Thengvall marches toward engineering future with band experiences

Calendar Icon Sep 15, 2023      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed  RSS Submit a Story

Simon Thengvall, a senior in mechanical engineering, plays trumpet in the Cornhusker Marching Band.
Simon Thengvall, a senior in mechanical engineering, plays trumpet in the Cornhusker Marching Band.


When the Nebraska football team takes the field on Sept. 16 for its home-opening game against Northern Illinois, it will also be the season debut of the 2023 edition of the Cornhusker Marching Band, which includes 56 students from the College of Engineering.

Among the Nebraska Engineering students taking the field with the marching band will be trumpet player Simon Thengvall, a senior mechanical engineering major from Omaha, Nebraska.

Thengvall, who expects to graduate in May 2024, is also the president of UNL's Research Engineering and Design (RED) Teams, a registered student organization which has for more than a decade competed in NASA's Micro-G NExT and SUITS challenges. In those challenges, student teams design devices and programs that NASA might utilize or modify for use on space missions.

Before starting his fourth year with the "Pride of All Nebraska," Thengvall discussed his engineering career and his marching band experiences:

How long have you been with the Cornhusker Marching Band?

"I've been a member of the Cornhusker Marching Band for all four years of my time at Nebraska. Ever since I was very young, I've wanted to march with the CMB, and I started realizing that dream could become reality when I marched in high school at Millard North. Both of our directors there marched in the CMB during their college days and always encouraged us to go out for auditions."

Both engineering and marching band require great time commitments. How do you manage your daily schedule?

"The biggest thing for me is using tools like Google Calendar and a physical planner to ensure that I can succeed both in class and in band. I organize my homework, studying, practicing, and rehearsal time and make a plan for each day so I can complete everything on time."

How has being in engineering helped you with your time in the CMB?

"Engineering helps you learn diverse problem-solving skills that can be applied to many other extracurricular activities, not just engineering design. In marching band, we have to keep track of our location on the field to create different forms, use visual cues to stay in line with others, and remember the notes to the songs we are playing during a performance. The skills that I have learned through engineering help me to take these inputs, even though they aren't physical quantities like speed, mass, or volume, and combine them to produce the best possible output – an exciting, high-level individual performance in front of 90,000 fans."

How has being in band helped with your education and activities in the College of Engineering?

"Band is an awesome way to learn how to collaborate with others toward a common goal, and it also is a great way to make friends within the College of engineering and the university as a whole.

"Thanks to my experiences working with others in band, I've learned interpersonal skills that transfer directly to my work within RED Teams and NASA Microg Next, the engineering club that I run. As a part of NASA MicroG Next, I work with a small group of students to design, build, and test spacewalk tools for NASA astronauts. The teamwork aspect of MicroG is crucial to our success, and thanks in part to transferable skills from band, I have been a part of several teams that have done extremely well in the testing phase at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Another interesting crossover is that within MicroG and RED Teams as a whole we have multiple highly successful and motivated members who are also members of the CMB. I've recruited several of the friends I made in band to join the club, but others have simply joined on their own.

"I truly believe that being involved in a musical activity, such as the CMB produces, quality people that do well in many different areas of life, whether that is academics, clubs, or personal hobbies."

What is the best part of your being in the CMB?

"Definitely, the game day experience. Week after week, nothing beats the feeling of performing our pregame routine in front of a packed stadium and hearing the roar of the crowd."

What are your top experiences/memories of your time in the band?

"The first time that I played the fight song, "Dear Old Nebraska U," with the full marching band. I grew up going to Husker games and hearing the band play after touchdowns, and it was truly a dream come true to be making the music with the full ensemble. I still get chills when we play from the stands after the team scores because there's just so much emotion and heart behind the song and I feel like it really embodies what it means to be a Husker."

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