Author Archive | Jason Haaheim

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Well-Documented Failure

One of the funny things about being a former scientist in the orchestral field is encountering musicians’ perceptions of a “scientist.” Among people already in scientific fields, this really isn’t something that ever comes up — we intuitively understand the basics of what we do, and the day to day machinations of our jobs. And this cuts both ways: among orchestral musicians, there are lots of things we can assume as understood when it comes to the rhythms of our lives that are non-obvious to outsiders. Thankfully, I see a growing number of orchestral musicians keenly aware of the need […]

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Why did MUSIC win the “cagematch”?

Okay, so as discussed last time, my “science vs. music” situation wasn’t really a “cagematch”…or even Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. I did not experience my education as a zero-sum competition for my identity, with one field’s gains necessitating the other’s losses, ultimately leading to “victor” and “vanquished.” Instead, I’ve always found science and music to be overlapping and mutually reinforcing. They augment each other. They are cross-pollinating. I wrote that, for me, music and physics “are really just different directions on the same axis. We seek outward on that axis of curiosity to better understand the universe and our place in […]

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Science vs. Music: the CAGEMATCH

(or, “Being a Liberal Arts Human-Venn-Diagram”) “So…do you miss science?” I get asked this question a lot. Which I totally understand. I’m a “human venn diagram” after all, with seemingly disparate skill sets that overlap in unusual ways. Specifically, I’m one of a small handful of players in major orchestras who’ve had full and totally different careers prior to winning a big audition. I currently know of four others: Mark Almond, the recently-appointed co-principal horn of the San Francisco Opera who previously practiced medicine in England; Steven Hendrickson, the former principal trumpet of the National Symphony who was previously a […]

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“I LOVE YOU!” should sound different from “and NOW YOU DIE!”

I have a great job. I’m an opera timpanist, and I get to do that at the Metropolitan Opera — the biggest performing arts institution in the western hemisphere — home to the grandest of grand opera. And I do mean grand opera. It’s basically western civilization’s most opulent expression of human drama. Almost nothing else can compare in terms of scale, scope, depth, integration, and raw emotional impact. All of our most essential human stories are there. You can always find parallels to your own life in the great works of Verdi or Wagner, Puccini or Strauss, Mozart or…more Mozart. […]

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How Did a Scientist Become Principal Timpanist of the MET Orchestra?

Because I did. I was senior scientist at a nanotechnology company in Chicago for 10 years, and now I’m a tenured member of the great MET Orchestra. But something about this unusual path seems to have stoked some creative legends. I consistently get variations of the following: “I heard you were like some scientist guy, and then one day you won the audition for one of the most competitive timpani positions in the world even though you’d never studied music.” Ummmm…. WHAT?! Yeah RIGHT. I’m also 8 feet tall, kill men by the hundreds, and shoot blue force-lightning from my […]

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