University of Rochester

Rochester Review
January-February 2009
Vol. 71, No. 3

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Engineering Musician David Heid Hometown: Erie, Pa. | Major Plans: Music Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering
photo of Heid

As a high school sophomore and singer, David Heid went to a college fair at the Eastman School and got swept up in the scenes of students carrying their instruments as routinely and comfortably as a backpack. He loved the atmosphere but wasn’t sold on pursuing music as a major. By his senior year, he still hadn’t decided, and in the meantime had been increasingly drawn to computer engineering.

Then he found out that he could get a dual degree at Rochester. Heid, a classically trained baritone whose high school chorus in Erie, Pa., competed regularly at the state level, sent in an audition CD that included a piano track to show that he was a well-rounded musician.

“I love piano but I didn’t have the repertoire required to audition with,” he says. “I only had one piece on there, and it wasn’t that great because I’d devoted more time to voice.”

Turns out he didn’t make it into Eastman with his voice. But soon a confused Heid was reading a letter announcing the date of his audition. For piano. He had two months to prepare three pieces.

“I was completely shocked when I got in,” he says. “This is the only school that allowed me to do music education and engineering. I had a disappointing experience with Carnegie Mellon. It was almost like a bad American Idol audition, when somebody isn’t too good but the judges are nice anyway. They didn’t believe me that I knew what I wanted to do, that I wanted to do music education and engineering. They thought I was too spread out. So this really is a dream come true for me. Now I get the best of both worlds.”

At his academically competitive high school, Heid showed an aptitude for math and physics and computer science, and was part of a class that churned out a large number of mathematics and engineering majors. Because of his interest in understanding how computers work at the hardware level, and in part at the urging of his parents, he decided to study computer engineering.

“The starting salaries just for an undergraduate degree are pretty promising,” he notes. “And if one thing doesn’t work out, there’s that, too. Although music is so much more fulfilling than engineering could ever be. At least for me.”

Heid, who is considering choral conducting and teaching music at the college level, hasn’t give up on his voice. He sings tenor in both the Eastman–Rochester Chorus and the Repertory Singers, is enrolled in a voice class, and he will be taking secondary lessons next semester, something he plans to do for the next couple of years.

“At another school, I could’ve taken lessons but not in an environment with musicians on a daily basis, where they understand what it’s like not to go out because you have to practice for five hours,” he says. “It’s a great experience here.”