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Chad playing the piano

Chad Spears

Even as a child, Chad Spears wanted to be an architect. He would draw constantly, sometimes even fashioning floor plans. So it didn’t surprise those who knew him when he came to the University of Idaho to study architecture.

“When I was young, my mom would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I always said ‘an architect,’” says Spears, a Boise native. With the majority of his family former Vandals, Spears knew it was a natural choice to attend the University of Idaho, which has the only complete architecture program in the state.

But soon after arriving on campus, Spears also found he could focus on another lifelong love: the piano. The instrument always had been a part of his life: he took lessons throughout adolescence and then later performed in high school. As a teen, Spears met Jay Mauchley, professor of piano at the University of Idaho and re-connected with him after arriving in Moscow. They started out with private lessons, but soon Spears knew his affinity for music went beyond lessons. It was a natural progression for the lessons to turn into a minor, and the minor to turn into a major. Spears now is pursuing a double major in architecture and piano performance.

“With my musical ability, it was natural for me to want to continue on,” he says. “It also made it feasible to study both degrees.”

Spears’ talent was recognized by others in May when he won the Young Artists Division in Piano at the Musicfest Northwest Competition in Spokane, Wash. The winner in each instrumental division performed a concerto with the Spokane Symphony at the Young Artists Concert the week of the Competition. Spears performed the second and third movements of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major. Also this spring, Spears was named a Lionel Hampton Scholar for the second time, a distinction given to the finest students within the music program.

“Chad has an excellent ear for music, a fine pianistic technique and a great understanding of music in general,” says Mauchley. “He truly is a delight to teach.”

While Spears admits that time always is an issue when balancing the two degrees, his architecture professor said he seems to balance his responsibilities well.

“Chad does a great job,” says Randy Teal, assistant professor of architecture. “He is extremely hardworking and always on top of things.”

Teal blends the influence of music in some of his architecture classes. For example, the Roman architect Vitruvius insisted on including music within an architect’s areas of study. Daniel Libeskind, the brain behind the winning World Trade Center redesign, also was a virtuoso performer before becoming an architect.

While Spears never has been a student in Teal’s musical architecture classes, he made the connection of music and architecture on his own. He has proposed to explore the relationship between the two for his graduate project that he will begin this fall.

“I enjoy the technical aspects of architecture as well as the creative or design aspects of architecture,” Spears says. “I see music influencing how I will practice architecture in the future. Potentially, the two could complement each other.”

Spears mastered balancing the work that the two degrees have created by spending some semesters focused solely on architecture and others focused solely on music. He has finished his undergraduate work in architecture and will receive his graduate degree next May. At that point, he will finish his piano performance degree.