Alumni Profile – Jason Haaheim ‘01 Posted on May 2nd, 2016 by

Jason-Haaheim-06Jason is currently Principal Timpanist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  He earned his Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from UC- Santa Barbara in 2003.

“The last 16 years of my career path have been, well…somewhat unique and unorthodox. I double majored in physics and music at Gustavus, went to grad school for electrical engineering, yet now I have the incredible privilege to play as a tenured member of one of the finest orchestras in the WORLD. On paper, my pedigree is not supposed to be competitive with Music-Conservatory Trained Super-Musicians. But I made it that way. And I owe a lot of that to how I learned about learning and thinking at Gustavus.

Learning physics at Gustavus gave me indispensable skills, and cultivated an entire way of thinking about problem solving, and being methodical – thinking about THINKING. Physics is always useful. Olin Hall is a crucible of young minds getting really good at analytical problem solving.

To the extent that, even today, as Principal Timpanist of the MET Orchestra – where part of my identity is obviously “musician” and “artist” – I still very much consider myself a physicist and engineer. It never really leaves you. And I leverage it daily. As I’ve gone through my career, my physicist side could be meticulous about refining musical training processes, while the artist could inform the engineer with creativity, spontaneity, and a deeper consideration of WHY we do what we do.

The benefit of hindsight has let me really appreciate what Gustavus is all about — the true value of a liberal arts education. I believe it is extremely important to do what you love because you LOVE IT, not because of some future intangible outcome…over which you likely do not have full control. Engage in the PROCESS. Love the PROCESS. Do NOT do it just for the results. This is a core part of my philosophy: I pursued music not because I needed an orchestra job — the orchestra job was attainable because I pursued music at the highest level and embraced that process.

I see these different threads of my education as uniquely Gustavian and absolutely pivotal to my successes. For me, music and physics augment each other. They are cross-pollinating and multiplicatively enriching. Gustavus is not a place you go to simply acquire knowledge – you go to learn how to learn, and what you truly value. My four years at Gustavus gave me the ability to take stock of my life and distill what I really wanted to do with it.”


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