Engineering student maintains healthy balance through music
Right brain, left brain – the artistic and the logical. Both are important, and both are exercised differently. But they’re not independent of each other. You can’t have one without the other, and even if you could, you really shouldn’t.
As an electrical engineering major, senior Georgia Snelling has to lean on her left-brain affinities – logic, analytics, sequencing, mathematics, facts. The technical nature of her studies requires this, but if she did nothing but saturate her thinking with hard logic and facts, it would leave her mentally exhausted.
That’s why she turns to music, a right-brain specialty, to balance it all out. She started playing the violin when she was in fourth grade, and in high school, she struck a creative nerve the first time she played a steel drum. From then on, she was “in love with percussion and all things music.”
Music became so important to her that it was also a deciding factor during her college search. She knew she wanted to be part of an outstanding engineering program. The next most important item on the list? That there was a steel drum ensemble she could participate in.
Northern fulfilled both of these “must-haves” with ease, and she mentally committed to ONU when she was still a freshman in high school. The fact that there are no music major-exclusive ensembles at Northern – meaning any student, regardless of their major, can audition for any ensemble – was a huge draw for her, and it couldn’t have made for a better fit.
At Northern, Snelling is involved in Marching Band, Wind Orchestra, Steel Drum Band, Percussion Ensemble, African Drum and Dance Ensemble, and the Chinese Music Ensemble. She’s quickly become an integral part of each ensemble she’s in, and she’s bonded with many fellow musicians, students and faculty alike. She’s become a fixture in the ONU Department of Music and one of its most valued non-music major ambassadors. She even helps recruit new students during audition days.
“Parents always love finding out that if music doesn’t work out for them as a career, their students can still be active in what they love,” she says. “It’s nice because a lot of people who go to these events aren’t music majors, but they just want to continue their music. So, they like hearing it from a non-music major that you can do it.”
Her musical involvement has given her so many opportunities, including two trips this fall – one to Japan with the ONU Marching Band and another to Dallas, Texas, to perform at a conference with the African Drum and Dance Ensemble. Her favorite trip, however, was when she visited the birthplace of steel drumming in January 2018 to participate in Trinidad and Tobago’s annual steel drum competition. It was something she’d wanted to do since high school.
It changed my perspective – I feel like sometimes in America we take for granted steel drums because it’s a big thing over there,” she says. “I value it so much more now, and my steel drum is actually from Trinidad, so I value my steel drum even more now because I saw where it was built and I got to meet the man who built it for me.
Dr. Sarah Waters, associate professor of music and director of the steel drum band and other ensembles Snelling participates in, has become a close mentor to Snelling. She not only traveled to Trinidad with her, but she’s been a constant source of support and encouragement. Waters is thankful for their friendship and the contributions Snelling has made to the Department of Music.
“ONU music relies on students like Georgia,” says Waters. “The non-majors (as we call them) are vital to our success. Our performing groups would suffer greatly without their participation. We love being able to nurture the creative and artistic side of the ONU student – they have a passion for music that cannot be held down.”
Of course, her studies in engineering are still priority number one. In fact, her musical activities have helped her become a better engineering student. It has facilitated the budgeting of her time and energy between everything she’s involved in, and there have been times she’s had to skip a rehearsal to work on a pressing project, to which she’s met with nothing but understanding from music professors. Most importantly, though, it provides an effective outlet to relieve stress and balance herself.
It’s a nice escape because if I have a bad day or I’m stressed, I can take a step back, go to Presser Hall and practice or be in an ensemble, and it’s just absolutely amazing,” she says. “And then all the engineering teachers are super-supportive of you going over, and you can tell them about a concert and they will sometimes go.
It’s because of the support she’s received from her faculty in the T.J. Smull College of Engineering that she’s been able to have such a great experience in music at ONU. When she went to Trinidad, the faculty members worked with her to help her make up labs, exams and homework assignments so she could be successful in both her musical education and education as a burgeoning engineer.
“It is important to be intellectually diversified as an engineer,” says Dr. Heath LeBlanc, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, who’s been particularly supportive of Snelling’s musical endeavors. “By investing time and effort in learning and improving in a variety of areas, our students learn to make unexpected connections that help them to gain insights. It also fosters curiosity, which helps in motivation to continue learning in each area, both within their academic program and beyond.”
Just like Snelling, Ohio Northern students have many sides. Their passions are not just one-dimensional, but multi-faceted personas that all play into each other and combine perfectly to make each student unique. This phenomenon does not happen by coincidence at ONU. Our campus and culture are designed to encourage even those in the most intense academic programs to pursue their other interests. Snelling sure is thankful for that; her college experience wouldn’t be the same without it.