Who’d have guessed? The Friars are (pretty much) all EECS and engineering students!

Everyone in the U-M a cappella group is enrolled in an engineering major or minor – and their timing is great.
Photo of the Friars
The Friars

Is there a connection between music and engineering? Take a look at The Friars, and you might be tempted to draw that conclusion.

The Friars are a small group offshoot of the U-M men’s Glee Club, a nine-person a capella ensemble that is… one more than eight. According to their website, they bring “mirth and music to all mankind – from the Pizza House to the White House, South University to South America.”

Not only do these slightly irreverent crooners have a sense or humor, they all also happen to be enrolled in engineering programs.

Five of the Friars are pursuing majors in EECS: Nicholas Antony (Computer Science),  Kyle Coon (Computer Science and Film), John Marinan (Computer Engineering), Jess Schmidt (Computer Science), and Kevin Yan (Computer Science). 

Two are pursuing CS minors: Jack Kernan is a Robotics major (who is also pursuing a minor in Music), and Reilly Buckley is a Communications and Film major.

The remaining two Friars – Brenton Svacha and Carter Krumins – are pursuing engineering majors in Biomedical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering, respectively.

So is there a special link between engineering and music?

Jack Kernan’s not certain, but he seems willing to embrace the idea: “I’ve heard many people talk about the connection between engineering and music and The Friars seem to support that connection so maybe there is something to that! I do think it’s hilarious that if we count Reilly’s CS minor, every single Friar is in CS or Engineering. I don’t know enough about psychology to say anything for certain, but the patterns are definitely there!”

When he’s quizzed, Carter Krumins describes the balance that music brings to his engineering studies: “Throughout my educational career, I’ve found that in stressful times, I tend to lean into certain music genres. My personal favorite genre for relieving from a stressful day is Jazz. I believe that music can act as solace from the cold and calculating world of engineering. The freedom of mixing and matching notes and chords in Jazz to form melodies is something mathematics and engineering has a hard time explaining. Because of this break from solid ‘right and wrong’ of engineering, I keep music tightly interwoven into my educational career.”

Coming at this from another perspective, Kevin Yan has a take on the similarities that can be found in music and engineering: “While engineering and music may seem to be very different at first, I think there is more similarity than most give credit for. Like many aspects of engineering, music is built from fundamental building blocks, i.e. notes, chords, harmonies, melodies, rhythms, etc. Combining these building blocks together using both strong fundamentals and artistic creativity creates the music that I love. Not to mention, planning, problem-solving, and teamwork are all vital skills for a successful acapella group to come together and take the notes from a page and turn them into reality.”

Finally, Brenton Svacha adds, “For me, I chose biomedical engineering because, while I have always had interest in technology and science, I have always wanted to have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of others. In BME, we focus on making the quality of life of healthcare workers and patients easier through the use of innovation in biology. In this sense, music also provides this sort of intimate connection between myself and others — through our shared love for creating and performing music, we are able to create memories which will remain with us for the rest of our lives.”

Well, there you go. However you slice it, there’s no denying that this crop of Friars are inspired by both music and engineering. Or, as Kevin Yan summarizes, “Also, engineering and music are fun :).” Sounds like the best answer to us.

You can learn more about the members of The Friars in their profiles on this page.