Student Artist: Jon McNally

Known as the friendly sports enthusiast who has mastered the art of air drumming, Jon McNally, a music major studying percussion with a math minor, is a man of many gifts.

Although he dabbled in piano and violin as a youngster, Jon became a lover of drums through the hit videogame, Guitar Hero. When asked about his debut on the video game’s drum set, he enthusiastically chimes, “I kept breaking the drums!” His move from living room rock star to “real” drummer was quick: he joined the drum line upon his arrival to high school. Drum line turned into jazz band during his high school years, and he now serves as a percussionist in the St. Davids Orchestra Society and Eastern University Wind Ensemble.

Don’t be fooled by his résumé: Jon defies the stereotype of “tone-deaf percussionist.” A study by the American Psychological Association claims that only one in every 10,000 Americans has absolute perfect pitch (meaning that they can hum any specific note when prompted and it would exactly match its equivalent on the piano). Jon is the one in 10,000. When spurred to recall the moment when he realized his innate perfect pitch, he exclaims with a grin, “I don’t know; I – somehow – maybe it was in elementary school when I was taking piano lessons. I don’t know how it happened; I just discovered one day.”

His talents don’t stop in the practice room; he is also an accomplished mathematician. Elementary school teachers were the first to notice his extraordinary traits: “Around first or second grade, [teachers] found that I was accelerated in math, so they separated me from the rest of the class whenever I had math. Eventually, just before fifth grade… I took a test and they found that I was two levels higher than the rest of the class. So they put me in an accelerated math class.” His love for math grew with time and hard work, leading to an easy decision to declare a math minor at Eastern.

Percussion, the perfect marriage of math and music, was a logical choice for Jon. He admits that he was thinking differently when he first began drumming: “I think when I first took it up, it was because I thought it was less technical than guitar and bass.” But as he became more passionate about it, his tastes changed: “Into college, I began to listen less to the simpler stuff and more to progressive stuff, with better drumming and longer songs.” He especially enjoys listening to “Buddy Rich, who some say is the best drummer that ever lived.”

Jon is also a cheerleader of sorts within the music department. He says his peppy spirit comes from attending a lot of sporting events. After graduation, he plans to fuse his love of sports, music and math: “I’d like to play in a jazz or rock band, or get a job at WMMR [a rock music station]…otherwise I could go into baseball stuff.” One thing is certain: this jubilant percussionist will be spreading joy no matter where he goes.

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