Written by Caroline Welton
“Science is built on math, and music is built on math—intervals and specific tones,” sophomore Molly Buccola said. “That’s how they’re connected, and they both show God’s beauty.”
Molly is one of many students at Hillsdale who are interested in both science and music. This overlap may seem surprising, as at first glance there seems to be little relation between science and music.
I talked with three students who see music as a way to de-stress from their main academic pursuits. Sophomore Elizabeth Oeverman studies exercise science and takes choir and voice lessons. Senior Nate Gipe studies biology and plays in pep band and wind symphony. And Molly Buccola studies biochemistry, is the vocalist in the jazz big band, plays jazz piano, and plays the harp at events at home.
“I like science because it helps people,” Nate said, “and I like music because I get to do it with other people.” Nate’s older sisters both play musical instruments, so he grew up with music in the house. “Wind symphony especially is cool, because there are a lot of people from the community. So you get to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise.”
Molly said that she sees the beauty of God’s creation in both science and music. She loved music from childhood, long before she came to appreciate science her junior year of high school, and initially wanted to study music at Hillsdale. But when encountering the order and beauty in math, she came to love science too.
“No-one ever taught me the value of seeing all the steps laid out in math, and the ultimate goal seemed to be to get the right answer. But I didn’t realize that the ultimate goal is to do the process right, and see the logical flow.” This is also very similar to music, which is all about the process. The point isn’t to be done playing a song, but rather to play it beautifully—logically, perhaps—and to enjoy doing so.
Molly said she thinks Hillsdale is a good place to explore different interests, because faculty and other students encourage a spirit of inquisitiveness. “When I took biology in high school and asked why the proteins had such a complicated shape, my teacher told me, ‘Just memorize it.’ But at Hillsdale, my professor said it was because function follows form, and it’s part of the created order.” This environment which encourages genuine questions and robust exploration of ideas helps to foster Molly’s love of both science and of music.
Elizabeth sang in choir all through high school, so she put it as an interest when applying for college. “I didn’t expect them to put me in the choir class, but it’s been one of the best parts of my college experience,” she said. “I wanted to explore my different interests while I can, at college, with a good choir.”
Some students find connections between the two disciplines. Others simply enjoy exploring different interests, and this is made easier by Hillsdale’s environment, which strengthens diverse interests and encourages excellence in all skills, not just those in your major.
Caroline Welton, ‘22, plans to study Politics and Latin, and thinks one can always choose to have a good day. This is primarily done by laughing at oneself a lot, but is of course aided by pleasantries such as rainstorms, Beethoven, Russian literature, and long conversations with friends.
Published in November 2019