Many of our readers have a musical bent. More than half of the 392 people who responded to our latest survey play a musical instrument. One-third play the piano, and another third play the guitar. Twenty-six other instruments round out the band, which includes bagpipes, didgeridoo, glockenspiel, and bouzouki.
The vast majority, 74%, play alone; 17% perform in informal groups; and 9% play in a band or orchestra. They consider themselves so-so musicians, rating their abilities an average of 2.7 on a 1-to-5 scale. Some aren't happy about it, either. As one reader remarked, "If I could play better, do you think I would be in science?"
Of course, there's the opposite end of the spectrum. One reader was a professional musician before becoming a research technician; another has produced two CDs. Others didn't fret about their abilities, or lack thereof, but commented on the close connection between science and music. "The band I play in has four PhDs out of seven people total. The chamber choir is full of [them] too," said one reader.
Others said playing music helps relieve stress, assist with scientific thinking, and even increase manual dexterity for lab work. Many wrote that they would love to play, or regret abandoning it: "I had to give up music when I started grad school. It's not compatible with 16-hour days in the lab."