Counting on music
Every summer, Furman Fellowships are awarded to five members of the upcoming senior class who are recognized for their remarkable leadership skills, scholarship, and community service. Winners receive a monetary stipend toward their final year at Furman. Remarkably, for the Class of 2017, two of the five Senior Fellows are double majors in music and math.
A Wylie Math Scholar from Reston, Virginia, Ian McConnell has always studied math and loved music, so it’s little wonder he couldn’t decide between them. “My real love is writing music and math helps me understand how to write songs,” McConnell explains. “Math enables me to take ideas and break them apart and put them together logically so it follows a natural pattern of thinking. It also helps me understand the form and structure of a musical piece.”
The principal cellist in the Furman Symphony Orchestra comes by his interest in music naturally. Both his parents studied music at Furman, where they met. At age 3, McConnell begged his mother to let him take piano lessons, but she wisely made him wait a year. He added the cello at age 9, and in high school he was forced to give up one instrument in order to make time to play baseball and basketball for his school. He chose to keep the cello.
Thanks to the Furman Advantage, McConnell spent the summer after his sophomore year researching the use of mathematical clustering methods to predict how a batter would perform against a pitcher in Major League Baseball. “I’m really glad I did that because it showed me what I didn’t want to spend my life doing,” he reflects. “If I hadn’t had that experience, I would probably be considering going into data sciences right now.”
Instead, McConnell is headed to Nashville after graduation to try and make a name for himself writing and performing country music. He spent last summer in Nashville building an impressive network of writers, publishers, and producers, which he hopes will give him a leg up. “My biggest aspiration is to be a touring musician with songs on the radio,” says the budding songwriter. “If I can make a living from music, that’s my dream.”
Piano performance and applied mathematics are what keep Lattie Reddoch busy. Reddoch, who has been playing piano since she was 5 years old, long knew she wanted to major in music, but felt she wanted to pursue another subject too. She picked math because it dovetailed with her view of the world. “I take a very logical and rational approach to things,” says the senior from Calhoun, Georgia, “and math jibes with that.”
Reddoch performs with the Furman Singers and Twelve Peers, and served as the assistant director for the musical Shrek. She also shares her time and talent as an instructor for the Piano for Young People program and as a volunteer for Project Host.
Though she counts the Furman Concerto Competition she won in 2014 to be one of the most thrilling experiences she’s ever had, Reddoch considers her recent senior piano recital among her greatest achievements in college. “I never pictured myself being able to perform as calmly as I was able to and enjoy the performance,” admits the young pianist.
It was during the summer Reddoch did research in optimizing socio-economic differences in schools that she realized math has potential to help people. That realization led her to an internship with the Department of Defense last summer, and a job offer in applied mathematics this year. In August, she will move to Maryland to begin her new job at the DOD, but piano will play a part of her future too.
As she winds up her last year at Furman, Reddoch is grateful for the relationships she has forged here. “So many of my math faculty have come to my music performances, and when I presented to the math department, some of the music faculty came,” she reports. “I’ve been blessed to have that cross-discipline support. It’s overwhelming how much the faculty has believed in me throughout my time at Furman.”