Engineering Students Outnumber Others in Music Technology Course

David Johnson discusses music technology with his students during the spring semester.
David Johnson discusses music technology with his students during the spring semester.

Across the country, universities have recognized a trend in engineering students engaging in music-related activities and enrolling in music classes for electives. Students in Mercer’s School of Engineering are no different and benefit from the availability of music classes offered through Mercer’s Townsend School of Music.

During the Spring 2008 semester, Assistant Professor of Music David Johnson found that engineering students made up more than half of his Music Technology course enrollment.

“Music Technology is an elective aimed at music students who have already completed the theory, keyboard and musicianship skills courses. This semester, I was fortunate to have five electrical engineering students, all with a little music background, enrolled in the class,” Johnson said.

Much of the class took place in a computer lab, an environment familiar to the engineering majors. “We have a G5 Macintosh computer, a Kurzweil 2500 musical keyboard, a midi device and an MBox2 soundcard,” Johnson explained. The students in the class learned multiple software applications to complete assignments, including Sibelius for computer notation, Digital Performer for midi sequencing, and ProTools for editing and mixing digital audio.

“These are the programs we use to compose music,” Johnson said. “We also spend some time setting up microphones and getting our way around a mixing board.”

What may sound like a cakewalk for engineers is anything but, said engineering student Derek Cook. He notes that the engineering students benefited from studying alongside music students and learned a great deal from them.

“For our final project, we all had the opportunity to spend some time in Fickling Hall learning about recording, and we actually recorded music and sounds to use in an electronic music composition,” explained Cook, who graduated in May. “It was not an easy class. We had a lot of work to do, but it was a very rewarding and fun class.”

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