Music is a Hit for Materials Science Major

Rosalie Vitale grew up in a musical family. There are instruments all around her family home in Hatboro, Pennsylvania. It’s not surprising to know that she is a musician. How she came to choose her instrument, though, is a little surprising.

“When I was young, my brothers and his friends would always form bands, and I wanted to be part of it,” she recalls. “But my hands were too small to hold a guitar. The one thing I could hold was a pair of drumsticks. So, I became a drummer.”

 Vitale at a drum kit.

Throughout high school, Vitale became a leader among percussionists. She mentored younger musicians as a section leader in the marching band and was president of the jazz band. She also spent her time in high school cultivating another of her deepest interests.

“I’ve been into science my whole life,” Vitale says. “In high school I took AP everything: biology, chemistry, physics, statistics and calculus. If there was a chance to do advanced study on something science-adjacent, I took it.”

When it came time to choose a college, Vitale wanted to know first-hand if any of her prospective institutions would allow her to pursue her personal and academic passions at the same time. In her research, she learned about Drexel’s performing arts program, which welcomes students from all majors and even offers scholarships to certain students.

In the summer before enrolling, Vitale auditioned for concert band, jazz ensemble and percussion ensemble, earning scholarships to play in all three. She has since also become a member of the Drexel University Symphony Orchestra

As a third-year materials science and engineering major and a member of the executive board for Material Advantage, a professional organization that welcomes students with interest in the field, Vitale has learned that a challenge curriculum and extracurricular activities can take a lot of time. But she still finds time for music.

“Everything moves a mile a minute, even compared to other engineering schools. It’s really exciting,” she says. “But that’s a lesson you learn when you play drums: no matter what, you keep going. If you miss a beat, you can fix it next time, but you keep playing.”

One of the benefits that helps Vitale keep her involved is that performing arts students receive priority registration. “Your schedule can set you up for success for the entire term,” she says.

Vitale also says that the closeness of the community within her the Department of Materials Science and Engineering helps her stay connected to her studies.

“It’s a close-knit family,” she says. “If I were in a bigger discipline, maybe I’d get lost in the mix. But in MSE, I’m on a first-name basis with all three of my advisors and I can talk to any of my professors at any time. And the students really make a point to help each other out.”

Ultimately, Vitale is glad for the opportunity to pursue two interests at the same time, and to find that at Drexel, she’s far from the only one doing it.

“The cool thing about these ensembles is there isn’t a ‘jazz ensemble’ major,’” she says. “They aren’t music majors, because Drexel doesn’t have performance majors. They’re people who are doing it because it’s their passion, and that’s exactly what I am.”