Double Duty: Justin Weilnau Earned Degrees in Science and Music at The Valley

When it came time to choose a major for college, Justin Weilnau ’13 had a dilemma on his hands. Thanks to an engaging high school biology teacher and a piano teacher who let him play the organ just for fun one day, Weilnau was engrossed with both science and music—two often distinctly different disciplines and career paths.

“I definitely struggled with deciding what I wanted to major in, until I recognized I could do both,” said Weilnau, who graduated from LVC with a bachelor of science in biochemistry & molecular biology and a bachelor of arts in music with concentrations in organ and sacred music.

The dual interests continue to guide Weilnau who is enrolled at Duquesne University where he completed his master of science in pharmacology and is now pursuing a master of music in organ performance. While in his mind, he sees a clear easy connection between music and science, completing both of his degrees in four years at The Valley was not always easy. 

“Quite frankly, this was the hardest part of college for me,” he said. “It was extremely difficult mixing laboratory time, lecture, practice, and homework. Often I would find myself at a piano or organ at terrible hours of the night, only to have studying left to do. 

“In the end, I just found a way to make it work. All my professors were excellent at helping me when I needed it, while still holding me to the same standards as every other student. Often it came down to prioritizing and scheduling. Still to this day I keep a detailed calendar with both my schedule as well as long-term and short-term goals, and due dates,” he added.

One of the LVC professors Weilnau bonded with was Dr. Shelly Moorman-Stahlman, College organist and professor of music. She arranged for a trip for Weilnau and another student to see a ballet in New York City to assist them with performance pieces for their junior recitals. Dr. Moorman-Stahlman also advises the College’s Organ Guild, which Weilnau remembers fundraising to pay for trips to play organs in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Kansas City, Mo.

“LVC and Dr. Moorman-Stahlman really provided us the opportunity to do something very few others get to do,” Weilnau said. “All of these experiences have really helped shape who I am as a musician and as a person.”

On the science side of campus, Dr. Courtney Lappas, professor of biology, is someone Weilnau still talks with about graduate school. He worked in her research lab throughout his time at LVC, including summers, which enabled him to understand what being a scientist is really like.

“Through that experience I was able to be an author on one peer-reviewed paper and a first author on another. Being able to include authorship on two peer-reviewed papers was a huge step up for grad school admissions, and not something that would have been possible at a much larger school,” Weilnau said.

As he continues toward completion of his second master’s degree, Weilnau shares how he keeps it all balanced. “I often do not separate the two [music and science] in my head. For me, they require rather similar thought processes. There is actually a fairly strong link between music and math/science, and many musicians also excel in math/science. So doing both was no great stretch in that regard.”