Engineer Finds Perfect Harmony
September 17, 2021
By Sherry DiBari
Drew Landman was destined to be an engineer.
As a child, he tossed around Chuck gliders and built airplanes with tiny gas motors. In his teens, he built and raced bicycles.
"I've always been intrigued by mechanical systems and aerodynamics," he said. "Those are the two things that drew me into engineering."
But Landman, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Old Dominion University's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, also had a second love - music.
After work, Landman and his wife, Kate Landman, a retired engineer, rehearse for their band "Dry Land." The electric folk duo perform locally in the Hampton Roads area.
Landman has worked at ODU since 1987. He spent 13 of those years as chief engineer for the ODU-operated NASA Langley Full-Scale Wind Tunnel. The wind tunnel was used to develop instrumentation to test race cars, aircraft and a host of other objects.
Today, Professor Landman teaches a slew of right-brain, linear thinking-type classes: Flight Vehicle Aerodynamics, Ground Vehicle Aerodynamics, Design of Experiments and Statistics of Experimental Design.
Outside the office, however, he switches to left-brain mode.
Landman - who has an entire room in his home filled with guitars and musical instruments - spends time with Kate, working on new songs and practicing covers for the band.
Recent shows have included John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery," Neil Young's "Pocahontas" and Mandolin Orange's "Waltz About Whiskey."
Landman grew up listening to the music his parents liked: Miles Davis, Kenny Burrell, Modern Jazz Quartet and Herbie Hancock. "They eventually got into folk, as well, with big names like James Taylor, The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary," he said.
As he got older, like most teens, he turned to rock music and was influenced by bands like Jethro Tull, Dire Straits, Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello.
Landman began playing guitar in college. "I have always been passionate about music, and you can only listen so long without participating," he said.
A few years ago, they formed a four-piece band. "We had played instruments on and off our whole life, and decided that we'd like to try and put a band together," he said.
However, the logistics of getting everyone together for rehearsals and performances was challenging.
"We decided that we'd like to try a duo," he said. "And Dry Land was formed."
They performed at places like Café Stella in Norfolk and Hilton Tavern Brewing Company in Newport News.
"I think you get some energy from the audience, and it helps you grow," Landman said. "And it's like anything else. If you have a goal to perform and to perform well, then you get better as a musician."
"When everything goes well at a gig and you're playing well together, and neither of you are making mistakes, it's analogous to being at an athletic event where the endorphins are running through you, and you're hitting your personal record," he said. "You just feel really good."
Landman believes there are connections between teaching and playing live music. "When you play music, you are performing, and teaching is in part performance," he said. "You have to know your subject, but you also have to present it in a way that interests people - that's performance."
Landman's advice for people interested in music: "Keep the day job!"
"Music is a lot of fun, but it's very hard to make any real money at it unless you're at a very high level," he said. "So yeah, keep your day job!"