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There’s More to Life Than Tooling by Anna H. '14

You can, for example, write your mechanical engineering thesis and an original musical. At the same time.

May 9, 2011

The most exciting series of words you can ever hope to hear out of an MIT student’s mouth are these:

“You know what would be awesome?”
followed shortly by
“Wait…we could actually do this.”

These words are exciting, because MIT students take “awesome” and “we can” to a whole new level.

And that’s why this story starts with that question.

Julie H. is a senior in Mechanical Engineering, who arrived at MIT thinking that her musical days were over. Courtesy of the HASS-D requirement, she ended up taking “Harmony and Counterpoint” in her sophomore year – and is now double-majoring in Music. She discovered a love for composition, and, since she’s always loved musical theater, began to throw around the idea of writing a musical – but, in her words, “it was sort of a pipe dream” and she “never expected it to happen”.

Famous last words.

This IAP, Julie joined the Musical Theater Guild (MTG), and was Assistant Music Director for their performance of Jekyll and Hyde.

One day, at an MTG party, magic happened.

Rachel B. ’11: “You know what would be awesome? A musical about hacking at MIT.”
Julie: “I’ve been looking to write a musical! If you decide to do that, I will totally write music for you.”
*Cue lots of joking around*

*Pause.*

“Wait…we could actually do this.”

And it was thus that Hack, Punt, Tool, the musical, was born. Julie even managed to find an advisor, and have the project count towards her music major as an independent study.

Work began on February 6: Daniel L. ’12 writing lyrics, Rachel B. ’11 and Zach B. ’13 writing the script, and Julie writing the music. Every Tuesday evening, they meet from 10pm to 1am, along with other MTG members who are keen to lend ideas.

Today, MTG held their “selection” process, which occurs in two rounds. In the first round, people suggest any number or shows (usually around 30), and these are narrowed down to 4-6 shows for each production period. Anyone who has been in an MTG show in the past year can come, and cast his or her vote. There are four slots – fall, IAP, spring, summer – and the crew hoped that Hack, Punt, Tool would be chosen for fall or IAP.

Guess what? Julie will learn the trip from Connecticut to Boston very well next year, because she’s going to be doing a lot of commuting. That’s right: Hack, Punt, Tool was selected to be performed during IAP.

Hooray!

A little blurb about the storyline, in case you’re curious – a freshman comes to MIT, keen to get involved in the hacking community. All he wants to be is hardcore (there is, in fact, a song called “Hardk0re*”), but learns that there is more to hacking than that.

*Spelled like that. Now you HAVE to come see the show.

I’ll let a quick excerpt speak for itself (from the song: There’s More To Life Than Tooling):

“There’s more to 8.01
Than getting p-sets done
Studying alone you’ll find it rough
But in a group you’ll find
That with your minds combined
The hardest problem never seems that tough.”

Yeah. Pretty awesome. But as awesome as the product is, it can’t compare to its creator. You’ve heard a gajillion times that MIT students are time management ninjas, but this takes ninja to a whole new level.

Julie is a senior, which means that “springtime” is “thesis time”. I asked her what else she’s been up to while writing this musical.

I almost wish I hadn’t.

“Well, I’m writing my thesis, which is in product design. I’m taking 2.72 – Elements of Mechanical Design – where we design and build our own lathe. I’m taking Senior Seminar in Music, where we wrote a 20-page research paper on a field of our interest in music, and 2.674, which is a nanotechnology lab. Oh, and I’m in Concert Choir. I think that’s it.”

*Silence*

“Oh, and I’m president of RoboCup.”

Yeah, no big deal. It’s not like building autonomous soccer-playing robots would take up any time at all.

It takes a special sort of person to successfully juggle that many commitments, but what has impressed me above class titles and thesis projects and musical endeavors has been Julie’s smiley face. She’s NICE. AND CHEERFUL. ALL THE TIME. IT’S INCREDIBLE. There have been sleepless nights and what I would imagine has been a mind-bending amount of stress, but it never shows, and I admire her for that more than I can do justice to here. As I write, she’s sitting at her computer behind me, singing.

So, know this: music exists at MIT. At any given time, 30% of the student body is enrolled in a music class*. We have a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor who wrote an opera that premiered at the Metropolitan Opera. Working with the Musical Theater Guild is, according to Julie, “the most fun she’s ever had at MIT”.

*Credit to Daniel L. (lyricist and tour guide) for this statistic

So, if you get the chance to be around campus during IAP 2012, swing by during the last weekend of January and the first weekend of February, and bear witness to what happens when a few dedicated undergraduates pool their brains and energy together, and turn “what would be” to “what is”. See the result of an unbelievable amount of hard work – and understand what I mean when I say that, to me, Julie has redefined what it means for there to be more to MIT life than tooling.

5 responses to “There’s More to Life Than Tooling”

  1. Zizz says:

    Hurrah for Julie! HPT shall be awesome. :]

  2. Cheers and salutes to all the creators of the musical! The most I’ve written during undergrad were a few nerdy poems. I guess I was in the minority of time-management anti-ninjas tongue laugh

  3. kilanko paul says:

    thats lovely,combining geeklyness with an excellent musical novice career.This really changes the way i feel about MIT am loving the senergy and winning attidued.Just hope i join you guys come 2013

  4. Anna H. '14 says:

    @Daniel ’14: I was there too! It was AMAZING.

  5. Daniel '14 says:

    WOW I saw a reading today, and was tons of fun. “5 students! with BACKPACKS! They’ve gotta be up to no good…”