One of my biggest fears applying to engineering schools was that I would lose my love for music and performance.  In high school, I spent about five hours a day certain times of the year in theatre and dance rehearsals, and played piano often at home on the weekends.  Many high school students have heard of the ominous “Sleep-Social Life-Schoolwork” triangle (choose two, if you’re lucky)—if even this was difficult to achieve, how would I ever balance a “Sleep-Social Life-Schoolwork-Please Let Me Find a Creative Outlet as an Engineer” square?

The ominous “college triangle”–a myth, in my experience

USC stood out to me as a school where every engineer I talked to successfully had a “plus”—many were music minors, performed in an improv group, or took fun electives like International Ballroom Dance (DANC 188A, which I would highly recommend).  Even in my junior year at USC, this semester has held more opportunities than I could have dreamed for me to reconnect with my passion for music and performance.

This semester, I had a few units to spare and decided to take both a one-on-one voice lesson, and a private piano lesson at the Thornton School of Music.  Over the semester, I have brushed up on my sight-reading skills and got the chance to play songs such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Burgmuller’s La Candeur, and worked on my acting and voice techniques through a performance of “She Used to be Mine” from Waitress.  This week I had my final voice recital and got to perform in front of a group of friends and Thornton faculty.  I was incredibly nervous beforehand (pro tip: wear a sleeveless recital outfit to avoid pit stains), but once I got on stage I felt at home and remembered how much I love performing.

My final voice recital

Even if I choose not to schedule music into my classes, I spend a lot of down time relaxing with my keyboard or hosting jam sessions with my roommates—most of my engineering friends share this passion, and my roommates bring classical guitar and ukulele to the mix.  This semester, I even invested in a cheap microphone that connects to my computer, and I’ve gotten to make a few songs on my own and with friends using a basic editing software in my free time. 

USC offers great resources to pursue music and performance, and especially being in Los Angeles, I have never been lacking in musical inspiration with the rich variety of concerts and culture around LA.  This year, I even got to go to Coachella with a group of friends (and yes, I did cry from joy when I got to see Childish Gambino and Tame Impala). Music is a huge part of my life as an engineer. However you find your creative outlet in college, it’s an important thing to make time for—plus, an important thing to take advantage of while being at USC and in LA!

Nothing beats the views at Coachella–palm trees and live music!

Madelyn Douglas

Madelyn Douglas

MAJOR: Electrical (Computer) Engineering YEAR: Class of 2020 HOMETOWN: Bethseda, Maryland PRONOUNS: she/her/hers