Some eight Thayer School of Engineering students used their break time, engineering acumen and creativity to design and build musical instruments that will be used by composer Molly Herron. Herron will use them in a piece commissioned by the Hopkins Center for the Thayer School of Engineering’s 150th anniversary, with funding from the Hop’s three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aimed at increasing student engagement in classical music. Herron’s work is the third STEM Arts project, exploring how STEM fields–science, technology, engineering and mathematics–inspire music, and vice versa.
One of five roughly week-long courses offered by Thayer during the winter break in early December, “Acoustic Instrument Design” was taught by Herron and Thayer professors Ulrike Wegst and Vicki May. Herron gave the group specific challenges and requirements it had to meet, working as a team and individually. Two percussionists were guest visitors, both instructing the group on acoustic principles and performance concerns, and testing out designs throughout the building process. Herron’s piece will be performed in a free, public concert on Thursday, May 4, 5 to 6 pm, GlycoFi Atrium, MacLean Engineering Sciences Center, Thayer School of Engineering.
Photographer Rob Strong visited an instrument-building session in the Hop Woodworking Workshop. Herron (brown ponytail, gray sweater), Wegst (black sweater, red scarf) and Woodworking Instructor Greg Elder (checkered shirt) mingled with the students as they worked on their components.