Springer School and Center students’ eyes lit up as Jim McCutcheon demonstrated the connection between music and science by tracing every step in the process of sending one musical note from his brain to those of his listeners.
The 2015 Norita Aplin Musician in Residence concluded his December residency with a ukulele concert given by a group of Intermediate students who worked with him throughout his stay.
In demonstrations with individual classes, McCutcheon used an oscilloscope to turn an electrical signal into a visual display, and then added a speaker that translated the signal into sound. Using a strobe light, he made the vibrations of a tuning fork and a guitar string visible to the students. “The ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ when the children see the strobe light effects are wonderful,” said McCutcheon. “One student gave the ultimate compliment: ‘I want one of those for Christmas!’”
McCutcheon worked with two small groups of Intermediate students, teaching them to play the ukulele and helping them to write their own music. These students performed both McCutcheon’s music and their own at Springer’s Winter Assembly on December 18. “The program was really fun,” said student Max Rohs. “I learned that I enjoyed playing the ukulele!” Gannon Gockerman found the experience very interesting. “It’s good to learn music and science at the same time,” he said.
“Working with the small groups, teaching them ukulele and creating songs about scientific concepts has been wonderful,” said McCutcheon. “Some of the students initially expressed insecurity about performing for a few hundred people, but they have all risen to the occasion.”
McCutcheon has been on the faculty at the University of Dayton Music Department since 1978. He is also a faculty member at Wright State University and Miami University. With Bachelor’s degrees in physics and music, and a Master’s degree in music education, McCutcheon is well qualified to connect science and music in students’ minds. He has published several recordings and books, and owns McCutcheon Music in Centerville, Ohio.
“I love working with the students at Springer!” McCutcheon remarked. “They are so responsive to new ideas and experiences, and they’re clearly excited to be involved in the process of learning about connecting things one might not expect to be connected, such as music and science.”
In its 19th year, the Norita Aplin Musician in Residence program honors Springer’s former Executive Director for her 14 years of leadership.