Eleven members of the Mines Band, along with Teaching Professor & Music Program Director Bob Klimek, Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association Board President Ray Priestley ’79 and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professor Cathy Skokan '70, '72, '75, spent Spring Break (March 9-13) in Jamaica.
While in Mona, the group visited with the environmental science and engineering departments at the University of the West Indies to hear about their senior design projects and see their preparation for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers robot competition. In Kingston, they teamed up with the Alpha Boys’ School to perform in a five-hour recording session in the Tuff Gong Studio that was founded by Bob Marley in 1965.
Engineering physics student Nick Smith said his favorite part of the trip was recording at the studio, where Mines students had to learn, arrange and record a song in real time.
“We met the students the day before recording, and did not even start rehearsing a song until the morning of the recording session,” Smith said. “Once I figured out the chords, I ended up arranging many of the instrumental parts of the music, and guiding the players through the song as we recorded it.”
Smith plays many instruments with the Mines music department—bassoon in concert band, tenor saxophone in marching band, cello in the orchestra and bass in the jazz band. He wanted to make sure that even though he was not majoring in music, he still had a connection to the arts.
“The greatest way that music makes me a better engineer is that it gives me some sort of connection to humanity, rather than just being a number-crunching, science-doing machine,” Smith said. “I am currently taking an ethnomusicology course, where we study the music of different cultures and how the music is intertwined with their cultural history. Everything in music can teach you about the culture it came from, and this allows me to have a sense of humanity in my engineering.”
As one of the organizers of the trip, Skokan also juggles multiple instruments, playing bassoon in the band, violin in the orchestra and erhu in the Chinese Band. She is not only active in band, but also in the music program, where she organizes small ensembles. Skokan picked Jamaica given that it has a musical as well as technical component.
“Our music students at Mines are very well rounded and are able to use both their creative and analytic parts of their brains,” Skokan said. “We try to expose students to a culture different than in the U.S., but one that they might encounter in their professional careers. Because they have traveled and worked with people from other cultures, they will be more able to adjust when needed.”
In mid-March, the Music program received approval for a new Music Technology minor and will see its first graduates this fall. Next Spring Break, the marching band plans to travel to Dublin to perform in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu