Music Meets Mathematics at Sturgis

By Robin Singer, Mathematics – West
George Scharr

George Scharr Trombonist, Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra

Music and Math 003Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra and Cape Cod Conservatory of Music (CCSO/CCC), now joined as one organization, included Sturgis East and West in their exciting March outreach programs to schools on Cape Cod and the Islands.  George Scharr, Director of the Falmouth branch of Cape Cod Conservatory and Outreach Coordinator of CCSO/CCC, visited both Sturgis campuses to host a set of wonderful programs about music and mathematics.

Students in selected math and music classes heard about the relationships between music (defined by Mr. Scharr as “organized sound”) and math topics such as the golden ratio, trigonometry and pitch, and the mathematics of rhythm and harmony.  The talk included the mathematics of the harmonious cathedral at Chartres, animal rhythm (evidenced by Snowball,  the cockatoo), and the huge hands of Russian composer, conductor, and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff.  

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff


Mr. Scharr showed a video that provided an entertaining spoof on Rachmanioff’s hands by Igudesman & Joo:

IGUDESMAN & JOO – Rachmaninov had Big Hands


Not only did Mr. Scharr come out to entertain and teach our students, but he also distributed free tickets (courtesy of a generous donor) to the April 5 Cape Cod Symphony orchestra concert, to students and faculty who had participated in the talks.

This magnificent concert was described in the following article on the CCSO web site:

Letting Go

Sometimes the only way to catch your breath is to lose it completely. This music tugs at hearts and grabs souls. Nick Kendall plays by some rules and breaks others –and you’re so glad he does. He and composer/musician Chris Brubeck (son of late jazz legend, Dave) turned a three-day jam session into a raging violin concerto. Spontaneous Combustion is a fusion of classical, jazz, country and funk – with wiggle room for improv!  The result is brilliant. So was Tchaikovsky. But even geniuses have moments of self-doubt. After destroying a work in progress, he “put his whole soul” into a new one and “wept a great deal” while he was composing it. This symphony is Tchaikovsky’s autobiography: every deep, dark, desperate, hopeful, hopeless, happy and heart-wrenching moment. He adored his sixth symphony. It was his comeback.

Nick Kendall and Chris Brubeck

Nick Kendall and Chris Brubeck


During his presentation at Sturgis, Mr. Scharr had shown us that Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Pathetique has its recapitulation just at the point in the piece that the golden mean would predict, if he had been purposely using mathematics in that way.  Our students did a lot of thinking about how artists (visual artists as well as musicians) naturally find the magical mathematical relationships, without necessarily thinking in a consciously mathematical way.

Jung-Ho Pak Conducting the CCSO

Jung-Ho Pak Conducting the CCSO

After the concert,  our CCSO hosts included us in a “meet and greet” with the symphony musicians and their charismatic conductor, Jung-Ho Pak,  violin soloist and virtuoso Nick Kendall, and with Chris Brubeck (the hugely talented son of jazz great Dave Brubeck) who composed the violin concerto that was played by Mr. Kendall at the concert.  Mr. Scharr also provided brownies with the proportions of golden rectangles!

The program was a great way for juniors to begin to think about topics for Internal Asssessments (IA’s) and Extended Essays (EE’s).  Students were able to see how the learning in the IB Program can readily be connected with exciting topics and how much joy can be found through their exploration. We are also excited about the idea that this Music and Mathematics event is only the beginning of a beneficial relationship between Sturgis and the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra& Cape Cod Conservatory of Music.



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