piano to python

Where to begin! I was 6 years old when I started learning the piano. Over two decades later I’ve continued to play almost every day, earned a degree in music, and taught the joys of piano and music theory to others for 5 years.

the early years

But something else happened a few years later in my childhood. When I was 11 years old my family replaced our E-machine/Dell desktop computer with an iMac. Yes, this computer was shared by the entire family, a novel thought in this day and age. One day, I stumbled upon this funny little app called “terminal”. After feverishly hacking away on the command line (likely not entering any valid keywords and receiving only “hello: command not found” responses) I thought I had gained access to knowledge that is only revealed to a select few: the inner workings of how a computer performs magic.

A few days later in school we were tasked with doing a write-up about where we saw ourselves as adults. I wrote about wanting to live in Seattle to escape my small town, listening to my latest generation iPod with all the music I could desire, and working as a computer programmer, even though I had no idea what that was.

college: round one

Fast forward a number of years to my freshman year of college. I had taken a few music classes and a few math and computer science classes. I was faced with my first life-altering decision that so many of us face: which program of study is right for me? I felt equally connected to both and felt a split in my mind among the divide between the two disciplines. But after a few months of careful thought, I chose to pursue music.

A number of years flashed by spent learning and teaching piano, writing/producing music, and starting my own business, yet I felt something was missing. A dormant part of me that was still wishing I had uncovered more of the magic that makes computers, programs, games, etc. work. I couldn’t get it off my mind, to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about all the possibilities and skills I could learn if I opened up the door to software engineering. I took some intro to Python courses through Coursera and applied to the OSU post-bacc a few weeks later, kicking off my current journey of school, which is now nearly finished.

complementary skills

It took me a number of years to realize that my drive to create and uncover the magic of what makes a system tick isn’t limited to only music and songwriting. I always thought I would have to make a choice along that binary: music or computer science. Moving through this program, working at my internship over the summer, and kicking off this new career has been really gratifying personally. I feel like I get to have a scoop of chocolate and vanilla ice cream after years of thinking I could only pick one.

If you remember those three things young Zach put on his list for how he sees himself as an adult, I can proudly say I’ve achieved each one: I studied music and lived in Seattle, went through numerous iPods (and graduated to Spotify when the time came), and landed my first job programming this past summer.


It’s a little surreal that this program is coming to an end, but I can’t wait to dive into this culminating Capstone course/project. I’m really excited about the project and teammates I’ve found. Our project “Discover Daily” will extend the Spotify API to generate fresh playlists for users on a daily (rather than weekly) cadence. I’m excited to investigate a serverless approach and try our hand at deploying via the cloud, since I’ve been working with cloud performance on GCP/Azure/AWS at my internship this summer. After our first meeting I get the sense that we’re all hopeful that we can deploy a meaningful project that is more than just a local experiment.

Here’s to hoping we pull it off, and that I might discover a little magic along the way.

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