Tom Scholz went from being an engineer to playing music in front of thousands of screaming fans. And why should we care? Because his is a story of how quickly life can offer us a new path. What we think we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives can change with every person, skill, and hobby we pick up along the way.

Now, while most of us will never experience that exact scenario, we may find ourselves in situations beyond what we thought possible. Opportunities will continue to rise, your interests will always be piqued, and suddenly, if you are paying attention, the path you’ve laid out for yourself can take a surprise turn.

But really, the beautiful thing about this is that every time you say “yes” and make moves—any moves—you’re taking with you those years of expertise you’ve acquired and making this new adventure your very own.

This is how Tom Scholz found himself in front of those screaming fans. His background in engineering turned him into an innovator in the music scene with his band, BOSTON. Have you heard of them?

Image: The members of the band Boston lined up

(From left) Barry Goudreau, Tom Scholz, Sib Hashian, Brad Delp, and Fran Sheehan.
Tom is the only original member still playing in the band BOSTON.
Source: Wikimedia

The band BOSTON was formed in, well, Boston, Massachusetts, during the 1970s. They gained popularity right after their first single, More Than a Feeling (click here to listen & see our friend Tom in an awesome metallic get up) was released, and their self titled album generated 3 Top 40 hits, bringing in more than 17 million dollars in sales 1—making the album the biggest selling debut in rock history. 2

But before all of this, BOSTON’s guitarist, Tom Scholz, was working at Polaroid after receiving a masters degree in engineering from MIT and really had no idea how to play guitar.

That is until he started listening to The Kinks, fiddling around with instruments, and creating his own music equipment to bring the sounds he was looking for to life.

So, do you think that becoming a world-renowned musician was his plan when he was applying to colleges? No. But when the inspiration hit him, he acted and made it his job to create what he wanted. He intertwined his engineering background into the music industry—and the sounds that came out of it were his very own.

“The devices that I built were just designed to produce sounds that I liked. You know, I wasn’t sure how other people would view it or how sold they would be on it.” — Tom Scholz, BOSTON 3

One of our favorite series from PBS, NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, brings us his story.

We’ve paired this video with thought-provoking discussion questions perfect for the classroom in this touchstone on our education platform, EWCed!

It’s funny how when you hear the story altogether, his progression to a famous musician makes a lot of sense. BOSTON brought something novel to the scene. And people ate it up.

But it wouldn’t have happened without the unique expertise that Tom bought to the group. He made the devices he needed to bring the sounds in his head to life. What other bands at the time had a member doing that? (Okay, but really, if you know the answer to this I would really like to know. Please send me an email!)

“From studying physics I learned, basically, how music worked. How the human ear heard it; all of the principles of superposition and phase cancellation and things like this, that, you know, maybe a lot of musicians, even engineers, sometimes are unfamiliar with. And I think that gave me a big edge.” — Tom Scholz, BOSTON 5

In another episode of PBS NOVA’s special on Tom Scholz, they give us a little tour of his studio. So if you’re interested in hearing the thought process behind how he designs his equipment, this is a good start.

(He also chats a bit about the insecurities of being creative, and ends up playing a bit of that song that made all of that success happen for him, so you should really check it out!)

So, there ya have it. You never know what whatever you’re doing right now in life will make possible for you in the future. Innovate with the circumstances you find yourself in. Use them. Wind everything you’ve learned together to bring something uniquely you into the world. Keep your eyes open for the opportunities to do this, and jump on them.

(And remember: all of those successful people you see came from somewhere. They all have backgrounds unique to them that brought him to the place they’re in. Study that. Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas on what you should do next.)

7 minutes

OK GO: Wonders Revealed by Slooooowww Mooootionnnn

Some musicians find a way to cross all boundaries between us, connecting to a wonderful, common thread of joy in most of us. The band OK go makes music videos that do just that! Have a look!

Read More

If you’d like to see the third video in this series on Tom Sholz, click here. For even more brilliant videos and interviews with inspiring people, please head over to NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers YouTube channel to explore!

And if you’d like to check out a piece of equipment from Tom, head over to this article from Premier Guitar. They talk about the effect the Rockman guitar amplifier had on the way music sounds, and have a little interview with Tom!

As always, stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein 

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  1. White, Dave. “Think You Know Everything About the Band, Boston?” Thoughtco., Dotdash, Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
  2. “Boston.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 June 2018, Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
  3. “Tom Scholz: Sound Machine.” YouTube, NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 29 May 2014, Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
  4. “Tom Scholz: The Start of It.” YouTube, NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 22 May 2014, Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
  5. “Tom Scholz: The Start of It.” YouTube, NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 22 May 2014, Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.
  6. “Tom Scholz: Sound Machine.” YouTube, NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, 29 May 2014, Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.