Brandon Stephens, a senior at Belmont University allowed me to interview him and pry his thoughts about why he decided to pursue both music and math in college. Math and music may not sound like they go together, but in reality there is much more common ground than one would think. Everyone has a unique story as to who they are, and this is one story out of billions in the world, so what is yours?
1. Why did you decide to pursue your degree?
"I think the main reason that I decided to go for a double major, particularly such an odd combination, is because I hate being tied down to one subject. I have such a high regard for learning, and so I wished to learn as wide a variety of things as I could. I've played violin since 3rd grade and always enjoyed it. I've always had a particular fondness for math, so that also seemed like a good choice."
2. Why do you enjoy math?
"My fondness for math probably started from home. My mother was a math and Spanish teacher, so I always found myself drawn to those subjects, as normal conversations could center around these subjects. Math also has this capacity to explain the world around us in such a simple methodical way that I also enjoy."
3. Why do you play the violin?
" I started playing violin in 3rd grade and immediately loved it. I mean, one main reason that I continue to play violin is because I couldn't see myself not playing it, after having done it for so long. Music also is a great way of expressing oneself. I think that every piece has a story to tell, and I enjoy interpreting the piece to tell my version of the story."
4. What similarities have you found from both fields?
"There are quite a few obvious connections between the two: music theory, acoustics, et cetera. But aside from those, there is a certain connection found even within the kind of thinking required. Common societal views think of math as a "right brain" activity, one relying completely on logic, whereas music is a more "left brain" activity. In reality, there is definitely more of a mixture.
5. Would you ever want to combine a career with music and math?
"I think it's definitely a distinct possibility, but most of my learning thus far has been focused on the two subjects independently. I'd probably choose one over the other (although I have no idea which I would choose). No matter what, they both will be a big part of my life"
6. What are you doing with your summer research?
"My summer research is studying a field of math known as abstract algebra. It sounds really complicated, but it really centers around the idea of symmetry. It analyzes structures, such as groups, rings, or fields, and looks for important characteristics of them in hopes of mimicking real life structures."
7. What has been your hardest moment pursuing your degree?
"If I had to choose a hardest moment, I would probably pick last semester (spring of junior year), as I was preparing for my junior recital, which required a lot of energy and focus which detracted from my other studies and got me a little behind in an independent math study. It all got done in the end thankfully though!"
8. What lessons have you learned going through college and pursuing your career?
"Time management is probably one of the biggest skills I've picked up. Just learning to budgeting my time and make progress in both my math studies and my violin practicing has been a huge benefit. It's also taught me new ways of thinking and connecting ideas that would have been harder to learn doing one alone."
9. Any final words?
"Don't be afraid to pursue what you want to pursue. People might say it's too complicated or too "out there", but really anything is possible as long as you are willing to put in the effort."
Interview with Brandon Stephens was conducted on July 21st, 2016.