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Sophomore math band transforms from jest to reality

| Wednesday, February 2, 2022

“I want to emphasize that it definitely started as a joke,” sophomore Honors Math major and Chicago native Madeline Kosobucki said lightheartedly about the new sophomore math band.

Kosobucki is a member and social media manager for Heine Borel and the Finite Subcovers, a new band made up of nine sophomores in the Honors Math major that performed at Student Union Board’s AcoustiCafé show Thursday night in Duncan Student Center.

Claire Reid | The Observer
Heine Borel, a band featuring sophomores in the Honors Math major, performed at AcoustiCafé Thursday for a crowd of over 100 people.

The band began one afternoon last fall when the sophomores had two mathematics exams on the same day. After the exams, they gathered in a classmate’s dorm room to hang out and unwind. Many brought their instruments, and the gathering quickly turned into a jam session.

“From there we were like, ‘Wouldn’t a funny name for a band be Heine Borel and the Finite Subcovers?’” recalled Jack Herzog, another band member. “And then we said, ‘What if we made this an actual band, and then we actually signed up for AcoustiCafé and put on an actual performance together?’”

This is exactly what they did. Heine Borel took the stage at 10 p.m. Thursday and opened with a rendition of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” that featured three melodicas, an instrument that is a hybrid between a harmonica and a keyboard. Classics like “Sweet Caroline,” Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” and Jack Johnson’s “Upside Down” followed.

“It was one of the most fun things I’ve done at Notre Dame,” Herzog said. “Getting to see so many people coming out to support us and just the energy on stage performing with friends was incredible.”

In true math major fashion, a friend of Herzog’s and member of the Math Club counted over 100 people — including the band’s Honors Calculus 3 and 4 professor, a highlight of the night for the group — in attendance.

“We had so many more people come than we were expecting,” Kosobucki said. “[It] was so amazing, especially how involved everyone was in singing along and shining their flashlights … That really made us feel like we’re doing something cool.”

The band concluded the performance ironically with Jimmy Buffett’s 1999 comedic math-hating anthem “Math Suks.” The members of Heine Borel certainly enjoy a good joke. In fact, the name of the band itself is a pun. The first part comes from a mathematical theorem, band member Anthony Masso-Rivetti explained.

“The Heine Borel theorem basically states that any closed and bounded set in a real vector space is compact,” he said. “One of the characteristics of a compact set is that any open cover has a finite subcover.”

He added that the second half of the band’s name is what makes it humorous to those who understand high-level mathematics.

“Basically, it’s redundant,” he said. “Heine Borel and finite subcover are the same thing mathematically.”

As the band actually began to take shape, it became apparent that the sophomores not only share a passion for mathematics but are universally musically talented. Even Kosobucki, the only member without prior musical experience, has since picked up the tambourine and played it in one song during the performance.

Masso-Rivetti, who participated in orchestra in high school and has been playing viola since second grade, lends those talents to the band. He also recently picked up the melodica.

“It was fairly easy to learn because I had played piano for about seven years prior to that,” he said.

Heine Borel band members Bill Kim (left to right), Anthony Masso-Rivetti and Gabe Sargent pose with their melodicas while practicing for the performance.Courtsey of Madeline Kosobucki
Heine Borel band members Bill Kim (left to right), Anthony Masso-Rivetti and Gabe Sargent pose with their melodicas while practicing for the performance.

As a singer in the band, Herzog also draws on extensive musical experience.

“I’ve been in some sort of choir pretty continuously since fifth grade,” he said. “I’m currently in the Folk Choir here.”

Heine Borel also features musicians talented in guitar, piano, flute and cello. Although the band currently has no formal practice times, the members see each other every day.

“We practiced as we were preparing the performance,” Herzog said. “But we have enough classes together and work on homework as a group enough that even if it’s not an official band event, members of the band are gathering, and it comes up in conversation eventually.”

Kosobucki agreed it is the strong sense of community among the Honors Math majors that made Heine Borel possible.

“[The major] winnowed down from like 40 to only 10 of us left, so I feel like we’ve gotten closer through that and going through the classes as hard as they are,” she said. “We’re forced to stick together.”

Currently, the band is looking for more venues and events to perform at and plans to hold a concert in Hayes-Healy Hall in the near future. Details about other possible upcoming performances will be found on Instagram @heine_borel_nd as they become available. Heine Borel’s next confirmed performance will be at AcoustiCafé on Thursday, April 7 at 10 p.m.

“If we have an audience as engaged as the first one, I think that’d be fantastic,” Herzog said. “It was already above and beyond our expectations, so just to get back to that would be incredible.”

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About Claire Reid

Claire Reid is an associate news editor at the Observer for the 2022 - 2023 term. She is a junior from Madison, Wisconsin in the Journalism, Ethics and Democracy program.

Contact Claire