Shifting Gears: Rutgers Engineering Graduate First Pursued Musical Career
By Manya Goldstein
Published May 7, 2018 in Rutgers Today
The interplay of the left brain and right brain is epitomized by Gregory Mueller, whose greatest passions are music and math. He says the two disciplines kept him grounded throughout childhood and gave context to his adolescent life. But when the time came to choose a focus for college, he faced a strong internal debate: Music or engineering? Engineering or music?
Ultimately, Mueller just couldn’t see himself sitting behind a desk all day. And so music prevailed – at least for the time being.
On May 13, Mueller will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Rutgers-New Brunswick’s School of Engineering. In July, he will join the digital design team at Harris Corporation in Clifton, New Jersey, working as an electrical engineer.
Mueller might seem like any other engineering graduate on the cusp of his career, but his graduation serves as a major shift in a life devoted to music. The California native made the initial decision to pursue music in his junior year of high school. From that point onward, he spent all of his time pursuing an array of musical endeavors – orchestra, drum line, jazz band, marching band, percussion ensemble and musicals.
Mueller began his formal music education at Indiana University, determined to capture a position in a national orchestra. After graduating, he traveled to the Northeast to continue his orchestral studies at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers and learn from the New York and Philadelphia musicians on faculty. When he graduated from the Mason Gross School with a master’s degree in music in 2010 without an orchestra position lined up, Mueller took a job working the front desk in the school’s music department to supplement his income as a freelance musician.
“I played for musicals, local orchestras, Afro-Cuban jazz groups, shekere ensembles, brass bands, churches, avant-garde operas, new music experiences and more,” he said.
At the same time, Mueller also started working heavily in the field of audio and video production. As his tech skills improved, he found himself fascinated by the way the equipment worked.
“In particular, I spent most of my time trying to understand how the signal processing algorithms I used at work actually functioned,” Mueller said. “After some research, I discovered that electrical engineers were almost entirely responsible for the majority of the design and implementation of the tools I used day to day.”
In 2015, he decided to take the leap and formally pursue engineering.
“I asked to change my day job at Rutgers to include running the newly minted recording studio at Mortensen Hall on Douglass campus in addition to attending school full time at Rutgers. Fortunately, my supervisors were extremely supportive and gave the go-ahead to start my engineering odyssey,” he said.
Despite his switch in professions, Mueller has no intention to neglect his musical side. He believes his musical expertise helps him succeed in the right-brain dominated world of engineering.
“The verbal and nonverbal communication skills used in the music world help me with the soft skills needed to convey engineering ideas to tech and nontech-minded individuals,” he said. “I look forward to pursuing music for my own personal fulfillment for a change.”