The BSMT across Georgia

Seth Holland and Walter Kopacz pose in front of a multi-colored wall
Seth Holland (left) and Walter Kopacz (right)

They come from separate corners of the state, and from dramatically different hometowns. But for Seth Holland and Walter Kopacz, the journey to Georgia Tech has been strikingly similar. They both love to play music. They both were interested in STEM degrees. And both of them never wanted to work on anything other than music technology -- once they learned about it.

Seth Holland grew up in Savannah, one of the oldest and most populous cities in Georgia. It is 250 miles southeast of Atlanta and Georgia Tech’s main campus.

“I love to say that Savannah is like a miniature Atlanta. It’s the perfect size: it’s small enough that you can go downtown and still see tons of people that you know, but you can always meet new people if you want to,” Holland said.

Holland played in an indie rock band and attended a performing arts high school, Savannah Arts Academy, before attending Tech. He learned about the Bachelor of Science in Music Technology degree from the Peach State Tour, which advertised the degree as the newest undergraduate major at Georgia Tech.

“I knew that I loved music, and I knew that I loved computer science, too. I was taking an AP computer science course at the time, and I knew that I wanted to combine the two in some way, but I didn’t want to go straight one way or the other,” he said.

“But when I heard this was a beautiful marriage of the two, I was like ‘Alright, that’s exactly what I want to do’.”

A fountain surrounded by trees in Forsyth Park, Savannah
Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah.

As a Savannian, Holland always thought Tech’s reputation was prestigious, perhaps moreso than any other college in Georgia. His parents were so proud when he was accepted that they told all of their colleagues and friends, and says that any time he solves a problem around them, they blame it on his Georgia Tech education.

His older brother attended Georgia Southern, and his sister went to UGA. Together, he joked, they represent three of biggest schools in Georgia.

Walter Kopacz, on the other hand, comes to Georgia Tech from Hawkinsville, a small town of 5,000 people that is 128 miles south of Atlanta, and just south of Macon. He grew up without many opportunities to make music.

“Middle Georgia is kind of a music dead zone,” he said, adding that while he found the chance to jam with some friends from high school, not many people were interested in music.

He was first exposed to music technology at the School of Music’s Music Technology Pre-College summer program, where he learned an introduction to recording and working in a studio. Later, when he decided to attend Georgia Tech and was mulling over majors, the Bachelor of Science in Music Technology caught his eye.

“From my hometown, not a lot of people go to Georgia Tech. It’s a really small rural area,” he said, and many of his friends were skeptical of his decision to attend Tech.

Street lined with buildings in Hawkinsville, Georgia.
A look at downtown Hawkinsville, Georgia.

“They said ‘Are you sure you want to do that? I hear it’s really hard!’ And I told them, ‘I want to be challenged. As strange as that sounds.’” Kopacz said with a chuckle. The challenge so far, he said, is being around so many talented people.

“Georgia Tech really showed me what is out there musically, because all these people coming in are incredible musicians, and have performed at all kinds of different levels. It was really cool to see all these musicians coming together.”

Kopacz feels like that he’s become a better musician since coming to Georgia Tech. “Being around people that are better than you at something so you can work up to their level is a philosophy I’ve always taken, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to come here,” he said.

Holland and Kopacz’s interests highlight the versatility of music technology major.

Holland is primarily interested in the electrical engineering side of the degree, and is currently working for the Georgia Tech Athletic Association as part of the team that sends processed audio to the ACC network to broadcast on TV.

“It’s cool that I’m getting more classically trained by learning theory and history, but I’m also learning to use Matlab and more rigorous math and computer science principles as well,” Holland says.

Kopacz also holds an interest in signal processing, but more for audio and music. His dream job is to work for a company like Bose once he gets his degree.

“Living within two hours drive of Atlanta, I knew [Tech] was a good engineering school. But then I looked closer into it, and found out that it was a really good engineering school,” Kopacz said, thanks to the opportunity to merge STEM and music.