March 15, 2024

Globally recognized tech universities are not typically associated with musical arts programs, but at WPI it is no secret that music plays a key role in its culture. This is why students are christening the historical inauguration of Grace J. Wang, PhD, as the school’s 17th president with their musical talents.

Electrical and computer engineering and computer science double major Robbie Oleynick ‘24 is composing an original brass ensemble for the event. For Oleynick this is more than an independent study project toward his music minor; it’s his unique way of storytelling.

“Doing an original piece for this inauguration is a cool way to capture how important WPI believes the humanities are in our education,” he says. “Music tells a story, and I want to convey emotions that help the audience feel something that can’t be felt textually.”

Oleynick’s composition, titled Limitless, will be performed by the WPI Brass Ensemble (13 brass instrumentalists and two percussionists).  

“With this piece, I want to convey the emotion behind innovation and pushing forward,” he says. “It’s a unique opportunity to bring new light to concepts that are important but have been overstated in text.”

According to WPI’s director of music ensembles, Joshua Rohde, about 1,600 students participate in the university’s music program each year, and there are 18 faculty-led ensembles.

“For many of these students who come to WPI because of its music program, music is one of the most important things we do on campus,” said Rohde. “Which is why the inauguration should reflect what is important to the students.” 

“The musicians here are talented but, more important, they have this understanding of balancing what it means to be a performing artist and what it means to be an engineer or a scientist,” said Oleynick. “I think that is what sets us apart from any other school; at WPI we have both sides of our brains engaged.”

The full-day inauguration will feature performances from the Brass Ensemble, the Pep Band, the Concert Band, a string quartet, a jazz group, piano players, and the student choir.

“Our favorite thing to do is perform in public, and we love performing for the WPI campus,” said chemical engineer major and chorus club president Joey Berthiaume ‘25. “Being able to perform our talents and being able to show our passions at such an exciting event feels electric.” He says musical groups like the choir take a lot of pride in their performances, especially for new audiences.

“People who typically show up to our events enjoy choral music and live music,” says Berthiaume. “At the inauguration, we will be performing in front of some people who have never seen or heard us before and it gives us a desire to do especially well for those people.”

The inauguration of President Wang will take place on March 22.