While not all academics are in agreement, it is often said that there is a connection between an aptitude in mathematics and music. Notwithstanding the science on this, I feel that I can speak to the topic with some personal authority given that I studied both at university level – and hold post-grad qualifications from the Conservatorium at Monash University.
For me, actually, maths came first. Although, I had been ‘musical’ for some time, I couldn’t read a note until I started high school. Before that, I learned everything by ear. This is a talent not to be discounted, as it taught me to pay attention to detail – a skill which has held me in good stead.
Once I started to learn music theory I loved it. There were so many things going on at once. It was so complex, yet so simple, once you were in in on how it worked. And then you get to use these complexities to ‘create’ – not only to compose tunes but to perform music. I loved untangling, the entangled mess of the choral parts at rehearsal. And then at performance, you got applauded for the results of all your hard work.
It is not only the analytical skills that a talented musician or musicologist has, that I consider to be very similar to those needed for STEM. Rather, the ability to consider so many different things at once – pitch, timing, tone, tempo, dynamics and expression – is a skill that can only assist in finding solutions to complex problems.
So, perhaps it is time to get a little brave and start promoting STEM to our female music prodigies. The key, in my view, will be to show them that they can be creative in STEM too!