Painting in Blue and Orange
13 June 2024

Ruby Streit is an accomplished performer and opera singer. She is a three-time winner of Westbourne’s Performer of the Year Award and performed roles with the Victorian Opera. In this Thought Leadership piece, Ruby explores the relationship between her two passions, music and science, and explains how curiosity of these disciplines enriches her learning and her life.

The world gave me two buckets of paint. There was a bucket that was full of blue, and another full of orange. I took out my canvas and I began to paint in blue, as it was always familiar to me. Like the Joni Mitchell album I would sing in the car on my way to kindergarten, like the colour of my dress when I sing my heart out on stage. It made sense, blue is my lucky colour. I painted blue, but my whole picture was one tone. So many shades, but no variation, no contrast. So, I took the orange bucket too. Orange, the colour of my highlighters. The colour of my satisfaction, staring at a wall full of my notes, my work. Like the colour of my lamp, illuminating my desk, my pages that I learn from, inquire about, and test. Now, I had added orange elements to my canvas. And, as I learned in junior art classes, orange and blue are complementary colours. There is no better word; complementary is the essence of my passions in science and music.

At its core, human expression is driven by two things – curiosity and passion. Without curiosity, there can be no passion, and without passion, there can be no curiosity. These principles have always guided my character; I am not fulfilled if I cannot satisfy the cravings that these values evoke. I fulfill them both while studying science and music. They feed the soul in such similar ways; I like to think of the two as ‘two sides of the same coin’. Their intersection exemplifies the symbiotic relationship between artistic expression and empirical inquiry.

Without the ground-breaking work of composers, who would test boundaries, challenge tradition, compare and conclude, I would not have the music I love today. Without the passion of scientists, who thought outside the box, poured their heart and soul into their disciplines and persevered through challenge, I would not have the science I love today.

Most people I meet see my very public musicianship as the defining passion of my life. I very much agree with this; in my eyes there is no better feeling than being in stage lights. I am the realest, rawest version of myself as soon as I enter the stage (even though I tend to be playing a character). Music, to me, embodies an emotional expression of human creativity; it is a universal language that uses rhythm, pitch, dynamics, timbre and articulation to evoke expression. From classical symphonies to contemporary genres, each musical composition represents a unique blend of technical skill, emotional depth, and cultural resonance. A side of music that I deeply adore is the undercurrent of performance – music theory. The satisfaction of harmonising voices in a meaningful way, learning rules, formulaic approaches, and patterns, gives me a similar feeling to completing algebraic equations.

This is my ‘private passion’. The process of questioning, inquiring, testing, discovering and building is representative of my structural view of the world around me. The building blocks of knowledge I learn in the science classroom are not dissimilar to the methodical piecing together of challenging musical repertoire. Science is a tangible representation of this; in practice it is driven by an innate curiosity about the natural world and a relentless quest for knowledge and understanding. Scientists, whether conducting experiments in a laboratory, analysing data in the field, or formulating theoretical models, are united by a shared creative passion for discovery and exploration. From unravelling the intricacies of molecular biology to probing the depths of space-time, each scientific endeavour represents a testament to human ingenuity and intellectual curiosity.

For individuals like myself who are curious about both music and science, navigating the intersecting barriers of both fields can be challenging. The societal expectation to specialise in a single discipline often forces individuals to choose between their passions, leading to feelings of dissonance; a sense of conflicting personas that one must take on whilst practicing the different specialties. In extreme cases, this could lead to symptoms of impostor syndrome, where the inability to ‘fully’ commit to one area leads to feelings of self-doubt and a diminished view of one’s abilities. This shouldn’t be the case. Interdisciplinary endeavours should be celebrated and encouraged in society. By embracing collaboration in different fields, and fostering an appreciation for the interconnectedness of all areas of education, we enrich our understanding of the world and unlock new realms of creativity and innovation. It is wrong to close the door to possibilities of discovery by restricting people to one field of specialisation.

We should educate based on motivation and with purpose; asking the question – ‘what sense of self do I receive from learning this?’ Shifting the narrative in this way (particularly for my own generation) gives us deeper agency and drive in our own education. I believe that this approach in my educational journey has allowed me to develop the critical thinking and leadership skills to be a self-assured, determined leader. I feel these qualities are highly important, not only as learners, but also as members of the adult society that our cohort will step in to next year.

To presume that the disciplines in music, or broader, the arts in whole, do not and should not intersect with sciences is ignorant to the innate goals of humankind. The intersection between music and science represents a fertile ground for exploration, innovation, collaboration, and creativity. My immersion in both fields blurs the lines between the two. Yes, in obvious ways they are different, I don’t need to learn about the chemical reactions of ionic compounds to sing higher, but the mental processes involved in the study of both arts and science are so similar that it is no wonder why the majority of my friends in music also enjoy sciences.

I find myself at a crossroads – which one quenches my thirst for knowledge and satisfies my passion?

Why not both? Why can’t I – why shouldn’t I –  just choose both: the pursuit of knowledge and fulfillment?

So, despite the challenges I may face in the future, I will continue to paint my picture in orange and blue. I hope that I will pick up some more colours on my path to becoming a more inquisitive, passionate and determined adult.

Ruby Streit 12D



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