Kevin Costello: Exploring the intersections of math and music

“I’ll have an idea for a tune, and then I’ll have to think about where I can take it next, just like in a math problem,” says the MIT senior.

"Though senior Kevin Costello knew he loved STEM and puzzles from a young age, it took him longer recognize the importance of music in his life."

Publication Date:

March 5, 2021

Image: Adam Glanzman


“Good night, Kev. Think big.” His father smiled, tucking him in and closing the door. The next day, 13-year-old Kevin Costello III arrived for the first time to MIT. But his visit wasn’t for the average campus tour. Costello, a three-time Rubik’s Cube national champion, had come to compete.

Tension grew in the competition room as the final round approached. Costello knew he had less than six seconds to solve the cube drawing from the 300 solving algorithms he had memorized. To stay calm, he turned toward a reliable source of comfort — music. Popping in his headphones, he felt his chest relax as he gained the confidence to pull off another win.

Today, Costello is a senior studying both mathematics and music. Though he knew he loved STEM and puzzles from a young age, it took time for Costello to recognize the importance of music in his life. 

“I picked up trombone in fourth grade but was never very serious about it. As I entered high school, a lot of my friends were passionate musicians that inspired me to start practicing more,” he says. “Eventually, we started a jazz band to play gigs around town. We probably didn’t sound very good, but it kindled my love and appreciation for playing music.”


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