May 8, 2024

Meet the 2024 Student Commencement Speaker Kellin Hanas (BM ’24, Jazz Trumpet)

This year’s 2024 Student Commencement Speaker is Jazz Arts senior Kellin Hanas.  At MSM, Kellin was a Resident Assistant, an International Peer Advisor, and worked as the MSM Student Government Association’s Jazz Arts department chair and Media and Communications liaison.

The 2024 MSM Commencement Ceremony will be held at The Riverside Church, Thursday, May 16.

Kellin spoke with us about her time at MSM, Commencement, and her words for incoming students.


Hailed in the International Trumpet Guild Journal as “one of the best up and coming jazz musicians on the globe,” 22-year-old trumpeter, composer, and comedian Kellin Hanas of Wheaton, Illinois, is a jazz trumpet student at Manhattan School of Music, and the recipient of the Carmine Caruso Scholarship. She is currently studying under Ingrid Jensen and Scott Wendholt. When she’s not at school, Hanas spends her time touring with celebrities such as Emmy- and Golden Globe-award winning actor Darren Criss, Grammy award-winning vocal group The Manhattan Transfer, and fashion designer and actor Isaac Mizrahi. She is the leader of her own band, the Kellin Hanas Quintet, which debuted in the summer of 2022 at the iconic Birdland Jazz Club in NYC, and now is traveling around the US. Hanas adds a unique touch of comedy into her shows, and has amassed millions of views for her original comedic content, stories, and characters.

How do you feel about being this year’s Student Commencement Speaker?

Kellin: I’m so incredibly honored, you have no idea! Being the class speaker is such a special thing to be trusted with; you have to represent hundreds of individual experiences and find a universal truth within your graduating class, all within one short speech. It’s also so special to me that I get to choose some words that will make my peers take a deep breath, drop their shoulders, and enjoy themselves on their big day. Everyone’s going to be internally freaking out a little bit, thinking about the future and worrying about life without school. I’m excited to remind everyone that they will be OK, and that we’re all in this together – I didn’t mean to make a High School Musical reference, but actually yes I did *wink wink*.

Looking back at the past four years, what is your favorite MSM memory?

Kellin: Of course I have many favorite memories within the Jazz Arts department, but my top-tier memories have everything and anything to do with my RA job. That job has been my everything, and I’m not exaggerating. From leading dorm karaoke with my friend and fellow RA Themba Pieterse to leading a pool of kazoo Christmas carolers from the top to the bottom of Andersen Hall. I think my most fulfilling times at MSM come from helping my residents. Every year since I became an RA, I’ve requested to run a freshman floor because I love to meet them and their parents, and make their first year comfortable. This has led to a lot of residents coming to my door and asking for advice on homesickness, friendships, etc. Sitting on my rug with my residents, hearing their story and telling them that things will get better is where I learned and made connections the most.

MSM's 2023–2024 Resident Assistants (RA's)

What would college senior Kellin tell high school senior Kellin?

Kellin: I was SUCH a baby senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I really thought that I was so mature and that I had so much life experience. I had no idea what was coming to me… I wish she could’ve been nicer to herself, and I wish she wouldn’t try to run away from who she was. All of my flaws, ignorance, and personal baggage came to the surface once I moved to college, and that caused me to be unkind to myself and others at points. Everything that I had pushed down since I was a child was making a special guest appearance, and I was scared. The crazy thing is, I’m still learning and still becoming my own person. I wish I could tell high school senior Kellin that it’s ok to feel, and it’s ok to let other people in. You don’t need to hide who you are or what has happened to you. Since learning that, I’ve been happier and have been able to create some of the best relationships I’ve ever had in my life.

Kellin senior in high school (L) and senior in college (R)

What would you like to say to anyone starting at MSM this fall?

Kellin: Get ready for such a special experience. First of all, you’re in New York City. Everything is here, it’s like a playground for musicians! Second, by studying at MSM you’re surrounding yourself with the best musicians on the scene, whether it be the faculty or your peers who are up-and-coming stars. It’s a place to be inspired and a place to be loved. A place to learn who you really are, not just musically but personally. A special note for freshmen: if you don’t find your people right away, don’t worry. They are on the way. You and your peers are learning how to live with others for, most likely, the first time in your lives. Give yourself and others grace, and you will be great!

My top-tier memories have everything and anything to do with my RA job. That job has been my everything, and I’m not exaggerating. From leading dorm karaoke with my friend and fellow RA Themba Pieterse to leading a pool of kazoo Christmas carolers from the top to the bottom of Andersen Hall.

What are your parting words to your class?

Kellin: Y’all… We have been through a lot. A lot of us lost our high school graduation, moved to the city on our own, and lost the first half of our college experience to COVID-19. We saw MSM when it was the only conservatory functioning in NYC. We performed concerts 20 feet apart from each other. Something clicked for us during the pandemic. We became wiser and grew a greater capacity for empathy. We are deep thinkers, sometimes, we may even think too much! But it’s because of this collective and niche experience that we as a graduating class are SO incredibly strong. We understand, love, and support each other. Commencement day is going to be such a special day for us, and I hope we can all look back on our individual times of struggle and be proud of ourselves that we pushed through.


Kellin performs “Good Folks” by Thad Jones

Dennis Mackrel conducts MSM Jazz Orchestra,
recorded September 28, 2022


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