From a Dream to a Reality: President Stoltzfus interviews Girl Named Tom

Siblings Caleb ‘18, Joshua ‘19 and Bekah Liechty, known as the musical group Girl Named Tom and winners of season 21 of NBC’s “The Voice,” sat down with President Rebecca Stoltzfus before their sold-out October 2021 performance in the Goshen College Music Center to talk about their experience and rise to fame. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Watch the full interview at goshen.edu/gnt.

President Rebecca Stoltzfus: How did your Goshen experience help you for
this, and how does Goshen show up in your work now?

Joshua: Being able to perform on some of the nicest stages ever — I would still prefer to sing from this stage than “The Voice” stage, like honestly — so to have these resources here is wonderful. Scott Hochstetler ‘97 (professor of music) really pushed me to perform as much as I can, because in any walk of life after college it’s going to help… so lots of noon recitals, Concerto- Aria, being in choirs on these stages…Now we perform in lots of other places.

Caleb: We throw around the word community a lot here at Goshen, and the small-college feel where everybody knows everybody, it keeps us humble and accountable with each other and with our growing fanbase now; it makes us more compassionate, caring people as we deal with more and more people now. And so I think that’s going to serve
us really well.

President Stoltzfus: What is one favorite memory that comes to mind
from your time at Goshen?

Girl Named Tom performing in Sauder Hall during GC’s 2021 Homecoming Weekend

Joshua: All the memories of being in this space come to my mind; Concerto- Aria — I got to sing two arias in here — Festival of Carols was always just spectacular, just got you in the mood for the Christmas season. I would say the events in this hall highlighted my years here.

Caleb: For me it was also in this space singing during the senior showcase when I was a senior and you were newly-appointed president, and we sang a verse of a song to you.

President Stoltzfus: You did! It was very special and a little embarrassing.

President Stoltzfus: If you can have one GC professor and his or her special power in your pocket, who would that be?

Joshua: Such a difficult question to answer, and that is a good thing, because there are so many wonderful GC profs.

Caleb: I feel like we’re on a music career path, so the obvious choice would be one of the amazing music faculty. But I feel like they’re always in my head anyway, they’re always talking to me anyway, because I spent quite a bit of time with them. They influence everything I do every day. So I’m going to go with Ryan Sensenig (professor of biological and environmental science), who’s an ecologist, just out of left field.

President Stoltzfus: So what’s Ryan’s special power?

Caleb: He re-invented the relationship between religion and science for me, and it comes through in a lot of my songs, but I only had one class with him ever, so that’s why I need him in my pocket.

Joshua: I would say something about this on the same lines… I mean Scott Hochstetler ‘97 is wonderful, but we are in touch, we’re in communication. So to have an extra one it would be John D. Roth ‘81 (professor of history). I feel like our souls just connect, he asks some of the toughest questions that life has to offer and really makes you ‘go there,’ and I feel like that
really helps me as an artist and and helps us too because vulnerability and honesty with yourself is so important in songwriting and to singing harmony.

President Stoltzfus: So Bekah, this stage is not as familiar to you as it is to Caleb and Joshua, but I think you’ve probably sung on this stage before.

Bekah: When the women’s choir would invite the mothers and the grandmothers [during the Earthtones concert], Emma ‘18 and Elsie ‘21 Koop Liechty invited me and my mother, so that was so special to be a part of that, and it was a privilege to sing on this stage. And I’ve been inspired by this place, and seeing my older cousins give recitals. I would listen to the recording
of that recital as a little girl and imagine them singing on the stage and that filled me up with so much hope and anticipation for what I could eventually do someday. And so I think I often am
lost for words at how that has really affected me… At “The Voice,” they’re creating for a screen…but to be here, to feel the music coming through, because it’s not just the sound as we
all know, and so in here it’s just more intimate, it seems more attainable, it’s more spiritual. We grew up in the church and so this feels more like a church to me.

President Stoltzfus: What advice would you give GC students who have an inner musician, whether they’re music majors or biochemistry majors or whatever?

Joshua: When I was an undergrad, I really appreciated when people who had graduated would come back and tell me that what you major in doesn’t necessarily have to be your career path,
and the kind of person that Goshen shapes you into — that’s the biggest reason you’re here. The relationships that you form, and how you’ll be pushed and stretched in different ways, that’s what Goshen’s really about and you’ll blossom wherever you go. So that’s what I would say: just push yourself, try everything.

President Stoltzfus: You have a tremendous fan base here and you have sold out Sauder Hall, so I hope that you always feel that this is your home stage.

Joshua: We’re so humbled… we dreamt about being able to perform on this stage and that’s been a goal of ours and we didn’t know how long it would take to attain it. This is definitely sooner than what we thought it might be.

Bekah: As a young band, we sat down and wrote down our values and kind of
had that talk with each other about our goals — our five-year, 10-year plan — and you know this was on that short list of goals. It’s incredible to be here.

President Stoltzfus: Well it won’t be the last time!