Davis grad combines love for science, music

Bryan Potts shows how a daxophone is played. (Katie Mussman / Teens In The Newsroom)
Bryan Potts shows how a daxophone is played. (Katie Mussman / Teens In The Newsroom)

Many kids make their first musical instruments out of pots and pans.

Davis High School graduate Bryan Potts, however, has moved far beyond that stage. He combines his love of science and music by making his own more sophisticated instruments, which he demonstrated at the end of the school year to a freshman physics class.

The instruments were made this past year as part of a Science Olympiad project. Bryan and his partner, student Michael Hayes, won first place in an olympiad event called “Sounds of Music.” The first instrument they built was an upright bass.

“Then we decided to build a daxophone” Bryan said.

The daxophone is an unusual string instrument created by Hans Reichel. It can be played by bowing or plucking. One end is free to vibrate, and a microphone placed in the instrument amplifies the sound.

“The creator of the daxophone wanted the daxophone to be original,” Bryan said. “So, every daxophone in existence was built by its owner.”

The instrument gets its name from the German word “dachs,” which Bryan said means “badger.”

“The creator of the daxophone was listening to a cellist and wondered if he could reproduce the noise that a cellist makes on the bridge of a cello,” he said. “The result was creation of the daxophone, which can make a sound (somewhat) like a badger.”

This may sound odd, but in fact, the sounds produced can be pretty interesting and even beautiful.

Potts has been participating in Science Olympiad since he was in sixth grade at Salida Middle School. He has continued to compete throughout high school, culminating with his “Sounds of Music” project.

His scientific ability led him to take the Advanced Placement physics “C” test this spring. Bryan believes he is the only student in the Modesto City Schools district to take it this year. He scored a 4, out of a possible 5.

Bryan has a long-standing fascination with music. He started playing the saxophone in fourth grade.

“My mom played clarinet, my dad played trumpet and my sister played flute,” he said. “So, I chose to play the saxophone.”

Bryan continued with the saxophone through high school and played in the band. He stood out at football games, where he wore lime-green pants and stood on the sidelines before the game, playing his sax.

Though the Science Olympiad competition is over, Potts has decided to put his daxophone to use.

“I’m writing a song right now that’s a piano-daxophone duet,” he said.

Katie Mussman is a 2008 graduate of Davis High School and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.