The Fifth Moment

From left: Joe Usset, Kristin Linn, Bradley Turnbull, Kyle White, Jason Osbourne, and Sidd Roy Photo by Sayantan Banerjee

From left: Joe Usset, Kristin Linn, Bradley Turnbull, Kyle White, Jason Osbourne, and Sidd Roy
Photo by Sayantan Banerjee

The Fifth Moment is an original cover band made up of North Carolina State graduate statistics students Bradley Turnbull, Kristin Linn, Sidd Roy, Joe Usset, and Kyle White. Recently, the band performed at the NCSU Statistics Department Annual International Dinner Talent Show in Raleigh. We wanted to find out more about them, so we asked them the following questions:


Kristin Linn, keyboard and vocals, PhD statistics student working in dynamic treatment regimes
Joseph Usset, guitar, PhD statistics student working in functional data, spline smoothing, and change point modeling
Siddharth Roy, guitar, PhD statistics student working on change point modeling and variable selection problems motivated by high-dimensional data in statistical genetics, particularly form copy number variation and QTL mapping studies
Kyle White, bass, PhD statistics student working on variable selection in parametric and nonparametric models and bandwidth estimation in multivariate kernel regression or kernel density models
Bradley Turnbull, vocals and keyboard, PhD statistics student working on developing methods for dealing with missing data

How long has each of you been playing music on your own?

Kristin – I started playing piano at age 6, switched to the flute at age 11, and then switched to the euphonium at age 16. After playing euphonium for two years in my high-school band, I decided to major in music and joined the tuba and euphonium studio at the University of Michigan in 2004. I graduated with a degree in euphonium performance in 2008.

Joe – I played the trombone from [ages] 11–14. After practicing at home for four years, my parents encouraged me to quit. I began to learn guitar my first year of graduate school (year five now!) and loved it.

Sidd – I started playing guitar in my final year of undergrad (six years now). I had known a little bit about music from being forced to play piano, French horn, and violin from [ages] 8–10.

Kyle – I was a percussionist in middle-school band … does that even count? A few years later, I got into writing MIDI songs on my computer and trying to sell my albums, recording $0 revenue. More recently, I bought a cheap electric bass in college about seven years ago and loved it immediately. Although my bass skill is the most relevant for the band, I definitely draw on my past musical experiences for rhythm and creativity.

Brad – I started playing piano when I was in first grade. I participated in concert band (playing the French horn and trombone) and choir throughout junior high and high school. In college, I sang for four years with the all-male a cappella group Eight Beat Measure, serving as the group’s music director for three of those years.

I realize the band members who are listed above aren’t from the original group—who is missing?

Kevin Jones (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Justin Replogle (drums).

Why did they leave?

Kevin and Justin both graduated with their master’s degrees in May 2010 and got jobs out of state.

Are there any plans to replace Justin and Kevin?

Kevin and Justin are irreplaceable! We’ve evolved as a group over the years, so we don’t think of any of our current members as replacements for Kevin and Justin. Brad does most of the vocals for the group now, and we use custom drum tracks created in GarageBand for our percussion.

How did The Fifth Moment get started?

We first started playing in Justin’s tiny one-bedroom apartment. Justin wanted some people to jam with and asked Sidd—and eventually Kyle—to join him in their first year of graduate school. We had fun, but really lacked any direction until we talked to Kevin and got him involved in helping us cover and write original songs. Kristin joined later as we were practicing for our first gig in 2010. It was a challenge fitting five people with a full drum set, keyboard, and three amps into a 10′ x 10′ bedroom.

In early 2011, Kyle, Sidd, and Kristin wanted to play at the annual department talent show, but were missing some key components with Kevin and Justin’s recent departure. Their good friend Joe soon joined, and later Brad, who was a first-year graduate student at the time. The change in lead singer and addition of electronic drums saw the group transform from playing primarily laid back acoustic-style music to more upbeat modern pop and rock songs.

How did you come up with the name for the band?

Before our first departmental performance in 2010, we decided the band needed a name. We brainstormed a few options as a group and The Fifth Moment eventually made its way to the top of the list. We had five members in the band, and it had an element of mystery: What is the meaning and purpose of the fifth (mathematical/statistical) moment?!

If you want a specific breakdown of our band, guitarist Joe Usset describes us this way: Kyle is the first moment. The random variation in our playing comes from me, minus Kyle squared. Kristin and Brad make the band positively non-normal, as highly charismatic third and fourth moments. Sidd is our essential, mysterious, fifth moment.

What was your first gig, and how did it go?

We first performed as part of a talent show at a departmental potluck dinner in 2010. The performance was great, despite the fact that Sidd (lead electric guitar) was missing due to a broken arm! We didn’t have any songs with statistics lyrics in 2010. The following year, we debuted our first statistics cover, “If You’d Be My Bayesian.” By 2012, we were solely performing statistics covers.

How long has your current group been playing together?

Brad, Kristin, Sidd, Joe, and Kyle started playing together in the early part of 2011. We were excited to have one of our department’s faculty members, Jason Osborne, join us this past January!

How often do you get together to practice?

We usually practice weekly, beginning a few months before a performance. After a performance, practices are less frequent, as we try to catch up on schoolwork and research, but we do try to start thinking about new songs and lyrics for the next gig.

Does The Fifth Moment have any memorable … uh … moments?

Actually, yes. The one that stands out the most is us trying to cram in some practice for a song we just put together before a show. The only place we could play at the time was in Kyle and Brad’s small apartment. I think the neighbors were pretty fed up with it because, on a Friday at about 7 p.m., a cop knocked on the door, only to be greeted by five graduate students sitting around talking about maximum likelihood. I think he expected a wild college party because he was pretty lenient about the whole thing. Good thing we have since found better locations for practicing.

Does the music you choose to cover come first, or the lyrics?

Typically, we choose the song first and then write the lyrics. We like to pick current popular songs that are familiar and catchy. There was no question we had to cover “Call Me Maybe”!

Which would you say is your greater passion, music or statistics?

Kristin – Statistics, although I have a blast doing both at the same time with my close friends in The Fifth Moment!

Joe – Stats. Music is a great hobby. It used to help me quit thinking about stats, but that’s not true anymore.

Sidd – I’m going with research/collaborations/consulting > music > coursework.

Kyle – Statistics, barely. I have a lot of fun with both, and I wish I could devote more time to music. Actually, since the question says “greater,” I’d prefer to answer this with a confusing probability statement, P(music > statistics) > P(ice cream > cake).

Brad – Oh wow, this is a difficult question. Can I simply pick both? In addition to being a statistics graduate student, I operate an a cappella arranging service called BT Arranging. I create custom a cappella arrangements (notated sheet music that tells each singer what to sing) for high-school, college, and semi-professional a cappella groups from all across the United States and Europe. It is difficult at times to juggle both graduate school and arranging, but I have managed to find a system that works, setting aside about one day a week dedicated to arranging. I consider myself a statistician first, but my a cappella work is definitely also a big part of my life.

Where else have you performed?

Last fall, we had the honor of being invited by Sat Gupta to perform at the 2012 AISC conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. He invited us based on the recommendation of a professor in our department, Sujit Ghosh, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He didn’t believe it was possible to sing songs about statistics. The performance went over very well. We received many kind words from the conference attendees and actually had a small crowd up and dancing for a portion of our set! I think Gupta got a good feel for our style and might even invite us back next year? 🙂

Where will you be performing next?

We have been invited to perform at the 2013 United States Conference on Teaching Statistics that will be held in Cary, North Carolina, in May. In addition to performing about a 20-minute set of our own songs, we will be teaming up with another statistical musician, Larry Lesser from The University of Texas at El Paso, on a couple of collaborative pieces.

Do you hope to continue playing music together after you graduate?

We hope we are able to reunite and play at conferences in the future!

Kristin, love the wig. How did you come up with that idea, and is there any particular reason you wear it?

Our performance in 2011 was the first time we changed the lyrics to a popular song to be about statistics. It happened to be a song featuring Katy Perry, so I thought it would be fun to dress up like her! The wig got such a great reaction from students and professors that I decided to make it my trademark and wear it for all our performances.

Visit YouTube to listen to their music and view their lyrics. For information about the North Carolina State University Statistics Department, visit the website.

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