Sports injury sparks music interest for Littlestown native
When Tom Senseney traded in his javelin and running shoes for a guitar and amp after injuring his hamstring during his sophomore year at Gettysburg College, he started playing music full-time.
More than four years later, Senseney hasn't looked back as he spends most of his free time perfecting his craft as a musician.
"Without my injuries in sports, I don't know if I would be doing this at all," the 24-year-old Senseney said.
Senseney received his first guitar while in middle school from his uncle, but decided not to take it on as a hobby, as sports interested him more.
His time at Littlestown Senior High School was filled with basketball, football and more, not belting out notes or learning how to pluck at his six-string.
"Littlestown is definitely a great small-town place for sports, so that was much more of a natural fit," Senseney said. "I played with my guitar every once it a while, but not enough to learn anything."
So when Senseney got the news that he would have to end his collegiate track career, he knew he had to dedicate himself to something else.
He started practicing the six-stringed instrument in his room when he was 20, learning how to play songs that were charting at the time.
After three years of playing for only those who could hear him at home, his family convinced him to attend an open-mic night at The Pike in Gettysburg about a year ago. After his performance, the venue booked Senseney for more shows.
"I've been pretty local my whole life, so starting to play in bars and clubs around here made it more special for me." Senseney said.
Soon after Senseney started playing shows, he caught the attention of Rob Simon, host of the "Under The Radar" show at radio station WQXA in Harrisburg.
"I enjoy some of the twists he puts on well-known songs," Simon said. "His friendly personality really shows through when he plays, which is great to have in today's music scene."
Senseney's mashup of "No Diggity" by Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen and "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz caught Simon's attention.
"You would think from his stature he would be solely a country artist," Simon said. "But he's versatile and really does a little bit of everything. He's a universal artist."
When not playing shows, Senseney works as a financial advisor in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
Senseney's self-proclaimed biggest fan is his mother, Juanita, who said Tom starting singing around the house when he was young.
"At first he wouldn't look up at the crowd, but when I would show up, his confidence would grow," Juanita Senseney said. "Music is a stress reliever for him."
Throughout his career, Tom has dealt with stage fright. Tackling this fear, he says, could help bring his career to greater heights, Senseney said.
"I've become more and more comfortable every time I play," Tom Senseney said. "I'm trying to get more involved with the crowd and have participation with the songs I play. I've come a long way but I still get nervous."
Senseney tried to battle his nervousness when he auditioned for "America's Got Talent" last year. After a few successful rounds, he was cut the round before the televised auditions.
He received a "front of the line pass" for the audition, which means you can bypass the line of other hopefuls and go right in, Senseney said.
"I hate drawing attention to myself, but it was really great to see how many people they wanted to see me over," Senseney said. "Getting a callback was big because I knew they saw something in me."
Auditioning for the show wasn't his idea, however.
"I really didn't want to do the audition at first, I was just unsure about it," Senseney said. "But my family got me to do it and I'm very glad I did. I learned I had to take more chances like that to get where I want to go."
Another big supporter of Senseney is his girlfriend, Brooke Watts. They met through Senseney's younger sister and they've been dating for about a year. Watts serves as Senseney's manager and road crew as well.
"I'm probably his biggest fan outside of his mother," Watts said.
Senseney says he has two dreams in music: to participate in a large festival and to work with a famous singer. He doesn't have a particular singer in mind, however, since he's been inspired by a variety of voices.
"So many different people influence me, and it's kind of weird to explain what kind of artist I am," Senseney said. "When I say I believe I'm a cross between Jack Johnson and a young Jason Aldean, people don't understand it until I play."
Senseney cites Johnson's acoustic feel and Aldean's country upbeat nature as his two biggest creative inspirations, but once he starts playing, Senseney knows where we wants to see himself.
"I would love to support myself going from town to town playing shows," he said. "I want to do more and make this work. I can't wait to see what's next for me."