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A Scientific Symphony

Astronomers’ musical talents shine at annual concert


The astronomy department’s David Bradford and Michael Gully-Santiago (CAS’07) perform at the department’s 14th annual concert. Photo by Harlan Spence

Nannan Zhong

Astronomers spend much of their time working with delicate instruments designed for highly specialized data collection and analysis. But once a year, the students, staff, and faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences astronomy department set those aside in favor of more widely available instruments, such as the piano and their voices.

The 18th annual MAD (Musicians of the Astronomy Department) concert is being held tonight at the Tsai Performance Center and features among its performers staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and children of alumni and faculty members. The series was started by David Bradford, the department’s systems manager, and Cindy Bradford, the assistant director of the Center for Adaptive Systems, as a social event for the department; now it’s a yearly celebration that invites current and former department members to perform or to just listen.

“Somehow, physics and astronomy seem to go hand in hand with music,” says Cindy Bradford. “We didn’t realize when we started that it was going to go for so long. But it seems to be going strong, and each year it’s a different collection of people, which is nice.”

Both Bradfords are pianists; their idea for a performance was sparked by a grand piano that sat in the department’s conference room on the fifth floor of the Arts and Sciences building. The first performance was held there, then the concert moved to the Castle and on to the Tsai Performance Center, where it has remained since 1993. While the early concerts featured only faculty, staff, and current students, the event has broadened over the years to include what David Bradford describes as astronomy’s extended family.

Most of the performers are enthusiastic musicians, Cindy Bradford says, but few of them had played in public before the series began. “It really motivates your practicing, I’ll tell you that,” she says.

The 18th annual MAD concert takes place Friday, April 25, 2008, at 7 p.m. in the Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Ave. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact David Bradford at bradford@bu.edu or at 617-353-4884.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.


One Comment on A Scientific Symphony

  • Scott Suchta on 04.25.2008 at 1:11 pm


    I vote that the MADness be Webcast for those of us too land-locked to attend. Will it be made available on HD-DVD, VHS, and Super-8?

    Best of luck to all performers! Break a leg.

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