Orchestrating Extracurricular Activities

From left to right: Emily Fung, William Gao, Melanie Kong and Jeremy Binagia

Emily Fung, William Gao, Melanie Kong and Jeremy Binagia

With an average 16-hour course load per semester, compared to the standard 12-hour, including challenging courses like intro to chemical engineering analysis or transport phenomena and out-of-class lab work, chemical engineering students often have to cleverly plan time for extracurricular activities.

Among those sharpening their time management skills are four ChemE musicians who play in The University of Texas at Austin Engineering Chamber Orchestra, or EChO. The unique thing about EChO is that it allows students to participate in a musical outlet on their own terms. Ensembles are free to set their own agreed rehearsal schedules and can even change their musical selection if members find something that better suits their musical interests.

“The engineering degree is a rather elective-restricted one, many of us don’t have a lot of extra time to take music classes or be a part of an official university ensemble,  join the university orchestra or the Longhorn Band,” junior chemical engineering student Jeremy Binagia said. “EChO lets engineers continue their passion of playing music even when taking a musical course is tough.”

At the beginning of each semester, prospective students audition so they can be placed in ensembles according to skill level, schedule availability and musical interests. Ensembles then practice together weekly while preparing to perform in a public concert at the end of each semester.

“This organization allows engineers to keep their hobbies alive and not let their passion for the fine arts die out,” EChO secretary and senior chemical engineering student William Gao said. “It’s also a great way to meet new people because it’s a multidisciplinary organization for people that have a common interest.”

In addition to semester concerts, ensembles can be hired for special events and host social events, such as Breakfast Eat & Play and Picnic Jams. EChO also promotes music throughout the local community by volunteering to perform at places such as the Austin Children’s Museum and Dell Children’s Hospital.

There are currently 90 active EChO members representing all engineering majors on campus. However, EChO is not exclusive to engineering students. There are several members from other colleges including the College of Natural Sciences. Current EChO President Atticus Crowe is a computer science major.

Some students use EChO as a way to explore new instruments or different genres of music. Emily Fung, a senior chemical engineering student, originally joined EChO and participated as a piano and viola player. However, this semester she decided to learn guitar.

“I like the friendly and non-competitive atmosphere of the organization, which brings together a bunch of engineers who enjoy listening to music and making music,” Fung said.

Students interested in joining EChO should fill out a new member pre-audition form available on the EChO website at the start of each semester. Prospective members have to complete a 2-5 minute audition in front of EChO officers so compatible ensembles can be formed.

“EChO embraces all musicians, not only classical instrumentalists,” junior chemical engineering student Melanie Kong said. “EChO embodies perfectly the connections between music and engineering. Music relies on mathematics and science as much as engineering requires creativity.”


Video of EChO members in action







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