The Harmony of Engineering and Music

male holding guitar
male playing guitar

By Michelle A. Monroe

Systems Engineer Kevin Connors, a lifelong musician, has always found time for the two greatest loves of his life: music and mechanical engineering.

After graduating from high school, he explored different paths — holding jobs in carpentry, masonry, construction and as an airline fleet service clerk — before deciding to pursue a career in engineering.

At the same time, Kevin — who has been singing since he was a child and taught himself to play guitar in high school — was also pursuing his passion for music by writing songs, playing guitar for friends at parties and performing at open mics.

“I did a bunch of covers the first time and then I played some songs I wrote at the next open mic, and I could see people really liked it,” Kevin said. “It’s a thrill to create something.”

In 2017, his interests converged when Kevin enrolled at a community college and began taking introductory night classes in engineering, biology and computer science as well as signed up for choir. He said he was pleased to find that many of his choirmates were fellow engineering students.

“I was a little surprised at first, but then it made sense because there’s a lot of math in music,” he said. “If you have a good math brain, it's likely you have a good music brain as well. I felt like I had found my people.”

In college, Kevin was able to balance his passions; he took engineering classes, taught himself piano and started a music club at school. After earning his associate degree in engineering, he transferred to the University of Minnesota where he continued taking choir but also got involved in aerospace extracurriculars such as the high-power rocket team.

Songwriting is similar to engineering design in that you’re finding new vantage points and tweaking things, whether to fit into your song or to mesh with certain satellite components.
— Kevin
Systems Engineer
male playing guitar

In May 2022, Kevin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and was hired into Northrop Grumman’s Pathways Program.

Now in his first rotation, Kevin is a mass properties systems engineer, making sure satellites stay under their mass requirements as they’re being built, and next, he hopes to do computer-aided design — all while creating music in his off time.

“There’s inspiration in trying different things,” Kevin said. “You add and reorganize things here and there. Songwriting is similar to engineering design in that you’re finding new vantage points and tweaking things, whether to fit into your song or to mesh with certain satellite components.”

Kevin is a member of the Westminster Chorus, a men's a cappella choir and a barbershop chorus called the Coastliners, a vibrant community of current and former aerospace professionals, including Northrop Grumman alumni.

He sees many parallels between his responsibilities at work and his time spent on stage.

“In the chorus, everyone brings their own voice and strengths, and it makes the group better,” Kevin said. “You're one voice of many different parts to orchestrate a song. That's like at Northrop Grumman where everyone has their separate positions contributing to the larger picture that orchestrates a whole program."

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