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Dayton Engineer

University of Dayton School of Engineering Gabe Ferraiuolo

University of Dayton senior balances mechanical engineering, music to find success in both

By Shannon Miller

On weekdays, senior mechanical engineering major Gabe Ferraiuolo works to find environmentally sustainable solutions for the transportation industry through his research and his co-op with an automotive tech firm. 

When it’s time to decompress, however, one might find Ferraiuolo managing sound for one of six campus bands, practicing an instrument or studying a variety of musicians as inspiration for his compositions — including one recently receiving a national award. 

On May 22, Ferraiuolo was in the audience at Kettering Adventist Church near Dayton as the Bach Society of Dayton performed one of his works, a composition written as a tribute to famed Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ferraiuolo was the winner of the society’s Young Composers Competition, which invited students from around the country to submit an original composition to one of Dunbar’s poems. 

“Renewed — A Tribute to Paul Laurence Dunbar” featured a pre-concert lecture from UD professor emeritus Herbert Woodward Martin, and a performance inspired by Dunbar's poems by the Bach Society Chorus, directed by John Neely in his final concert before retiring. They performed Ferraiuolo’s piece and a work from famed composer Adolphus Hailstork, with UD professor emeritus R. Alan Kimbrough as accompanist and UD professor of music Minnita Daniel-Cox as a soloist.

Sunday marked the first time one of Ferraiuolo’s compositions was performed publicly. It also was his first time entering — and winning — a composition contest. He learned about the contest during one of his composition courses at UD, and composed a piece that captures the heartbreak of the poem “In May,” which Dunbar wrote after his divorce.

“I thought I’d give it a try, and here we are,” said Ferraiuolo. “It was fun to write. It let me dabble in the more experiential area of what I like to do.”

Music plays a significant role in Ferraiuolo’s life. His mother, who earned a master’s degree in musical performance from the University of Akron, served as music director for their hometown church in Doylestown, Ohio, for 25 years. She put her son in piano lessons from an early age, and by the time Ferraiuolo graduated from high school, he’d spent years participating in musical theater, concert band, marching band and choir, and gained proficiency in piano, drums, guitar and organ. 

In addition to performing, playing soccer, earning his Eagle Scout award and participating on the high school academic challenge team, Ferraiuolo was a strong student in math and science, and knew he wanted to pursue a career in engineering. 

“I find mechanical systems and the science behind why things work fascinating,” he said. “I also want to make an impact to help the environment through what I learned in school.”

Ferraiuolo said he chose UD because of the opportunities it offered in engineering and music. He is pursuing minors in music and music technology.

“UD has the right balance of everything that I want to do,” he said. “I visited and I loved it. The engineering department was one of the best programs in the state, and the Department of Music gave me a lot of encouragement and support for my interests as a non-music major.”

This summer, he’s completing a co-op with Faurecia Clean Mobility in Franklin, Ohio, where he’s working on developing more sustainable exhaust systems for corporations like Ford and GM. On campus, he’s completing research with School of Engineering professor C. Taber Wanstall on thermodynamics, high-speed fluid flow and combustion. Ferraiuolo said a graduate degree in engineering might be in his future so he can continue his research. 

“There’s a lot of different routes I can go because mechanical engineering is so versatile,” Ferraiuolo said. “Tech knowledge is so applicable to so many different fields.”

In the fall, he’ll continue to balance his engineering studies with his love of music. He’s the incoming president of the University Chorale and plans to keep working with campus bands while writing more compositions. 

A Dunbar scholar, Daniel-Cox won grants from the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities to incorporate Dunbar studies into the curriculum. She said Ferraiuolo’s achievement embodies the power of interdisciplinary studies at UD, and illustrates how a UD education helps build connections between campus and the Greater Dayton community — past and present. 

“The fact that Gabe was able to cultivate his musical talents at UD as a non-music major is one of the things I’m so proud of about our department,” Daniel-Cox said. “Of course we want to prepare music majors for artistic careers, but overall, we hope to engage all students in the arts.

We want to create engagement with the arts for all students — that’s how you get engineers who compose. It’s just wonderful.” 

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