The Engineers’ Orchestra: A Conductorless Orchestra for Our Time
Performance skills—leadership, teamwork, and communication—can make or break an engineering career. Critical for success in life, they empower engineering students to reach their greatest promise as professionals, citizens, and individuals. But how to develop these skills in engineering students through experiential practice? Blurring the line between art and science offers one route via creative engagement: playing in a conductorless orchestra. A conductorless orchestra cultivates leadership, teamwork, and communication week-in and week-out during rehearsals and concerts. The only conductorless orchestra in the world composed of engineers currently resides at Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA. Its rationale and blueprint nevertheless translate to other institutions. Developed over the past 14 years, that blueprint features a set of core values with clear expectations, a student-focused organizational structure, bonding and team-building pursuits, seriously fun musical games, and professional feedback. In short, the Engineers’ Orchestra offers engineer-musicians a project-based learning lab where they build—emotionally and intellectually—effective leadership, collaboration, and communication, while doing something they love—creating music.
KeywordsConductorless orchestra Leadership, engineering Teamwork, engineering Communication, engineering Music, brain
Many thanks to Founding Librarians Lydia Carver and Dee Magnoni of the Olin College Library, Administrative Assistant Paul Coveney for his organizational and artistic help with the OCO concert programs, Asst. Vice President and Director of Communication Joe Hunter for his skill and creativity producing music videos of OCO, photographer Michael Maloney for documenting the Music Program at Olin with panache, artist Ellen van Deelen for allowing use of her imaginative photo in Fig. 2, Assistant to the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Susan Johanson for generously giving her time since 2002, Founding Dean of Admission Charlie Nolan for his inspired and steadfast support of OCO, current Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Emily Roper-Doten for continuing momentum, President Rick Miller, Provost Vin Manno, and Boston University neuroscientist Judy Schotland for suggestions on the manuscript, and to past and present members of the Olin Conductorless Orchestra—all of whom made this orchestra a reality. On a personal note, deep appreciation to the OCO navigators of the past 4 years: Philicia Chow, David Pudlo, Jacob Kingery, Evan Dorsky, Shreya Rangarajan, Katie Hite, and Eric Westman.
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