Kaitlyn Hova: Giving New Meaning to Making Music
A Unique Approach to Seeing Challenges as Opportunities to Create
“I started performing as a violinist at age 13 and then discovered something really important: no one is going to hire a 13 year old violinist…unless you have a website. So, I began making my website over and over again and learned everything along the way. Coding and music always went hand in hand for me.”
Kaitlyn Hova was drawn to music at a young age, but didn’t realize she had a special connection to the notes until a bit later in life. She discovered a new path after a professor in a music theory class mentioned that some people have a neurological phenomenon, Synethesia, that allows them to actually see musical notes. “I realized college is a time to experiment, so I quit my music program and decided to pursue neuroscience at University of Omaha, Nebraska.”
Although Synesthesia is not uncommon, approximately one in 300 people have some form of this condition, information on it is hard to come by. So Kaitlyn took matters into her own hands.
“In looking for data to analyze I had an idea which drove me back to my coding roots.” In an effort to build upon her front-end skills she enrolled in Omaha Code School, where she became a full stack developer and launched the Synesthesia Network (TSN). “TSN acts as a nexus between researchers and synesthetes. My dream is to collect enough data to one day revisit PhD programs, or probably create my own!”
Growing up Kaitlyn didn’t think engineering was right for her. “My Dad worked on engineering projects related to finance and credit cards — the problems he was solving with code weren’t interesting to me. I didn’t see any creativity in that work.” However, as she pursued her creative interests, she kept discovering ways to solve problems with code. “No matter what I did, it always came down to coding. That’s because tech isn’t a sector, it’s found at the cutting edge of every field. These days it has merged into everything!”
When asked what she is most proud of building, she excitedly describes designing the Hovalin, an open source, 3D printable acoustic violin project that shows how STEM programs can print their school’s music program. “Sadly my own elementary school music program was losing funding. I tried my best to share how influential that program was to my own development, unfortunately I was unable to convince them.” Once again, faced with a challenge she resolved to approach the problem in another way.
“I noticed a trend in schools — Music Education is systematically underfunded, while STEM grants are introducing 3D printers to schools and makerspaces. Instead of seeing this as a problem, I saw a solution! Why not 3D print your music program?” Through a generous grant from the Salesforce Foundation, Frick Middle School in Oakland has a vibrant and growing 3D/STEM music program.
Her advice for others is “the best way to learn new things is to build something you want with it…create things you are excited to talk about. If you can do that then you’ll never be bored in all of the best ways.”