Ep. 93: What happens when you combine space exploration & music? Bonus: The first space-earth duet! with Laurie Orth

Ian Anderson and Cady Coleman flute duet in space (YouTube screenshot)

May 4, 2021

Musician and space enthusiast Laurie Orth discovered the answer to this question serendipitously! Following her own passions and her students’ interests led Laurie to combine two STEAM disciplines, space exploration and music. The result produced learning greater than the sum of its parts, and blasted doors wide open to a new universe of connections and opportunities. Laurie shares some of her favorite resources, and discusses all things music-and-space – including what musical instruments are in the International Space Station, and what musician-astronauts play them.

Laurie Orth


My guest today is innovative music educator, composer, and space enthusiast Laurie Orth. Laurie has combined the disciplines of music and space exploration to create a pipeline for young people into STEAM educational programs. (STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.) Throughout her career, Laurie has taught music classes in school and church settings; she also sings professionally. Laurie has a Master of Music Education degree, and currently teaches on her YouTube channel. Laurie has presented at several conferences, including NASA Johnson Space Center’s Space Exploration Educators Conference.


  • Laurie explains how she came to have a passion for space exploration AND how she came to combine that with her passion for music education.
  • Laurie’s space-themed recorder music compositions include the titles, “Skate Park on the Moon,” and “Barfing in Space.”
  • The combination of the two contrasting disciplines of music and space exploration kept everyone 100% engaged in class.
  • Laurie tells us about several astronauts who are also musicians.
  • We discuss the difference between STEM and STEAM.
  • In October 2019, Laurie was selected as a social media influencer by the NASA Headquarters Social Media Team to attend the International Astronautical Congress and have a behind the scenes tour of NASA HQ in Washington, DC. It was the trip of a lifetime.
  • Laurie is also Space Foundation Teacher Liaison.
  • Fun fact … there are musical instruments on the international space station, including a guitar, keyboard, and saxophone!

Connect/Other Resources

  • If you enjoyed this episode, you may also enjoy the following episodes:
    • Ep. 91: What music do the sounds of ice and glaciers make? With Charles Van Kirk
    • Ep. 89: Predicting musical hits with the mathematics of music, with Music Xray’s Mike McCready
    • Ep. 81: (for more discussion of STEM/STEAM) MIM – A place that showcases music’s unique ability to both preserve diverse cultures AND bring those cultures together; with Katherine Palmer, DMA
    • Ep. 74: Why do birds (and insects and whales) sing? With David Rothenberg, PhD

In-Episode Promo

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Laurie tells us about her experience in the recording studio, recording accompaniment tracks for Rocket Recorder. She was able to collaborate in the recording studio with her sister (musician Lisa Hasselback) remotely, who was in a different state.  Laurie’s recording engineer brought them together by playing Lisa accompaniments; Laurie sang along as they were together live and in person. Laurie shared the track “Elements of Orbit” from this session. (The song is included in Rocket Recorder.)

Closing Words

That was so fun, hearing about that holistic way of combining space exploration and music in a way that exponentially increases the learning in BOTH subjects. My husband and I took our kids to Kennedy Space Center several years ago when we were in Florida, and I remember being blown away by how fragile the spacecraft components seemed. I was expecting something more like a tank or a submarine to protect our astronauts against the massive changes they would be experiencing, and the components reminded me more of wire hangers and aluminum foil. I can only imagine how much more impactful that visit would be for Laurie’s students, with all they already know from their music classes!

Thank you, Laurie, for sharing with us today, and for all you do to enhance lives with music! Thanks also for the MANY resources you shared with us today. There are tons of great links to them all in today’s show notes, including ways to connect with Laurie, and get your hands on her Rocket Recorder book.

While you’re here, connect with me! You can leave a comment right on this page, or click any of the social media buttons to find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Thank you so much for joining me today, and for sharing the show with your friends and family. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.

View episode transcription.


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3 responses to “Ep. 93: What happens when you combine space exploration & music? Bonus: The first space-earth duet! with Laurie Orth”

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