Harmonizing Disciplines: When Biology Meets Jazz – A Professor’s Journey of Cross-Collaboration

If you’ve ever believed that biology and music exist in two separate worlds, you’re in for a delightful surprise. Meet Colin Grennan, a dedicated biology instructor at Black Hawk College, breaking the boundaries of conventional education with his cross-collaboration of biology and music.

A life rooted in northern Illinois

Colin Grennan’s journey began in Rockford, IL, where he has spent much of his life. His passion for biology began at a young age and eventually led him to Northern Illinois University, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology. After completing his education, Grennan dedicated more than 14 years to teaching at various community colleges across northern Illinois.

Joining the Black Hawk Community

Grennan’s adventure at Black Hawk College began in 2021 when he became a full-time faculty member in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Department. He found the college to be a place where peers were supportive and welcoming, fostering an environment where he could thrive and inspire others.

As a biology instructor, Grennan teaches a range of courses, including General Human Biology (BIOL 101), General Biology I (BIOL 105), Anatomy-Physiology I (BIOL 145) and Anatomy-Physiology II (BIOL 146). The variety of courses brings its own unique challenges and rewards.

“Each course I teach is fun in its own way,” he says.

Grennan finds that some of his courses draw a diverse range of students, from art and education majors to those in biology.

“I enjoy working with students outside of biology, because sometimes they have different ways of interpreting the material, which leads to unique classroom discussion we wouldn’t otherwise have,” he says.

Bridging the gap between biology and music

Grennan’s passion for music has been a lifelong affair. He has been playing the guitar since he was around 14, and his love for music knows no bounds. When Grennan began his career at Black Hawk College, he met Corey Cochran, the new adjunct music instructor, who shared his passion for music. As they got to know each other, Cochran encouraged Grennan to get involved in the music department, which led to him joining the jazz ensemble.

Colin Grennan playing the guitar

Being part of the jazz ensemble has given Grennan the opportunity to perform with other talented musicians and appreciate the social and dynamic aspects of music. The ensemble has transformed the way he thinks about music, broadening his horizons to include a variety of genres.

“As a guitarist, I like playing rock ‘n’ roll, but joining the jazz ensemble has encouraged me to try new things, like blues, Latin, jazz and Afro-Cuban,” he says.

The intersection of art and biology

Grennan isn’t just a passionate educator and musician; he was also a dedicated advisor for an Honors Program student at Black Hawk College. The student – an art major who took a biology course with Grennan – collaborated with him to create a series of images that combine realistic and stylized elements based on biology concepts. This unique fusion of biology and art is an inspiring example of interdisciplinary collaboration, demonstrating Grennan’s commitment to supporting and empowering BHC students.

The Black Hawk College Community

One of Grennan’s favorite aspects of teaching at Black Hawk College is the strong sense of community that distinguishes it from larger institutions. The college’s tight-knit community and supportive environment foster an atmosphere where students and faculty can flourish.

Grennan’s support for his students doesn’t end in the classroom. He encourages students to ask questions and seeks to assist them in any way possible. He is readily available to help, whether students prefer to reach out via email or engage in discussions right after class.

Colin Grennan’s journey at Black Hawk College is a testament to the power of passionate teaching and the benefits of exploring diverse interests. Through his dedication to both biology and the arts, he has created a harmonious blend that enriches the lives of his students and the entire college community. His story serves as a reminder that sometimes, the most exciting discoveries are made at the intersections of different disciplines.

“Black Hawk College is a great place to be. It’s a tight knit, supportive community that encourages faculty and students grow.”

Visit our website to discover more about our dynamic natural sciences and art, design and performing arts programs and explore the exciting world of interdisciplinary collaboration. Unleash your creativity and embark on a journey where the convergence of different disciplines leads to extraordinary discoveries!