears to have among Mongols in Mongolia and throughout the Mongolian diaspora. In addition to their primary coursework at UofC, they have participated in the University Symphony Orchestra for three consecutive years. Moreover, they have held the office of President of the Central Asian Studies Society for the same length of time, during which they have managed the invitations and speaking engagements/performances of prominent figures in Central Asian interest circles such as Sas Carey, the Alash Ensemble, and Khusugtun.

Currently, Thalea is back in Atlanta, having completed their fieldwork in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and Hohhot, China for their dissertation. As an American Center for Mongolian Studies Field Research Fellow, their work in Ulaanbaatar has been sponsored and vitally aided by the staff and members of ACMS, without whom the research trip in its entirety would not have been possible. Thalea will reach All But Dissertation (ABD) status in 2019, and is expected to be conferred their doctorate in 2020.

As a result of their experiences and accomplishments thus far, Thalea’s primary aspiration in life is to establish a school for world music, modeled after their own fine arts high school, to provide a means by which school-aged children can critically study and engage with different cultures and languages through culturally relevant and diverse music. 

Curriculum Vitae

Click on the button below for Thalea's CV. If you'd prefer a resume , please reach out to them directly via email.

Thalea's CV