“People, when they hear ‘North Carolina School of Science and Math,’ they think that’s all we do,” Chancellor Todd Roberts says in the accompanying video. “We are a comprehensive high school and have an unbelievably robust humanities program, including the fine arts – and truly world-class instructors.”
Roberts mentions Grammy Award-winning music instructor Phillip Riggs, as well as Scott Laird, the school’s nationally known orchestra director.
Katie Barnes from Ocean Isle Beach is researching cognitive neuroscience at Duke University as a senior in high school. But she was also pleased to learn she could continue playing her clarinet at the School of Science and Math.
“Yeah, I want to do neuroscience with my life,” Barnes says. “I never thought coming here that I would have a chance to continue on with my instrument that I played at my old school. So I can just continue playing my instrument, and it’s such a stress relief for me to do that.”
Students, faculty and administrators at NCSSM are well aware of the correlations between mathematics and music.
“Music is math – honestly,” declares 2014 NCSSM alum Chase Hicks. “The way that notes and pitches relate to each other, the way that chords are structured, the way that chords are placed in a song – it’s all based on mathematics.”
Riggs notes that functional MRI (FMRI) studies of brain activity have now documented what music instructors have known along.
“When students are participating in music ensembles, it’s one of the few things they do where both hemispheres of the brain are firing simultaneously. They’re having to make many decisions and many critical-thinking decisions,” Riggs says.
“It’s really amazing what the brain is doing – even more so in an ensemble setting, because it becomes more a community. It becomes more of a conversation, or language.”
Victor Yax, a senior from Sanford, is passionate about chemistry – but that’s not all.
“I wake up very early Saturday mornings while a lot of kids are still asleep here, and I’ll go into the music studio…,” he says. “I just love to sing, make my own music – I actually play about 10 instruments…. I think my favorite part about it would be spending 8 hours on just one song, just blending different vocals, having 12 different layers…. That’s probably the best part.”
The arts very much belong at a school dedicated to science and math.
“It’s a vital part of our school,” says Roberts. “It’s kind of the combination of when you have strong science and math, you have the humanities, and you want to allow students to bring out their creativity, because … that’s what innovation’s all about.”