Manzano named Arts and Architecture college marshal

When Bryan Manzano was preparing to make his college decision in 2019, Penn State wasn’t on his radar. Thanks to a recruitment note from Lisa Bontrager, distinguished professor emerita of music in horn, the French horn player and aspiring scientist from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, knew he found his new home.

Just more than four years after he received that note, Manzano, a Schreyer Scholar, is graduating with a B.M.A. in music and a B.S. in biology. He will serve as the spring 2023 marshal for both the College of Arts and Architecture and Eberly College of Science.

“Coming to Penn State was the best decision and it has been the perfect place to continue playing music while studying biology,” Manzano said. “I found a second family in the School of Music, and I’m honored to be named as college marshal.”

For any student pursuing two degrees, the course work can be daunting, but for a music student, the intense practice and performance schedule raises the pressure. Manzano said the tight-knit, family atmosphere within the School of Music is what propelled him to succeed in two demanding fields.

“All of my closest friends are here. We practice together, play together and are around each other basically all the time,” Manzano said. “It’s an amazing group and I don’t know where I would be if I wasn’t in the School of Music.”

With course loads of at least 20 credits each semester, Manzano said the support of his friends was key, but he also credited his dedication to structure and developing good habits as driving forces of success.

A normal day for Manzano included class time, biology lab hours and time in his apartment where he said he leaned heavily on the software Quizlet to streamline his study time. Each day also included, of course, time with his horn.

“Just like physical exercise, I make sure I’m in shape and focusing on fundamentals,” Manzano said. “At first it was difficult to figure out what works, but I learned to be efficient because ultimately that’s what it takes.”

In the biology field, Manzano has developed an interest in microbiology and more specifically gene regulation research, which focuses on how different enzymes react with DNA to promote gene expression. The daily pivot from science to music and vice versa has been therapeutic in an unexpected way, Manzano said.

“Doing one is kind of like taking a break from the other,” Manzano said. “If I’m on my computer all day coding for research and I think ‘oh my god, I can’t look at this computer screen for one more second,’ I would just sit down and play. It always felt good to be able to focus on different things at different times.”

Following his performance in April at the Penn State School of Music President’s Concert at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, Manzano reflected fondly on his time at the University while looking to the future, which after graduation will include working full-time at Penn State conducting cancer research under Song Tan, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Molecular Biology in the Eberly College of Science, before attending grad school.

“The opportunities at Penn State have been unbelievable,” Manzano said. “I don’t think of it as an ending because I will always have the friends that I made here, and I feel that Penn State has prepared me for whatever is next.”