published Monday, November 7th, 2011

Matthew Krepps makes music a science at Lee University

Jenna Walker
Matthew Krepps, a professor in Chemisty at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., plays the electric organ inside of the new University Chapel
Matthew Krepps, a professor in Chemisty at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., plays the electric organ inside of the new University Chapel
Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Music is as much science as it is art.

Sound begins with a simple vibration. That vibration is transferred through a medium, such as air, to the eardrum, where the brain transcribes the pulses. From there, compositions of pitch, timbre and rhythm create melodies.

Matthew Krepps is an associate chemistry professor at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., but as a lover of music and a member of the American Guild of Organists he is keen to wander into the music building across the Lee campus.

His interest in the keyboard sprouted when he was a child. In church, Krepps would run to the choir loft to watch the organist play. Inspired, Krepps took eight years of piano lessons, transitioning to organ when he was in high school and college.

For Krepps, chemistry and music are just one big discipline.

"Chemistry is usually very logical and organized and ordered," Krepps said. "To me, that's how I approach music, also. I always begin with a logical approach."

Despite the bewilderment from his students regarding his double life, Krepps uses the association of art and science to his benefit in teaching.

"I try to relate the physics part of chemistry to music. A lot of students sing or play an instrument. I find that's a good technique to use to help make the correlation between music and science. It helps them to get the new concept being presented in class."

With the construction of the new University Chapel on the Lee campus and the installation of an electronic organ, Krepps hopes to see increased student interest in the instrument.

"I feel honored to be able to show them another facet of musical style on an instrument that may not be as popular today as it once was," Krepps said.

At best, he can illustrate his lesson with a field trip to the chapel.

"It would be fascinating to show the physics students the pipes," Krepps said. "Actually just demonstrate how the frequency changes as you change the length of the pipe. The construction of the pipe changes the timbre. Instead of just talking about it in class, you can actually show them that now."

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