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Piano practice offers this international student a small chunk of homework




When 20-year-old Yuehao Gao has a chance to practice on one of several pianos introduced in Ryder Halls music classes, he usually enjoys a challenge.

He can try Hungarian composer Franz Liszts La Campanella, an extremely difficult piece that requires skill. Or maybe a lesser-known sonata by Franz Joseph Haydn, or something completely different like Paradise, by Coldplay.

Despite the melody, the practice always helps the Beijing native feel a little more depressed.

The times when pianos were not available were difficult for me, says Gao, who has not been home for two years. When all our classes were far away, it was very isolating.

Photo by Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

The Northeast briefly switched to distance learning last spring as health officials tried to stop the spread of COVID-19. Classes reopened last fall after the university approved a rigorous testing schedule and a list of safety protocols across campus.

GAO is one of more than 13,000 international students pursuing the Northeast, a group that faced an additional level of uncertainty during the first months of the pandemic. Federal officials had originally moved to force international students to return home if they only attended distant classes, but Gao and others were able to stay in the U.S. because the university approved NUflex hybrid, which combines personal and personal learning.

I prefer to have watches in person. I have a much stronger sense of involvement, says Gao. Really is really the best way to meet people and socialize.

Photos by Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

Gao, who has played the piano since he was 5, decided to combine his lifelong love of music with computer science studies into a combined branch. He studies in the Northeast Khoury College of Computer Science and College of Arts, Media and Design.

The seemingly incompatible subjects are more than you might think, says Gao.

In my opinion, both require deep knowledge and experience, and both help me to increase my ability, he says.

Playing the piano is about how you handle the notes, how you interpret the music, and how you express your emotion. Computer science is about how we handle data and how we design algorithms. In my opinion, both are things that have to do with creativity and imagination, says Gao.

Photo by Matthew Modoono / Northeastern University

Hubert Ho, an associate professor of teaching in the music department and one of GAOS instructors, says he is encouraged by the wide variety of subjects his students attend. He has seen students combine their direction of music with physics or psychology as well as computer science.

Students are asking interesting questions that can be addressed by the methodologies of multiple disciplines, says Ho. Getting on the piano at Ryder Hall has helped a lot on the Boston campus.

As long as proper safety protocols are followed, it is extremely important that pianos are made available to students to apply what they have learned in the classroom, says Ho, who calls Gao by his nickname, Kevin.

They are important for music majors, from more talented students like Kevin, to non-pianists who can use pianos to increase their knowledge of a particular concept they have learned in class, Ho says.

Gao does not know what he wants to do to make a living, but says there is plenty of work available for his combined degree. Improving speaker technology at a company like Bose is an example, or working on software that helps composers mark parts on a computer.

While Gaos’ love of music came first, you also hesitate to love computer science – even if a degree was not his idea.

My parents recommended it because these skills are in high demand, says Gao. But now I’m quite interested in both.

For questions in the media, please contact [email protected].

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