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Spotlight on Hidden Physicists
Renée Yoxon, Jazz Vocalist, Teacher, and Writer
When I was 15 years old I dreamed of being a scientist by day and a jazz singer by night. I attended Carleton University from 2005 until 2010, where I studied experimental physics. In my free time I took private voice lessons with Tena Palmer in the music department and played in a community big band.
In the beginning music always seemed to be a frivolity, something one couldn’t make a career of. I diligently pursued a physics career, working every summer at the Canadian National Research Council’s Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technologies department. I studied optical methods of measuring polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient conditions. Though I had a really good time working with the scientists, as each summer went by I spent less time thinking about research and more time thinking about music, performance, and song writing.
In my fourth year I met young professional musicians for the first time, which changed my whole perspective. Once I realized music could be a viable career option, I knew that I had to make some changes. I switched out of the honors experimental program and into the general physics program, which freed up a bunch of credits. For the last two semesters of my degree I didn’t take a single science or math course. I loaded up on music credits and ended up graduating with a BSc in physics with minors in math and music.
Although studying physics may have started me off behind my musical peers, my Carleton experience prepared me excellently for the self-employed life. To complete my degree I had to be resourceful. My time as a teaching assistant gave me the teaching bug. I now have a thriving voice teaching studio. As president of the Carleton Physics Society, I learned that I have a knack for event planning and advertising. And I don’t want to leave out that I am still friends with many of my physics classmates, and they have continued to support me and my music.
Now that 10 years have passed since my teenage career aspirations, my new dream is to be a successful musician and a lifelong artist. But I still got excited when the Mars rover landed! r