Personal Testimonials

"Tanner runs a tight ship in any rehearsal room he walks into, but he’s one of those lovely people who meets everyone where they are and understands that sometimes there are more important things in life that can take us away from the music temporarily. He’s also an excellent example in every way, since he keeps up more musical disciplines than anyone I know."

—Megan DeJarnett | composer-performer

"Tanner is a true polymath, excelling in the realms of music, language and mathematics. He sings, plays viola, conducts, speaks multiple languages, composes music and in his 'free time' undertakes ambitious analytical research projects about pedagogy, institutional hierarchies, and other community-driven and interpersonal systems of communication. 

That last item, notions of community, is what is at the heart of Tanner’s work. He is perhaps more a composer of human relationships than a composer of specific musical ideas. His composition practice is deeply entwined with the sense of community that he strives to create.

Tanner founded and directed multiple vocal ensembles through which many new works of his own and other students were premiered. 


By directing an ensemble, Tanner’s gifts on the micro and macro level converge. He meticulously structures rehearsal time not only to maximize productivity, [but] also to make time for discussions and activities that foster emotional growth and a deeper sense of community. With this degree of care and intentionality focused into rehearsal time, Tanner is able to develop and harness the talents of his performers, coaxing energetic and nuanced improvisations and interpretations into being.


...I see a great and promising future for Tanner. He really puts the time in, he couldn’t possibly spend more time devoted to the study and execution of ideas and works that he finds compelling. In Tanner, there is a paradox that is found in many people called to leadership: he is deeply invested in the idea of community, but simultaneously his own brilliance in many ways sets him apart from his peers. This is part of his work, I think, you know the long work, the 'big questions' kind of work that marks the journey of one’s life. Similar to the quest for 'artistry' that led him to CalArts, Tanner’s path moving forward involves the pursuit of the ineffable as much as, if not more than, the pursuit of excellence. I look forward to seeing what he develops in the future." 

—Laura Steenberge | composer, performer

"In addition to faculty-sponsored activities that Tanner directed, his skill as a conductor, his community–driven rehearsal technique and presence, and his infectious enthusiasm led to Tanner being the most-asked student conductor for many projects around the institute. Tanner is a natural teacher and leader. He is unfailing in his support for those around him and in his commitment to bringing developing new musical curiosity for all musicians he works with is tremendous. Whether he was working with younger musicians who are unfamiliar with a certain style, or directing an ensemble of his colleagues, or even conducting faculty members, Tanner was thoughtful, diligent, and creative. He was always able to tune the nature of his rehearsals to the needs of the group without losing his distinct style. Something I deeply value in any conductor is someone who is able to show the same care and enthusiasm whether they are conducting professionals or beginners, and this is an attribute that Tanner absolutely possesses.


...He inspires the people around him. He is calm under pressure, he manages to lead incredible performances when there is a severe lack of available rehearsal time. Most importantly, he makes everybody around him love what they’re doing. When presented with something outside his comfort zone, Tanner dives in head-first. He doesn’t shy away from anything, and his ability to find something to love in anything he works on is what helps him to infect others with that same curiosity and enthusiasm. " 

—Nick Deyoe | Instrumental Arts chair and conducting/composition professor, CalArts

"He is a mathematician inspired by the complexities of advanced analytical thinking, a composer driven by a deep desire to communicate and converse through the creative process, a violist invested in the art and craft of performance, a vocalist intrigued by the peculiar physical and linguistic challenges inherent to the singer’s world, and a conductor with deep-seated beliefs in the collaborative potential of ensemble music making. He is happiest and most productive when at the nexus of all of these endeavors and he is perpetually discovering new links and interactions among them.


Tanner is a voracious reader, a keen debater, a thoughtful learner and a dedicated practitioner. He has a strong work ethic and a compassionate world view. He is active in the community and dedicated to service.... He is enthusiastic and gregarious by nature, and truly lights up when describing the creative potential of music performance in the 21st century." 

—Carolyn Barber | Director of Bands, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

"A hallmark of Mr. Pfeiffer’s input on our team is how detail-oriented he is. He is incredibly diligent about being informed and prepared in everything we are doing as a team. He is generous with his feedback and always wants anything we are doing to be the best it can be. Mr. Pfeiffer makes sure we are considering even the smallest aspect of our project plans and schedules, so we are set up for significant amounts of success. He is creative and inclusive, and always ensures there is space for every person (teammate or scholar) to feel welcome." —MaryAnn Holland | principal, Collegiate Charter High School of Los Angeles

"Tanner and I worked as co-teachers for one year teaching Geometry and Advanced Algebra 2/Precalculus together and I couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated and collaborative classroom partner. I have had the opportunity to witness his natural ability to build authentic relationships with our students that inspired sparking engagement inside the classroom. As we would carefully plan and intellectually devise lessons together during our daily co-teaching meetings, Tanner would never fail to find creative ways to encourage our students to ask insightful questions to make vital conceptual connections. Tanner would Socratically influence student-led discussions to connect what we were learning inside the classroom to their lives outside of school to visualize the beauty of education.   


It only takes one lesson or conversation with Tanner to realize that he is a walking wealth of knowledge in not only advanced mathematics, but education, culture, music, and so much more. Tanner’s keen sense of emotional intelligence and verbal articulation of his thoughts causes one to feel truly safe and heard like our students and parents. Tanner’s primary concern was always for the growth and safety of our students to foster a positive learning environment."

—Kelly Kim | founder, Mathically Virtual Math Tutoring


"Tanner was an incredible teacher. He was prepared, informed, and present at all of our classes."

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"I loved Tanner’s instruction, conducting. Very trustworthy." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"Whenever there was a class discussion, I had a full joy of it. For an ensemble class which could be an absolute monarchy of a conductor, class discussions really brought in a sense of community." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"The lessons I’ve learned in CVE was not only beneficial in my overall education but my personal growth as a person. The class was the class that I truly felt validated as a member of CalArts community since this was my first semester in the school. By learning to listen to other people more carefully, I got to learn & listen to myself better. I am more than appreciative that I took the class & excited to join the class next semester."

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"Tanner was terrific—interesting, varied, and relevant rep choices and a very detailed musical perspective." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"Tanner is an outstanding teacher and director. He perfectly balances the fun and professional sides of choral singing. He treats the student with respect and his dedication to the class is inspiring." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"Rehearsals were run efficiently; discussion created a safe space for people to share their thoughts and emotions." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"Tanner really cares about seeing his students succeed and helping them achieve excellence." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2018

"Tanner was always prepared for class. He always makes sure everyone is comfortable when rehearsing serious pieces. Tanner created a welcoming [environment] for old and new students." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2019

"Tanner is a wonderful educator and friend to his pupils. He ensures everyone is comfortable and safe. His rehearsals are efficient, but he is always to make class fun. Tanner selects a variety of choral genres that teaches students what choral music was, is, and should be. Tanner is a role model in musicianship and leadership, and I'm so grateful I had the chance to work with him in the last year." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2019

"Tanner is a treasure. He clearly cares so much about the music + is so kind." 

Anonymous course evaluation | CalArts, 2019

"Tanner has been my children's tutor for several years and has exhibited outstanding teaching and tutoring qualities since we started our relationship. My daughter was terrified of math and through Tanner's patience and support has excelled in both junior high and high school and has lost the 'math-phobia' that was dictating her approach to the subject. My son thrived under Tanner's instructions that encompassed multiple ways to understanding math concepts. We were pleased with the ways that Tanner always looked for new and innovative ways to make math relatable and understandable. Tanner has been a reliable and creative asset to our children's educational success." 

—Christine | tutoring mom

"Our daughter was struggling with pre-college statistics when we were introduced to Tanner Pfeiffer. After the first session our daughter said 'He is going to help me pass this class!' He took real world concepts, made them into math problems and made it simpler for her to understand. Long story short—she passed without any problem. We would highly recommend Tanner for any tutoring!"

—Kari | tutoring mom