The Catholic University of America

Tara Lakeman and Full Armor Band

Alumna Has Love of Music and Physics

Tara Lakeman never imagined that singing at a youth Mass on Sundays would eventually lead to the formation of a professional band, several CD recordings, performance tours throughout the U.S., and — oh yes — singing for Pope Benedict XVI.

But this May 2013 alumna, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, is so glad it did.

While she is currently enrolled in a master’s program in medical physics at SUNY Buffalo, she continues to travel the country, performing with the Christian/Catholic ministry band Full Armor. The band performs more than 60 dates a year in locations around the country.

Full Armor has gained quite a following, she says. Its musical influences range from modern folk to early blues, and include inspiration from songwriting pros like Paul Simon, Ingrid Michaelson, and David Wilcox. The band just released its fourth studio album titled “None The Same,” which is available on iTunes and at The album includes a song, “What I Pray About,” written after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, available at the website as a free download.

Band members also recently finished writing and producing a new spiritual retreat program for young people completing their Confirmation that uses songs from the new album as an interactive tool for various faith-based themes.

Music was an early love for Lakeman. “My best friend, Douglas, and I attended the same parish when I was growing up,” she says. “We got more involved in our parish and our faith through music. We were 10 and 12 years old, not very advanced in talent, but we joined the children’s choir.”

By the time Lakeman was 14 she had gone from singing in the children’s choir to taking voice lessons. Her friend, Douglas Hutchings (who now is the band’s business and booking manager), also learned to play the piano and guitar. “We did a few Masses at one church,” she says. “Then while in high school, a priest at a nearby church told us they had a Mass in the afternoon on Sundays they wanted to gear more for teenagers and young people, with a little more upbeat music.”

Other friends were brought in to sing and play guitar, keyboard and drums, and the band was born. “People liked the upbeat music, so we got asked to do more at neighboring parishes. We saved our own money to make our first CD. I think I was 15.” Then they started traveling to perform. “It was something we loved. We’d save our money to get to places.”

Lakeman said they heard about the possibility of playing at the youth rally in New York during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States in 2008. They submitted an audition tape and were selected.

“We played in front of 30,000 people. That was the most people we have performed for. It was an amazing experience.”

As the band members transitioned from high school to college or moved on to other interests, they’ve continued to perform together. Traveling was something “we just couldn’t stop doing. Throughout college, on average about two weekends a month, I would spend traveling,” she says.

While at CUA, Lakeman scheduled her classes around performance dates, and continues to do so now in graduate school. “Friends said I was crazy to do that, but I love it so much. And I have no plans of slowing down,” she says. The band’s 2013 summer tour gets under way in July. “We play a lot of youth events and school assemblies. So we found our niche,” she says.

And while music continues in her life, so has physics. As the only female undergraduate who graduated in May with a major in physics, Lakeman says, “I didn’t think it was too strange. But I think there should be a bigger focus getting more women involved in the sciences.”

When her graduate studies are complete, Lakeman would like to find a position working in a cancer research facility or a hospital. She says she hopes to earn a Ph.D.

Lakeman’s younger sister, Brenna, will follow in her footsteps at CUA as an incoming freshman this fall studying biomedical engineering. “She’s visited me a number of times and she loved it. I’m very excited for her to go to Catholic, and hopefully she’ll have the same great experiences I had.”

As for one of her best memories while at CUA, Lakeman says, “I couldn’t have asked for a greater group of friends than I made at Catholic. From that first year right on through. Experiencing faith with your friends is a rare thing, and I was used to that with my band. It was nice to continue that in college.”

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Tara Lakeman

Hometown: Otisville, N.Y.

Best place to study: The physics department library

Favorite classes: Quantum Mechanics and The Gospel of John

Favorite place on campus: Regan Hall, third floor common room

Best experience: Working as a manager of the CUA men's lacrosse team