Student Artist Spotlight: How Johnny Gossick brought music to an engineering project

When the engineering department created the senior capstone for Engineering Studies students, where they would design and build a musical playground on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, Johnny Gossick ’18, a former Anthropology & Sociology and Music double major, suggested the department use chimes as fences for the playground.

“What we designed was a musical fence to define the borders of the playground,” he said, “to lay the template to what could happen in the future with the playground,” adding that the fences are made of chimes for people to strike with sticks and create their own music.

Gossick did not know what he was getting into when he first got involved in the project, he said.

Gossick’s main task was to participate in the brainstorming sessions at the beginning of the project, where people would bring ideas of what the playground would look like aesthetically, and he would contribute with his knowledge in music and trying to incorporate that into the playground.

He explained, “with my intuition… I had to think about how could we actually design the pitches and the layout of the different cells and the different parts of the playground.”

According to Gossick, a lot of issues were raised about basically every factor that he could think of in this project, including “the height of the kids coming to play, how is this project going to influence the dog park nearby, etcetera.”

Though the project is not yet done and a large portion of the playground is still covered in grass, Gossick said he hopes for future engineers to finish building the whole playground.

“It would be great if students in future years who are taking the same engineering studies capstone can fill out the rest of the playground,” he said.

Gossick first studied music because of his passion for jazz piano and music composition. He soon discovered, however, his love for computer and electronic music. He then switched majors from Anthropology & Sociology to Computer Science his junior year in order to further pursue his passion for music.

“What brought me into computer science was my interest in music technology,” he said. “I started taking computer science and thought this is the way for me to keep this interest and make it a career.”

Gossick found that there was some difficulty in switching his majors. He said that because he needs to graduate on time, he has not been working on his music as often, but on Computer Science instead.

It was a difficult but cool experience working with engineers, Gossick said.

“I had to work with the engineers to come up with a feasible design that we actually have to implement…[finding the] right length of tubing and the right kind of material…[we had to] think of issues of sustainability, accessibility and a lot of other things.”

Though Gossick said that a lot of art is not really accessible, everything involved in the project that is soon to be built was “both interesting artistically and also accessible for everybody to play.”

He visions the playground to be a place “for artists to come and perform, or for…seven-year-old kids to hang out…Hopefully, people will use and share this space.”

About Dominic Zhang

Assistant Arts and Culture Editor, Double Major in Physics and Philosophy

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