MIT alumna Amanda Wang ’03 performed on the violin in Killian Hall last week with her group, the Ellipsis Piano Trio. Having just finished her doctoral degree in music at Boston University, Wang also competes with the MIT ballroom dance team. She took time Sunday afternoon to tell us about her experiences with engineering and music.
The Tech: How did you engage with music while at MIT?
Amanda Wang: I was in the Emerson music scholarship program and studied with Lynn Chang. MIT has a fantastic chamber music program. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a chamber music program of any of the schools I’ve been to. Marcus Thompson and David Deveau run the program, and they do a great job. MIT also has some wonderful composers on faculty, for example John Harbison, who gave us many chamber music coachings. The music library is a good place for a nap (and for music scores). Building 4 is always open to students who want to practice or rehearse. Ironically, I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to explore music than at a technical school.
TT: This may sound odd, but have you found any connections between music and electrical engineering?
AW: In engineering, you sometimes have a complicated problem, and you learn to divide it into steps, black boxes; you learn when faced with a tough problem to not panic. Also, I can now count to four. I know a lot of other scientist, engineers, mathematicians who play music.
TT: You just finished your doctoral degree in music. Do you get any strange reactions when people hear your undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering?
AW: Mostly they don’t ask. But when they do, they don’t hold it against me. There are many strong musicians at MIT, and I know many other non-music majors who have gone into music as a career.
TT: What was your dissertation about?
AW: My doctoral dissertation was on Penderecki’s Third String Quartet, which was written in 2008. Doctoral work in music is very different from engineering, because we write about things that others create.
TT: What’s your week-to-week schedule like? Do you perform often, teach, or study?
AW: Concerts are usually Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday during concert season (which is the regular school year.) My piano trio, Ellipsis Piano Trio, is just starting up, so we don’t perform as regularly as we’d like. We rehearse during weekdays from 10 to 4 p.m., and we take care of all our business then (bookings, recordings, publicity, rehearsals, etc.).
TT: How did the Ellipsis Piano Trio get started, and where did the name come from?
AW: We got started because we love chamber music and piano trios suit our personalities well. In a piano trio, there are more chances for us to play as individuals. Why ellipsis? It indicates an unfinished thought, which is how we approach music making — an open-ended, life-long process.
TT: What’s next for you?
AW: I’m looking around for a dog, around 30 pounds, shaggy, doesn’t bark too much. I could bring my dog to rehearsals since my trio mates don’t mind.