By Bryan Hay 

Prof. Mary Roth shares a love of music with other engineering faculty and taps into its endless joys to inspire students and her research.

For Roth ’83, Simon Cameron Long Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who nurtured her love of music as a student at Lafayette, her instrument of choice is the English concertina, which employs a bellows to produce sound, similar to a piano accordion only smaller. An English concertina, developed in the early 19th century, is unisonoric, meaning that the same note is played in both directions as the bellows are pushed and drawn.  

Prof. Mary Roth plays her English concertina

Prof. Mary Roth plays her English concertina

“Playing music, and especially playing music with others, has always helped me find balance in my life,” she says. “And when I have that balance, I’m definitely a better teacher and colleague.”

Roth has played various musical instruments throughout her life, including French horn, and was a member of multiple musical groups when she attended Lafayette.

“I began playing the English concertina in 2004,” she says. “I attended a music workshop in downtown Easton, and one of the workshop leaders played the concertina. I became intrigued by the instrument and decided to see if I could learn to play it.”

Prof. Mary Roth plays her English concertina

Prof. Mary Roth plays her English concertina

She enjoys playing classical music on the concertina, Irish sessions, contra dances, and English country dances, and participates in the annual World Concertina Day. Sponsored by the International Concertina Association, it’s the only worldwide organization of concertina players and enthusiasts. 

The first-ever World Concertina Day was Feb. 6, 2022, the 220th anniversary of the birth of Sir Charles Wheatstone, inventor of the English concertina. WCD 2022 also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the ICA’s founding in 1952. Wheatstone was an English scientist and inventor, and two of Roth’s three concertinas are original Wheatstones.

The day brought together concertina people from all over the world to celebrate the instrument and to raise awareness of the concertina with the general public and media. Additional World Concertina Days have been celebrated in 2023 and 2024.

Enjoy Roth’s performance of John Philip Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March” during this year’s World Concertina Day. Read more about her teaching and research interests. 

Categorized in: Civil and Environmental Engineering, Engineering, Faculty and Staff, Faculty Profiles, Featured News, News and Features
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