By Peter Tormey
LAS VEGAS – Tucker Keuter, who conducts the Gonzaga University band during men’s basketball games and plays trombone for the women’s games, has always had an affinity for mathematics and music. The twin pursuits have brought success and personal harmony to the senior honors student from Albany, Ore., who just accepted a full-ride scholarship to the Ph.D. program in biostatistics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee.
“I’m really excited about it,” Tucker said Friday afternoon, a few hours before the women’s quarterfinal victory in the West Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Championship at the Orleans Arena. “It’s a full ride with a stipend for living expenses.”
When Keuter came to Gonzaga four years ago, he began a double major in biology and music composition – planning to go to medical school and become a physician. Instead, his love for math beckoned, leading him toward a double major in math and economics.
“It just didn’t fit,” Keuter said of his plan to major in biology and musical composition. To satisfy his musical passion, Tucker has played in Gonzaga’s band for four years. In addition, he plays in Gonzaga’s Jazz Combos and Jazz Ensembles, which provide an ideal performance outlet for math, science and engineering majors (students of all majors are welcome) who love music.
“You see a lot of people coming in (to Gonzaga) who had success in math and physics in high school so they are becoming engineers or quantitative scientists, but they are still wanting to continue music because it’s fun and they get a lot of pleasure out of it,” he said. “They want to keep playing but they don’t want to do it as a career – they want to do, for example, math or engineering as a career.”
Music, Tucker said, is both an art and a science.
“There’s this correlation between doing music and being good at math,” he said. “There are studies out there that say success in both goes hand-in-hand.”
Keuter aims to eventually teach in college. First, however, he wants to gain practical experience in the real-world application of biostatistics. Doing so, he believes, will make the material he teaches far more accessible to students.
For now, Tucker is savoring every minute of his Gonzaga experience – especially playing in the band at the WCC Tournament.
“I love basketball games,” he said. “I love coming to Vegas every year. Here at the Orleans Hotel, it starts to feel a bit like home.”
If the Gonzaga men earn their 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, Tucker and the Gonzaga band will follow – doing their best to fire up the crowd and contribute to victory. The Bulldogs can claim the WCC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament by winning the league’s tournament here.