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The right rhythm: mixing science and music

We interviewed alumnus Henry Kantrow about how he earned his IB diploma while balancing his commitment to music. He now attends Louisiana State University pursuing a BA in Chemical Engineering.

Louisiana State University Laboratory School (ULS) is among the oldest IB World Schools in the state of Louisiana. Because it is also located on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge, the two institutions are closely connected. Henry Kantrow first joined the IB Diploma Programme (DP) after encouragement from one of his teachers who said during class, ‘Everyone in this room should try the DP … you’ll love it.’ Looking back on how he began his DP journey, it was a choice he will never forget.

“The IB was a lot, but it was worth it,” Henry told us, mentioning that his participation in soccer and serving as drum captain in his high school band alongside DP courses helped put into practice many of the traits in the IB learner profile. “It was a lot of managerial stuff… [leading] drumline rehearsals and then going through the same piece with the whole band.” Both activities helped him develop a sense of leadership.

At Louisiana State University, Henry currently studies chemical engineering, a contrast to his musical pursuits. Though science majors at the university are required to complete hands-on activities and labs, not all students arrive on campus with this work experience.

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Henry Kantrow is a graduate of the DP at the Louisiana State University Laboratory School (ULS).

Thanks to a past project in DP physics, Henry already had opportunities to connect his passion for percussion to his research. This is part of the DP’s interdisciplinary approach, encouraging students to balance academic demands with what interests and motivates them outside of the classroom.

“Making the Chladni plate was a great stepping stone to doing hands-on work and then writing about it.”

For his physics internal assessment (IA), Henry focused on a Chladni plate, an aluminum disc designed to visualize the effect of vibrations. “Making the Chladni plate was a great stepping stone to doing hands-on work and then writing about it.” The plate sits on top of a speaker and is then covered in small particles, like sand. His paper explored the effects of sound and the “nodal patterns created when resonated at different frequencies” while attached to a subwoofer.

Another class that stuck with him was IB music and group performance. “DP music was somewhat of an odd choice for me, being a drummer,” commented Henry, “but it helped me really appreciate classical music.” He carried on his commitment to music at university, switching from playing the drums to the cymbals. He admits, “going from a band of 50 students to 350 students was overwhelming,” but he’s managed to adapt and have fun.

Whether you are a university student or a first-year DP candidate, it is not always easy to merge your interests with academic studies. The DP’s flexible curriculum facilitates that and enables learners to apply the time management, writing, communication and research skills acquired from the two-year experience at university and in life outside of school.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates read these IB programme stories. Share your IB story by writing to