The Institute - March 2021 - TI-11

Engineering became this
wonderful respite from
performing. The engineering felt
fresh. The music felt fresh.
book Creative Ways of Knowing Engineer- International Conference, Dabby says.
ing. The chapter describes the OCO.
" There's always an upcoming perforOlin had only 75 students in its first mance, and it's another chance for stuyear, and the first conductorless orches- dents to raise the bar, " she says. " For
tra was composed of five engineering stu- students, it's a challenge and a neat way
dents, with Dabby at the piano. These to become better while doing something
days there are between 12 and 22 stu- they love. "
dents, all selected by audition, in the OCO.
The students select a piece to play, and PLAYING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC
Dabby creates an arrangement, adjusting Like many other schools, Olin closed its
the piece according to the instruments campus due to COVID-19. But that didn't
the students play.
stop Dabby from continuing to help stuEach year the musicians elect two to dents develop their performance and profour navigators who work with Dabby fessional skills.
This year's OCO navigators, Caitlin
to ensure rehearsals run smoothly and
communication lines remain open within Coffey and Jack Mao, continue to select
the group. Together, along with two pieces for the orchestra, and the group
rehearsal leaders, they come up with meets virtually. 
the agenda for that week's rehearsal.
Because the students can't play together,
During rehearsals, orchestra members each player records his or her pieces and
can share their thoughts regarding the sends them to Dabby, who mixes together
different interpretations of the piece the the audio to create the performance as if
group chose to play. The members play the students had played as a whole.
" We learn so much by hearing ourselves
each interpretation, and the orchestra
votes on which version it wants to perform. on playback, " Dabby says. " We hear what
All involved in the OCO learn how to lis- can be improved, and that inspires practen, when to speak, and when to refrain tice in order to reach a higher level of
performance. "
from sharing their thoughts.
Although the orchestra has often
" Employers see the Olin Conductorless
Orchestra on résumés and they're curi- recorded itself as a whole, its players
ous, " Dabby says. " It's actually helped have rarely had the opportunity to record
themselves playing their own parts. 
students get jobs. "
The program also has helped students
" The pandemic has unwittingly given us
during their time at the college.
a chance to help each musician increase
" It's a stress-reliever, " Dabby says. The his or her musicianship and technical
OCO " gives [students] balance in their skills through recording, " Dabby says. " Or
as the old saying goes: When life gives you
lives. "
The orchestra performs at school func- lemons, make lemonade! "
tions and travels once a year to play at -JOANNA GOODRICH
other venues. In 2019 it received a standing
This article originally appeared online as
ovation after performing at the American " Conductorless Orchestra Helps EE Students
Society for Engineering Education Zone 1 Fine-Tune Their Professional Skills. "


MAR 2021



The Institute - March 2021

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