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Blending Math With Music

For anyone who finds no parallels between mathematics and music, Thomas Mease will prove you wrong. Mease is the new business officer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Office of College Advancement and has been balancing the books for NC State for 15 years. He also plays flute for three orchestras, including the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, and has seasonal concerts at prestigious locations including the White House and stunning European cathedrals.

“Playing flute offers terrific balance to my accounting work,” Meade says.

Early Starts

Mease’s family adored music. His father grew up during the Great Depression, when music was used to entertain children. He sang soothing songs like “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Sweet Adeline” at home. Mease began playing flute in fourth grade.

After earning his master’s degree in music, Mease got his first job as a middle school band director in Bertie County. Eight years later, fearing burnout and wanting change, he studied accounting and computer studies.

“I changed careers so I could preserve my energy for my music,” he says.

The risk paid off and Mease was surprised to find he loved accounting as much as music. His first job at NC State was as an accounting clerk for the creamery then bookkeeper for the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, computer programmer then accountant and business manager for CALS. His new position, as business officer for CALS, began this fall.

Mease frequently travels abroad when performing with the International Flute Orchestra.

How Music Helps

Mease sees considerable crossover between mathematics and music. Rhythm is a subdivision of time, he says, snapping his fingers and counting to three. Rhythm is taking a pulse and turning that pulse into triplets. Dollars can be divided into quarters or dimes in the same way.

“Acoustics and money can all be expressed as equations and functions,” Mease says.

He also finds flute playing offers a counterbalance to his work. In the garden outside his office he plays a tune from his new Japanese base flute. The sound is soothing, mellow and rich.

Through music Mease often travels. Next May he performs with the International Flute Orchestra in Madrid and previously he’s performed in Slovenia, Croatia and Turkey. One year he performed for a Habitat for Humanity concert to raise earthquake relief funds for Haiti. This fall he performs for the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra at Meredith College. The performances are exhilarating, he says, and he appreciates the support of his NC State friends.

“My colleagues are amazed and wish they had maintained their music,” he says.

The drawback of course is the rigorous practice and rehearsals. But Mease says through time management, music never interferes with his work. He thinks more employees should do the same.

“There is some place in the arts for everyone. Music is joyous, so any sacrifice is worth it.”

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