Sean Harkin '15

School of Music | School of Humanities and Sciences | Music Performance | Physics

Sean Harkin '15 has never been afraid to do his own thing. As a bassoonist, he got used to being one of a kind.

“I lived on the north fork of Long Island, and I was the only bassoon player on the north fork. The only one,” Sean says. So when it came time to choose a major at Ithaca College, Sean wasn’t worried about taking a different approach from some of his peers.

Many students go to college and make a decision: to focus on one field of study, learn about a specific area, and pick up related courses along the way. But some students, like Sean, have more varied interests. The young bassoonist had discovered a passion for science in high school and wanted to include both music and physics in his educational journey. At Ithaca College, an emphasis on cross-disciplinary learning made it easy for Sean to combine these very different fields and discover a career that draws from each.

“Acoustical engineering really brings them together. Musicians play in spaces all the time, and some are good spaces and some are just bad spaces,” says Sean. “As a performer I know that a good space involves good reverberation times. You will get liveness in the hall, your sound will be carried, but you don’t want it to be too live. If everything’s reflecting too well in the hall, you can get echoes, and it can make everything kind of muddy.”

Working with Luke Keller, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Alex Perialas, associate professor from the School of Music, Sean is doing an acoustical analysis of IC’s Ford Hall auditorium. The analysis will help determine what acoustical improvements will be made during upcoming renovations. “We’re looking at frequency response and reverberation times in Ford Hall to get a quantitative measurement of why we think the renovation has helped.”

Sean also landed a summer internship with SoundSense, an architectural acoustics firm on Long Island, where he worked alongside engineers to develop his skills.  The internship helped Sean realize that his decision to combine music and physics was the right path for him. “Talking to the CEO about everything I would be doing caused me to realize that I’ve never been as excited. That’s really what I want to do. That’s my passion.”