Alexa Chalnick

TikTok star Alexa Chalnick ’23 turned setbacks into successes by embracing creative resilience and daring other artists to join in.

young girl stands on a chair with a microphone to her mouth.

Alexa Chalnick (center in pink) started making music and performing at a young age. 

“Don’t be afraid to get lost in the life you want to have,” advises Alexa Chalnick ’23, a social media influencer, musical storyteller, and muse for over a million TikTok followers including major celebrities like Lil Nas X.  

Alexa, a music major, is living out her own advice. As a result of the social media platform she built during her first year of college, she has already contributed to American Songwriter magazine and written songs for the Disney Channel. She’s also been nominated for iHeart Radio’s TikTok Songwriter of the Year.  

Part of a musical family, Alexa started performing at assisted living facilities at a young age. “I grew up learning just how impactful the arts can be,” reflects Alexa about watching audiences cry...and laugh. “Even if you go through a really hard time, as an artist, you can always lead people to big feelings that might’ve been locked away.”   

When Alexa first toured IC’s campus, she felt adventure calling to her and had a sense that “amazing things were going to happen.” She loves the natural beauty of the area, inspirational fuel for her creative life. “I remember walking around and just knowing that this was where I was going to be.” 

But then—Alexa didn’t get into IC’s musical theatre program. 

Determination, Detours, and—Duets  

After the initial shock, and disappointment, Alexa sprang into action. “I’m a determined cookie,” she laughs. By the next day, she’d applied to IC’s Exploratory Program. This time, she got in. With her eye still on musical theatre, Alexa then auditioned for the School of Music (now the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance) and, working with IC advisors, switched her major twice more before she even started classes.   

Just as Alexa was about to dive into her first semester at college, she lost her voice because of an upper respiratory infection, which turned into a vocal injury. “I was a singer who couldn’t sing!” she shared. While waiting for her voice to heal, Alexa started to write songs for the first time. For fun, she downloaded TikTok—and shared pieces of what she’d written.  

During the COVID lockdown, Alexa was posting from home. When TikTok added its Duet feature, Alexa invited people to sing with her, leaving Mad Lib–style spaces for them to fill in. Her first duet post in April 2020—a request for duets to “If I Could Tell Her” from Dear Evan Hansen—became so popular that Dear Evan Hansen’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts reposted many of the duets.  

“It was insane because I was such a Broadway lover,” says Alexa about the post that drew her international attention. “It was such an amazing light in my life.” Her success eventually burgeoned into connections with Broadway stars such as Laura Bell Bundy and other celebrities including Lil Nas X, Andy Grammar, and Miranda Sings. 

With her growing connections on Broadway, she ran a series of “Sing for Alexa Saturdays,” free master classes where students workshopped songs with original cast members from shows including Dear Evan Hansen, Waitress, and Heathers. 

"Be open and honest. There’s only one of you. The more that you can incorporate some of you into the video and show either pieces of you or content that isn’t usually seen, that sparks more attention than another dance video, in my opinion.”  

A Singular Voice Empowered 

As Alexa navigated global fame, she was still recovering from her vocal injury. She found support from many of her mentors at IC such as dawn pierce, her voice teacher. “dawn’s empowered me to be the driving force behind my own education and has been a huge support in my original work,“ says Alexa. “She is such an amazing human because the way that she gets at the vocal mechanism is by getting to the person themselves.”  

Alexa’s digital audio professor, Alex Reed, showed her how to record and compose—and she often tried new material out on him during his office hours. In other classes, she found new interests outside of music. “Now, I've discovered these deep passions for photography, for drawing, for painting, for biology—huge surprise. I don't think I ever would've discovered that if not for being able to have that opportunity.” 

For aspiring social media influencers, Alexa believes the best TikToks are authentic and singular: “Be open and honest. There’s only one of you. The more that you can incorporate some of you into the video and show either pieces of you or content that isn’t usually seen, that sparks more attention than another dance video, in my opinion.”  

Alexa’s own posts continue to be infused with her deep devotion to music and art, and her natural exuberance for life. “I think that I realized that my ‘brand’ is just me, and I’m always going to be changing,” she notes. So, what’s next for Alexa? Besides finishing school, she’ll be releasing more of her songs and a podcast musical—part podcast, part meditative experience. And, as always, she’ll be inspiring audiences all over the world through her singular verve, vision, and voice. 

BTW: Watch out for Alexa’s latest “pirate–fairy vibe,” all about the beauty, adventure, and everyday magic of life. 


A collection of introductions to the Ithaca College story—about those who continue to write it.
Previous Slide Next Slide
Lisa Corewyn and Kari Brossard Stoos

Lisa Corewyn & Kari Brossard Stoos

Collaborating Wildly

From IC to Costa Rica, two faculty members forged an unexpected and unwavering partnership to save an endangered species.

Read On
Jorge Grossmann

Jorge Grossmann

Bridging Divides

Music’s power to bridge divides helped shape Professor Jorge Grossmann’s life during an adolescence spent among several cultures.  

Read On
Tim Reynolds

Tim Reynolds

Making Every Step Count

Scaling business, mountains, and TikTok, Ithaca College professor Tim Reynolds ’12, DPT ’14, knows how to gain a foothold on unexpected terrain.

Read On
Raevyn Goodson

Raevyn Goodson

Navigating Tough Times

Whether juggling 12-hour hospital shifts or a 4-hour time difference for virtual classes, Alaska native Raevyn Goodson knows how to keep her cool.

Read On
Antara Sen ’22 and Professor Beth Ellen Clark Joseph

Antara Sen & Beth Ellen Clark Joseph

Landing Out-of-This-World Opportunities

On a NASA mission, Antara Sen ’22 and Professor Beth Ellen Clark Joseph set national research and lifelong friendship into motion.

Read On