How many of you ham radio operators are also classical musicians? (I’m using “classical” loosely here, the way NPR does — not merely referring to the classical period per se, but broadly referring to all music of higher artistic expression.) I’ve always been intrigued by this kind of simultaneous development of artistic ability and scientific/technical ability. I’ve long heard that the two complement one another nicely, e.g. I’ve heard that musicians make better programmers.

Rehearsal of Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra (Kristi Brackett, Photographer)

Right now I’m working hard with the Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra to get ready for an upcoming performance of The Messiah by George Frideric Handel. Ham Radio has taken a back seat in my life during this seven-week project (as well it should, if we have our priorities straight). Yesterday’s rehearsal in the Twin Cities was exhilarating, and once again proved that the 2 1/2 hour drive to get there is definitely worth it. Dr. Tom Rossin is an outstanding conductor, and the choir is so good I have to pinch myself sometimes to see if my place there in the bass section isn’t just a dream. (If any of you happen to be in the Twin Cities on the weekend of March 9-11 and would like to hear The Messiah in its entirety, send me an email and I’ll email you a coupon that will get you two tickets for the price of one.)

Music was part of my life as a boy before I became a ham, but it didn’t blossom until 13 years ago at the age of 31. That was when my brother Tom (NØBSY) got me involved in a cappella shape-note singing from The Sacred Harp. This taught me how to sing parts; without it I could never have gotten into choral singing the way I have. My first choral work was with Exultate, singing Bach’s Mass in B-Minor, followed by Brahms’ German Requiem (in Rutter’s English translation). Since then I’ve been involved in a small choir here in the church, too. All of this has been a huge surprise to me. Up until I was 31 years old I was afraid to sing in front of other people, and I couldn’t sing parts if my life depended on it! So if any of you think you can’t sing, think twice — you might be surprised at what has been lying dormant in those vocal chords of yours, just waiting for the proper nudge to burst forth into beautiful song.

I see Tyler Pattison, N7TFP, is not only an accomplished ham radio operator but an accomplished musician. Along with his excellent tutorials for ham radio operators, Tyler has also posted a video of his performance of Charles-Marie Widor’s Toccata in F from Symphony No. 5. In this video you can see the organ from Tyler’s perspective, not only as a musician but as an electrical engineer. He is bringing both sides of his brain to bear upon the magnificent task of rebuilding and upgrading this organ — and then making beautiful music on it.

How many others like Tyler and myself are out there? If you are a musician and an amateur radio operator, what do you think? Has one influenced the other in your life? How?

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].


  • W0FMS:

    I am an out of practice organist (originally) that transitioned to piano. I’ve unfortunately put that on the back burner… but when I do have time to play.. even though I’m not nearly as good as 20 years ago I still love it.

    Music is a great hobby, and will always be a big part of my life also, even though I’ll never be good or great at it.

    As for putting “ham radio on the back burner” I’m actually pretty embarrassed to still be listed as a “regular contributor” at AmateurRadio.com as I’ve not been active on the air in more than six months.. I’ve not ‘blogged in almost that lone and I have 3-4 open projects that I’ve not been able to work on either. But I have far from given up on either hobby.

    It sounds like you are doing something great, keep it up!

    73, Fred W0FMS

  • Byron N6NUL:

    I was first licensed in 2008 and started piano lessons (my first ever musical training) in 2009. In 2010, I learned CW.

    So, there’s that.

  • wb5b:

    i have been a ham over 50 yrs, most hams are close to the best in some field not related directly to ham radio, stop and talk to people at a ham feast. i recently had shingles, bad headaches that can be helped by relaxing, found on the Internet that 1/2 hour of soft classical music can equal 2 grams of Prozac, DON’T OVER DO, meanwhile i need to find out easy way to stuff that music into small ear bud player so that i can lower these headaches with VIRTUAL Prozac. 73 dick wb5b

  • Todd Mitchell, NØIP:

    Thanks for the comments, fellows.

    Just a couple more days to go till dress rehearsal, and then a three-day weekend full of performances!

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