University of Rochester

EVENT: Physics, Music Come Together for Holiday Concert

December 8, 1999

The University of Rochester has long been known for its famed Eastman School of Music. Up river, its physicists are also known nationally for their contributions to our understanding of the cosmos.

Now the musicians and the physicists are joining together to offer students an opportunity to glean the best from both worlds. Thirty-two students in the University's Physics of Music course have spent the semester learning about the physics of sound and building their own flutes from plastic piping. This weekend the semester culminates with a performance where the students join an established group of musicians on stage to take part in a public holiday concert.

The "Physics of Music Flute Choir" will perform a medley of holiday favorites as part of the University's Wind Ensemble concert Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Strong Auditorium. The concert, part of a series of performances by the 70-member ensemble, is free and open to the public. The physics students will offer another performance at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14, in the foyer of Bausch & Lomb Hall on the River Campus.

"This may be one of the first times in history that a musician has conducted a physics of flutes choir," says Mitch Robinson, director of the wind ensemble, who invited the physics students to join the wind ensemble for the holiday performance. "It's a nice bridge between the two departments, and it's the holidays---always a good time to have fun with music."

When Robinson heard about the course, the Eastman professor offered to send a few of his flute-playing students to the class to help the physics students learn to play the instruments they had built. Physicist David Douglass readily accepted the proposal. While most of the students in the flute choir play a musical instrument, few have performed publicly, and most have never tried the flute.

"Dr. Robinson and I are both interested in the same thing: popularizing music to undergraduates," says Douglass. "The class is still incredulous that they'll be performing in public. I tell them they'll turn from frogs into princes and princesses by Friday. It's going to happen."