When Gregory Sauline arrived for his freshman year at The University of Akron, he expected to learn more about himself and the world as he earned a degree in education. The honors student did not expect to become a human drum.
Well, a one-person percussion system is more like it.
Sauline's introduction to beat boxing came when he joined the Honors College a cappella group, Rhythm & Roos, and was asked to help give it a more robust sound.
"I watched a lot of YouTube videos to learn how to make the percussion sounds — it was challenging," recalls Sauline, who debuted his new talent on the Rhythm & Roos' rendition of the Bill Withers' hit, "Lean on Me." "I did a lot of practicing and struggled with the breathing. But I found that as much as I enjoy singing, I really, really like beat boxing, too. I'm not crazy good at it, but I do love the challenge of it."
In fact, Sauline has found his time at UA to be a series of surprises and challenges, as he told members of the Board of Trustees at a recent meeting when he gave a presentation about his Akron Experience.
The McDonald, Ohio, native was active in a wide variety of activities during his years at Ursuline High School in Youngstown — from band to performing arts to forensics to student government — and says he expected to be just as involved at UA.
“I wanted to be as busy as possible, get out of my comfort zone and make new friends,” says Sauline. “But, I quickly learned that you can’t do everything. For me to do well academically, I needed to define the activities that were most important to me and put my focus on them.”
So, most of Sauline’s free time has been devoted to Rhythm & Roos, which performs at a variety of campus and alumni events, and UA’s Speech and Debate Team. He and his teammates travel to intercollegiate tournaments around the Midwest and East Coast, and often qualify for national competitions hosted by the American Forensic Association and the National Forensic Association.
Gregory Sauline, center, is pictured here with student trustees Alan Bowdler, left, and Ryan Thompson, along with Betsy Kerns, an academic adviser in the College of Education and Mark Rittenour, a associate college lecturer in the School of Communication, who coaches UA's Speech and Debate team.
Sauline is now heading into his senior year as a double major in mathematics and secondary mathematics education.
“I want to be a teacher because I have been inspired by my teachers and I would like to inspire others in the same way,” he notes.
For a time, Sauline was not sure whether his subject area would be English or math, but again, he looked for the challenge.
“I did well in both subjects, but I never thought of myself as especially good at math. But I found my math classes at Akron were fun, and the challenge of math is that it is not straightforward to me,” says Sauline, who is now a math tutor in Summit College.
He credits Lance Nelson, a senior lecturer in math, for helping him realize his talent in the discipline. He also is grateful to Betsy Kerns, an academic adviser in the College of Education, with helping him map out the necessary coursework and offering the encouragement to pursue the double major.
Sauline is already looking forward to his career in the classroom.
“I see myself working as a high school math teacher and a coach in speech or the fine arts,” says Sauline.
And will his students ever get a performance by the beat boxer?
It’s always a possibility.