Engineering And The Arts

Why I kept playing music in engineering school

by Brad Lock

My name is Brad Lock and I am an aeronautical and astronautical engineering student at Purdue University. As a junior in engineering, I average about six hours of sleep in a night and most of my time is spent in labs, classrooms, and coffee shops pouring over countless homework assignments and lab reports, trying to make sense of the latest heavy dose of mathematical concepts and data. In short, I do not consider myself to have a surplus of time.

So why make time for music? Surely, an extra few hours of sleep or some other engineering related hobby would be more obvious choice. However, I like to say that music is the thing that really keeps me balanced.

My Jazz Combo After A Gig

I attended Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, and was a member of the Revolutionists Jazz Band, the show choir and jazz choir bands, symphony orchestra, and played with a jazz combo. In addition to these musical endeavors, I was active in AP classes and in three sports. Even then, the chance to play music was a chance to express myself in a way that truly opened up the creative side of my personality. When the stress of these activites became overbearing, there was something magical about meeting with some of my best friends to play music.

In college, I made the decision to join the Purdue Jazz Band and the Boiler Brass, the pep band for the men's basketball team. By staying with music, I managed to keep the most important outlet that I have. Again, I have made some amazing friends and I have a place to create in a setting that is not dominated by the constant stress of engineering school. Music allows me to grow by stepping outside of my comfort zone in an accepting environment without the threat of a failing grade. Performance provides the chance to provide joy to others. The opportunity to put a smile on the face of a broad audience with something as simple as a bass solo is something that cannot be matched by a design project or a well-formatted plot of pressure ratios.

A Well Formatted Plot of Pressure Ratios

Playing in a combo means communicating with others in a far more emotional way than would ever be expressed in a team meeting. Writing a bass line over a series of chord changes integrates a whole different kind of math than could ever be expressed in an engineering derivation. I wake up at 5am to travel to a performance because my passion for music is more important than getting that extra sleep on a Saturday. It is more important because I couldn't imagine my life without music. I am so thankful to those instructors, friends, and opportunities that I had early in my life. Without those people and programs, I would never be the person that I am today.

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