Behind the Mic

Emily Tomz’ ability to express her emotions through music has always been strong; years later, she’s been able to improve her confidence alongside it


In 2018, walking out on stage at the Palo Alto Teen Arts Council was terrifying to then junior Emily Tomz. Being watched by peers who had known her since childhood made her performance anxiety spike, and the expectations surrounding her feel intimidatingly high.

Four years later, Tomz has finally found an environment where she can rock out comfortably with friends and family, experiencing considerably less stress than she underwent in high school. 

After the split of her previous band at the start of college and the social isolation in wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, Tomz was forced to stop performing in 2020, but was able to develop her guitar and vocal skills while continuing to write lyrics on her own.

Without the opportunity to perform, Tomz turned her attention to the process of making the music itself. 

“Music has always been this outlet for me,” Tomz said. “Sometimes I just sit down at the piano or guitar and start playing.” 

“Music has always been this outlet for me.

— Emily Tomz

Writing lyrics and creating chords on guitar led Tomz to gain more technical experience and improve her ability to artistically express herself.

“I try to improvise and find some chords,” Tomz said. “If I really liked the chords, then I’ll try to write something that fits it.”

Music has also allowed Tomz to find a like minded crowd of fellow students at her new school who are interested in song production. She’s formed a group with friends from her soccer team, and they often meet up to have jam sessions and enjoy each other’s company.

“I think it was way harder in high school, because you’re in front of literally all your peers, but in college you don’t know people as closely,” Tomz said. “I think my confidence has improved immensely over the years.”

Through all of the ups and downs of moving away from home, the pandemic and the struggle to recruit new band members, maintaining the same level of practice she once had has been difficult, with writer’s block and inhibition preventing Tomz from continuing her usual flow of inspiration. 

“I feel like maybe I’m just more particular with what I decided to write about and the lyrics I like to use,” Tomz said. “Maybe I’m hard on myself, because before I would kind of let stuff flow and write random stuff all the time. Maybe it’s time for more of that.”

The last few years have not been without struggle and Tomz’s experience with music has changed drastically, but she has continued to improve her talents and works to get back into her natural flow of creation.

To her, the future is full of opportunities– she wants to start a new band and eventually return to her performing roots.

“Sometimes it’s scary performing, especially when you’re performing the songs that you’ve written yourself… but I’m just not really gonna care,” Tomz said. “Music will never go away for me.”

Photos courtesy of Emily Tomz